Majority Rule the Basic Republican Principle (July 5, 13, 14)

... conceived that the Conventian was reduced to the alternative of either departing from justice in order to conciliate the smaller States, and the minority of the people of the United States or of displeasing these by justly gratifying the larger States and the majority of the people. He could not himself hesitate as to the aption he ought to make. The Convention with justice and the majority of the people on their side, had nothing to fear. With injustice and the minority on their side they had every thing to fear. It was in vain to purchase concord in the Convention on terms which would perpetuate discord among their Constituents. The Convention ought to pursue a plan which, would bear the test of examination, which would be espoused and supported by the enlightened and impartial part of Arnerica, and which they could themselves vindicate and urge. It should be considered that although at first many may judge of the system recommended, by their opinion of the Convention, yet finally all will judge of the Convention by the System. The merits of the System alone can finally and effectually obtain the public suffrage. He was not apprehensive that the people of the small States would obstinately refuse to accede to a Government founded on just principles, and promising them substantial protection. He could not suspect that Delaware would brave the consequences of seeking her fortunes apart from the other States, rather than submit to such a Government much less could he suspect that she would pursue the rash policy of courting foreign support, which the warmth of one of her representatives (Mr. Bedford) had suggested, or if she should that any foreign nation would be so rash as to hearken to the overture. As little could he suspect that the people of New Jersey notwithstanding the decided tone of the gentlemen from that State, would choose rather to stand on their own legs, and bid defiance to events, than to acquiesce under an establishment founded on principles the justice of which they could not dispute, and absolutely necessary to redeem them from the exactions levied on them by the commerce of the neighbouring States. A review of other States would prove that there was as little reason to apprehend an inflexible opposition elsewhere. Harmony in the Convention was no doubt much to be desired. Satisfaction to all the States, in the first instance still more so. But if the principal States comprehending a majority of the people of the USA should concur in a just and judicious plan, he had the finest hopes, that all the other States would by degrees accede to it...

If a general declaration would satisfy any gentleman he had no indisposition to declare his sentiments. Conceiving that all men wherever placed have equal dghts and are equally entitled to confidence, he viewed without apprehension the period when a few States should contain the superior number of people. The majority of people wherever found ought in all questions to govern the minority. If the interior Country should acquire this majority, it will not only have the right, but will avail themselves of it whether we will or no. This jealousy misled the policy of Great Britain with regard to America. The fatal maxims espoused by her were that the Colonies were growing too fast, and that their growth rnust be stinted in time. What were the consequences? first, enty on our part, then actual separation. Like consequences will result on the part of the interior settlements, if like jealousy and policy be pursued on ours. Further, if numbers be not a proper rule, why is not some better rule pointed out. No one has yet ,entured to attempt it. Congress have never been able to discover a better. No State as far as he has heard, has suggested any other. In l783, after elaborate discussion of a measure of wealth all were satisfied then as they are now that the rule of numbers, does not differ much from the combined rule of numbers and wealth. Again he could not agree that property was the sole or the primary object of Government and society. The cultivation and improvement of the human mind was the most noble object. With respect to this object, as well as to other personal rights, numbers were surely the natural and precise measure of Representatiom And with respect to property, they could not vary much from the precise measure. In no point of view however could the establishment of numbers as the rule of representation in the first branch vary his opinion as to the impropriety of letting a vicious principle into the second branch...

