Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 4 and 5

[Volume 2, Page 245]

Document 3

Debate in North Carolina Ratifying Convention

24--25 July 1788Elliot 4:26--27, 42

[24 July]

Mr. Caldwell. Mr. Chairman, I am sorry to be objecting, but I apprehend that all the legislative powers granted by this Constitution are not vested in a Congress consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, because the Vice-President has a right to put a check on it. This is known to every gentleman in the Convention. How can all the legislative powers granted in that Constitution be vested in the Congress, if the Vice-President is to have a vote in case the Senate is equally divided? I ask for information, how it came to be expressed in this manner, when this power is given to the Vice-President.

Mr. Maclaine declared, that he did not know what the gentleman meant.

Mr. Caldwell said, that the Vice-President is made a part of the legislative body, although there was an express declaration, that all the legislative powers were vested in the Senate and House of Representatives, and that he would be glad to know how these things consisted together.

Mr. Maclaine expressed great astonishment at the gentleman's criticism. He observed, that the Vice-President had only a casting vote in case of an equal division in the Senate--that a provision of this kind was to be found in all deliberative bodies--that it was highly useful and expedient--that it was by no means of the nature of a check which impedes or arrests, but calculated to prevent the operation of the government from being impeded--that, if the gentleman could show any legislative power to be given to any but the two houses of Congress, his objection would be worthy of notice.

Some other gentlemen said, they were dissatisfied with Mr. Maclaine's explanation--that the Vice-President was not a member of the Senate, but an officer of the United States, and yet had a legislative power, and that it appeared to them inconsistent--that it would have been more proper to have given the casting vote to the President.

His excellency, Gov. Johnston, added to Mr. Maclaine's reasoning, that it appeared to him a very good and proper regulation--that, if one of the Senate was to be appointed Vice-President, the state which he represented would either lose a vote if he was not permitted to vote on every occasion, or if he was, he might, in some instances, have two votes--that the President was already possessed of the power of preventing the passage of a law by a bare majority; yet laws were said not to be made by the President, but by the two houses of Congress exclusively.

[25 July]

[Mr. Maclaine.] Mr. Chairman, I will state to the committee the reasons upon which this officer was introduced. I had the honor to observe to the committee, before, the causes of the particular formation of the Senate--that it was owing, with other reasons, to the jealousy of the states, and, particularly, to the extreme jealousy of the lesser states of the power and influence of the larger members of the confederacy. It was in the Senate that the several political interests of the states were to be preserved, and where all their powers were to be perfectly balanced. The commercial jealousy between the Eastern and Southern States had a principal share in this business. It might happen, in important cases, that the voices would be equally divided. Indecision might be dangerous and inconvenient to the public. It would then be necessary to have some person who should determine the question as impartially [Volume 2, Page 246] as possible. Had the Vice-President been taken from the representation of any of the states, the vote of that state would have been under local influence in the second. It is true he must be chosen from some state; but, from the nature of his election and office, he represents no one state in particular, but all the states. It is impossible that any officer could be chosen more impartially. He is, in consequence of his election, the creature of no particular district or state, but the officer and representative of the Union. He must possess the confidence of the states in a very great degree, and consequently be the most proper person to decide in cases of this kind. These, I believe, are the principles upon which the Convention formed this officer.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 4 and 5, Document 3
The University of Chicago Press

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.