Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1

Document 4

Records of the Federal Convention

[2:188; Madison, 6 Aug.]


New States lawfully constituted or established within the limits of the United States may be admitted, by the Legislature, into this Government; but to such admission the consent of two thirds of the members present in each House shall be necessary. If a new State shall arise within the limits of any of the present States, the consent of the Legislatures of such States shall be also necessary to its admission. If the admission be consented to, the new States shall be admitted on the same terms with the original States. But the Legislature may make conditions with the new States, concerning the public debt which shall be then subsisting.

[2:454; Madison, 29 Aug.]

Art: XVII being taken up, Mr. Govr. Morris moved to strike out the two last sentences, to wit "If the admission be consented to, the new States shall be admitted on the same terms with the original States--But the Legislature may make conditions with the new States, concerning the public debt, which shall be then subsisting".--He did not wish to bind down the Legislature to admit Western States on the terms here stated.

Mr Madison opposed the motion, insisting that the Western States neither would nor ought to submit to a Union which degraded them from an equal rank with the other States.

Col. Mason--If it were possible by just means to prevent emigrations to the Western Country, it might be good policy. But go the people will as they find it for their interest, and the best policy is to treat them with that equality which will make them friends not enemies.

Mr Govr Morris. did not mean to discourage the growth of the Western Country. He knew that to be impossible. He did not wish however to throw the power into their hands.

Mr Sherman, was agst. the motion, & for fixing an equality of privileges by the Constitution.

Mr Langdon was in favor of the Motion. he did not know but circumstances might arise which would render it inconvenient to admit new States on terms of equality.

Mr. Williamson was for leaving the Legislature free. The existing small States enjoy an equality now, and for that reason are admitted to it in the Senate. This reason is not applicable to new Western States.

On Mr Govr Morris's motion for striking out.

N.H. ay--Mas. ay--Ct ay. N--J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. no Va. no. N--C--ay. S--C--ay. Geo. ay, [Ayes--9; noes--2.]

Mr. L--Martin & Mr Govr. Morris moved to strike out of art XVII "but to such admission the consent of two thirds of the members present shall be necessary." Before any question was taken on this motion,

Mr Govr. Morris moved the following proposition as a substitute for the XVII art: "New States may be admitted by the Legislature into this Union: but no new State shall be erected within the limits of any of the present States, without the consent of the Legislature of such State, as well as of the Genl. Legislature"

The first part to Union inclusive was agreed to nem: con:

Mr. L--Martin opposed the latter part--Nothing he said would so alarm the limited States as to make the consent of the large States claiming the Western lands, necessary to the establishment of new States within their limits. It is proposed to guarantee the States. Shall Vermont be reduced by force in favor of the States claiming it? Frankland & the Western country of Virginia were in a like situation.

On Mr Govr. Morris's Motion to substitute &c it was agreed to--

N. H. no. Mas. ay. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md no. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--6; noes--5.]

Art: XVII--before the House, as amended.

Mr. Sherman was against it. He thought it unnecessary. The Union cannot dismember a State without its consent.

Mr Langdon thought there was great weight in the argument of Mr. Luther Martin, and that the proposition substituted by Mr. Govr. Morris would excite a dangerous opposition to the plan.

Mr. Govr Morris thought on the contrary that the small States would be pleased with the regulation, as it holds up the idea of dismembering the large States.

Mr. Butler. If new States were to be erected without the consent of the dismembered States, nothing but confusion would ensue. Whenever taxes should press on the people, demagogues would set up their schemes of new States.

Docr. Johnson agreed in general with the ideas of Mr Sherman, but was afraid that as the clause stood, Vermont would be subjected to N--York, contrary to the faith pledged by Congress. He was of opinion that Vermont ought to be compelled to come into the Union.

Mr Langdon said his objections were connected with the case of Vermont. If they are not taken in, & remain exempt from taxes, it would prove of great injury to N. Hampshire and the other neighbouring States

Mr Dickinson hoped the article would not be agreed to. He dwelt on the impropriety of requiring the small States to secure the large ones in their extensive claims of territory.

Mr. Wilson--When the majority of a State wish to divide they can do so. The aim of those in opposition to the article, he perceived, was that the Genl. Government should abet the minority, & by that means divide a State against its own consent.

Mr Govr. Morris. If the forced division of the States is the object of the new System, and is to be pointed agst one or two States, he expected, the gentleman from these would pretty quickly leave us.

[2:461; Madison, 30 Aug.]