expressed his apprehensions that if the proper foundation of Government was destroyed, by substituting an equality in place of a proportional Representation, no proper superstructure would be raised. lf the small States really wish for a Government armed with the powers necessary to secure their liberties, and to enforce obedience on the larger members as well as on themselves he could not help thinking them extremely mistaken in their means. He reminded them of the consequences of laying the existing confederation on improper principles. All the principal parties to its compilation. Joined immediately in mutilating and fettering the Government in such a manner that it has disappointed every hope placed on it. He appealed to the doctrine and arguments used by themselves on a former occasion. It had been very properly observed by (Mr. Paterson) that Representation was an expedient by which the meeting of the people themselves was rendered unnecessary; and that the representatives ought therefore to bear a proportion to the votes which their constituents if convened, would respectively have. Was not this remark as applicable to one branch of the Representation as to the other? But it had been said that the Government would in its operation be partly federal, partly national, that although in the latter respect the Representatives of the people ought to be in proportion to the people, yet in the, former it ought to be according to the number of States. If there was any solidity in this distinction he was ready to abide by it, if there was none it ought to be abandoned. In all cases where the General Government is to act on the people, let the people be represented and the votes be proportional. In all cases where the Government is to act on the States as such, in like manner as Congress now act on them, let the States be represented and the votes be equal. This was the true ground of compromise if there was any ground at all. But he denied that there was any ground. He called for a single instance in which the General Government was not to operate on the people individually. The practicability of making laws, with coercive sanctions, for the States as Political bodies, had been exploded on all hands. He observed that the people of the large States would in some way or other secure to themselves a weight proportioned to the importance accruing from their superior numbers. If they could not effect it by a proportional representation in the Government they would probably accede to no Government which did not in great measure depend for its efficacy on their voluntary cooperation, in which case they would indirectly secure their object. The existing confederacy proved that where the Acts of the General Government were to be executed by the particular Government the latter had a weight in proportion to their importance. No one would say that either in Congress or out of Congress Delaware had equal weight with Pennsylvania. If the latter was to supply ten times as much money as the former, and no compulsion could be used, it was of ten times more importance, that she should voluntarly furnish the supply. In the Dutch confederacy the votes of the Provinces were equal. But Holland which supplies about half the money, governs the whole republic. He enumerated the objections against an equality of votes in the second branch, notwithstanding the proportional representation in the first.

  1. The minority could negative the will of the majority of the people.

  2. They could extort measures by making them a condition of their assent to other necessary measures.

  3. They could obtrude measures on the majority by virtue of the peculiar powers which would be vested in the Senate.

  4. The evil instead of being cured by time, would increase with every new State that should be admitted, as they must all be admitted on the principle of equality.

  5. The perpetuity it would give to the preponderance of the Northern against the Southern Scale was a serious consideratiom.

It seemed now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lay, not between the large and small but between the Northern and Southern States. The institution of slavery and its consequences formed the line of discrimination. There were 5 States on the South, 8 on the Northern side of this line. Should a proportional representation take place it was true, the Northern side would still outnumber the other, but not in the same degree, at this time, and every day would tend towards an equilibrium.

would add a few words only. If equality in the second branch was an error that time would correct, he should be less anxious to exclude it being sensible that perfection was unattainable in any plan, but being a fundamental and a perpetual error, it ought by all means to be avoided. A vice in the Representation, like an error in the first concoction, must be followed by disease, convulsions, and finally death itself. The justice of the general principle of proportional representation has not in argument at least been yet contradicted. But it is said that a departure from it so far as to give the States an equal vote in one branch of the Legislature is essential to their preservatiom He had considered this position maturely, but could not see its application. That the States ought to be preserved he admitted. But does it follow that an equality of votes is necessary for the purpose? Is there any reason to suppose that if their preservation should depend more on the large than on the small States the security of the States against the General Government would be diminished? Are the large States less attached to their existence, more likely to commit suicide, than the small? An equal vote then is not necessary as far as he can conceive: and is liable among other objections to this insuperable one: The great fault of the existing confederacy is its inactivity. It has never been a complaint against Congress that they governed overmuch. The complaint has been that they have governed too little. To remedy this defect we were sent here. Shall we effect the cure by establishing an equality of votes as is proposed? no: this very equality carries us directly to Congress, to the system which it is our duty to rectify. The small States cannot indeed act, by virtue of this equality, but they may control the Government as they have done in Congress. This very measure is here prosecuted by a minority of the people of America. Is then the object of the Convention likely to be accomplished in this way? Will not our Constituents say? we sent you to form an efficient Government and you have given us one more complex indeed, but having all the weakness of the former Government. He was anxious for uniting all the States under one Government. He knew there were some respectable men who preferred three confederacies, united by offensive and defensive alliances. Many things may be plausibly said, some things may be justly said, in favor of such a project. He could not however concur in it himself, but he thought nothing so pernicious as bad first principles.