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Mr. WilLIAMSON moved to reconsider the clause requiring three-fourths of each House to overrule the negative of the President, in order to strike out three-fourths and insert two-thirds. He had, he remarked, himself proposed three-fourths instead of two-thirds; but he had since been convinced that the latter proportion was the best. The former puts too much in the power of the President.
Mr. SHERMAN was of the same opinion; adding that the States would not like to see so small a minority, and the President, prevailing over the general voice. In making laws, regard should be had to the sense of the people, who are to be bound by them; and it was more probable that a single man should mistake or betray this sense, than the Legislature.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. Considering the difference between the two proportions numerically, it amounts, in one House, to two members only; and in the others, to not more than five; according to the numbers of which the Legislature is at first to be composed. It is the interest, moreover, of the distant States, to prefer three-fourths, as they will be oftenest absent, and need the interposing check of the President. The excess, rather than the deficiency, of laws was to be dreaded. The example of New York shews that two-thirds is not sufficient to answer the purpose.
Mr. HAMILTON added his testimony to the fact, that two-thirds in New York had been ineffectual, either where a popular object, or a legislative faction, operated; of which he mentioned some instances,
Mr. GERRY. It is necessary to consider the danger on the other side also. Two-thirds will be a considerable, perhaps, a proper, security. Threefourths puts too much in the power of a few men. The primary object of the revisionary check of the President is, not to protect the general interest, but to defend his own department. If three-fourths be required, a few Senators, having hopes from the nomination of the President to offices, will combine with him and impede proper laws. Making the the Vice-President Speaker increases the danger.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was less afraid of too few than of too many laws. He was, most of all, afraid that the repeal of bad laws might be rendered too difficult by requiring three-fourths to overcome the dissent of the President.
Colonel Mason had always considered this as one of the most exceptionable parts of the system. As to the numerical argument of Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, little arithmetic was necessary to understand that three-fourths was more than two-thirds, whatever the numbers of the Legislature might be. The example of New York depended on the real merits of the laws. The gentlemen citing it had no doubt given their own opinions. But perhaps there were others of opposite opinions, who could equally paint the abuses on the other side. His leading view was, to guard against too great an impediment to the repeal of laws.
Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS dwelt on the danger to the public interest from the instability of laws, as the most to be guarded against. On the other side, there could be little danger. If one man in office
will not consent where he ought, every fourth
year another can be substituted. This term was not too long for fair experiments. Many good laws are not tried long enough to prove their merit. This is often the case with new laws opposed to old habits. The inspection laws of Virginia and Maryland, to which all are now so much attached, were unpopular at first.
Mr. PINCKNEY was warmly in opposition to threefourths, as putting a dangerous power in the hands of a few Senators headed by the President.
Mr. Madison. When three-fourths was agreed to, the President was to be elected by the Legislature, and for seven years. He is now to be elected by the people, and for four years. The object of the revisionary power is two-fold,-first, to defend the Executive rights; secondly, to prevent popular or factious injustice. It was an important principle in this and in the State Constitutions, to check legislative injustice and encroachments. The experience of the States had demonstrated that their checks are insufficient. We must compare the danger from the weakness of two-thirds, with the danger from the strength of three-fourths. He thought, on the whole, the former was the greater. As to the difficulty of repeals, it was probable that in doubtful cases, the policy would soon take place, of limiting the duration of laws, so as to require renewal instead of repeal.
The reconsideration being agreed to,
On the question to insert two-thirds in place of three-fourths,
Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, (Mr. Mc
HENRY, no,) North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye=6; Masachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, (General WASHINGTON, Mr. Blair, Mr. Madison, no; Colonel Mason, Mr. RANDOLPH, aye,) no—4; New Hampshire, divided.
Mr. WILLIAMSON observed to the House, that no provision was yet made for juries in civil cases, and suggested the necessity of it.
Mr. GORHAM. It is not possible to discriminate equity cases from those in which juries are proper. The Representatives of the people may be safely trusted in this matter.
Mr. GERRY urged the necessity of juries to guard against corrupt judges. He proposed that the Committee last appointed should be directed to provide a clause for securing the trial by juries.
Colonel Mason perceived the difficulty mentioned by Mr. Gorham. The jury cases cannot be specified. A general principle laid down, on this and some other points, would be sufficient. He wished the plan had been prefaced with a Bill of Rights, and would second a motion if made for the
purpose. It would give great quiet to the people; and with the aid of the State Declarations, a bill might be prepared in a few hours.
Mr. GERRY concurred in the idea, and moved for a Committee to prepare a Bill of Rights.
Colonel MASON seconded the motion.
Mr. SHERMAN was for securing the rights of the people where requisite. The State Declarations of Rights are not repealed by this Constitution ; and being in force are sufficient. There are many cases
where juries are proper, which cannot be discriminated. The Legislature may be safely trusted.
Colonel MASON. The laws of the United States are to be paramount to State Bills of Rights.
On the question for a Committee to prepare a Bill of Rights,
New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, aye—5; Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no—5; Massachusetts, absent.365
The clause relating to exports being reconsidered, at the instance of Colonel MASON,—who urged that the restrictions on the States would prevent the incidental duties necessary for the inspection and safe keeping of their produce, and be ruinous to the staple States, as he called the five Southern States,he moved as follows: "provided, nothing herein contained shall be construed to restrain any State from laying duties upon exports for the sole purpose of defraying the charges of inspecting, packing, storing and indemnifying the losses in keeping the commodities in the care of public officers, before exportation.” In answer to a remark which he anticipated, to wit, that the States could provide for these expenses, by a tax in some other way, he stated the inconvenience of requiring the planters to pay a tax before the actual delivery for exportation.
Mr. MADISON seconded the motion. It would at least be harmless; and might have the good effect of restraining the States to bona fide duties for the purpose, as well as of authorizing explicitly such duties; though perhaps the best guard against an an abuse of the power of the States on this subject