Art XVII resumed for a question on it as amended by Mr. Govr. Morris's substitutes

Mr. Carrol moved to strike out so much of the article as requires the consent of the State to its being divided. He was aware that the object of this prerequisite might be to prevent domestic disturbances, but such was our situation with regard to the Crown lands, and the sentiments of Maryland on that subject, that he perceived we should again be at sea, if no guard was provided for the right of the U. States to the back lands. He suggested that it might be proper to provide that nothing in the Constitution should affect the Right of the U. S. to lands ceded by G. Britain in the Treaty of peace, and proposed a committment to a member from each State. He assurred the House that this was a point of a most serious nature. It was desirable above all things that the act of the Convention might be agreed to unanimously. But should this point be disregarded, he believed that all risks would be run by a considerable minority, sooner than give their concurrence.

Mr. L. Martin 2ded. the motion for a committment.

Mr. Rutlidge is it to be supposed that the States are to be cut up without their own consent. The case of Vermont will probably be particularly provided for. There could be no room to fear, that Virginia or N--Carolina would call on the U. States to maintain their Government over the Mountains.

Mr. Williamson said that N. Carolina was well disposed to give up her Western lands, but attempts at compulsion was not the policy of the U. S. He was for doing nothing in the constitution in the present case, and for leaving the whole matter in Statu quo.

Mr. Wilson was against the committment. Unanimity was of great importance, but not to be purchased by the majority's yielding to the minority. He should have no objection to leaving the case of New States as heretofore. He knew of nothing that would give greater or juster alarm than the doctrine, that a political society is to be torne asunder without its own consent--

On Mr. Carrol's motion for commitment

N. H. no Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. ay. Pa. no. Del--ay--Md. ay--Va. no--N--C. no S. C. no. Geo. no. [Ayes--3; noes--8.]

Mr Sherman moved to postpone the substitute for art. XVII agreed to yesterday in order to take up the following amendment "The Legislature shall have power to admit other States into the Union, and new States to be formed by the division or junction of States now in the Union, with the consent of the Legislature of such State" (The first part was meant for the case of Vermont to secure its admission)

On the question, it passed in the Negative

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. no. N. C. no. S. C ay. Geo. no. [Ayes--5; noes--6.]

Docr. Johnson moved to insert the words "hereafter formed or" after the words "shall be" in the substitute for art: XVII, (the more clearly to save Vermont as being already formed into a State, from a dependence on the consent of N. York to her admission.)

The motion was agreed to Del. & Md. only dissenting.

Mr Governr. Morris moved to strike out the word "limits" in the substitute, and insert the word "jurisdiction" (This also was meant to guard the case of Vermont, the jurisdiction of N. York not extending over Vermont which was in the exercise of sovereignty, tho' Vermont was within the asserted limits of New York)

On this question

N--H--ay--Mas-- ay. Ct ay-- N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay Md. ay. Va ay--N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [Ayes--7; noes--4.]

Mr. L. Martin, urged the unreasonableness of forcing & guaranteeing the people of Virginia beyond the Mountains, the Western people, of N. Carolina. & of Georgia, & the people of Maine, to continue under the States now governing them, without the consent of those States to their separation. Even if they should become the majority, the majority of Counties, as in Virginia may still hold fast the dominion over them. Again the majority may place the seat of Government entirely among themselves & for their own conveniency, and still keep the injured parts of the States in subjection, under the guarantee of the Genl. Government agst. domestic violence. He wished Mr Wilson had thought a little sooner of the value of political bodies. In the beginning, when the rights of the small States were in question, they were phantoms, ideal beings. Now when the Great States were to be affected, political Societies were of a sacred nature. He repeated and enlarged on the unreasonableness of requiring the small States to guarantee the Western claims of the large ones.--It was said yesterday by Mr Govr Morris, that if the large States were to be split to pieces without their consent, their representatives here would take their leave. If the Small States are to be required to guarantee them in this manner, it will be found that the Representatives of other States will with equal firmness take their leave of the Constitution on the table.

It was moved by Mr. L. Martin to postpone the substituted article, in order to take up the following.

"The Legislature of the U--S--shall have power to erect New States within as well as without the territory claimed by the several States or either of them, and admit the same into the Union: provided that nothing in this constitution shall be construed to affect the claim of the U--S. to vacant lands ceded to them by the late treaty of peace--which passed in the negative: N. J. Del. & Md. only ay.

On the question to agree to Mr. Govr. Morris's substituted article as amended in the words following,

"New States may be admitted by the Legislature into the Union: but no new State shall be hereafter formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any of the present States without the consent of the Legislature of such State as well as of the General Legislature"

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J--no--Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N--C. ay--S. C--ay. Geo. ay. [Ayes--8; noes--3.]

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1, Document 4
The University of Chicago Press

Farrand, Max, ed. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Rev. ed. 4 vols. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1937.

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