James Madison Papers

Rule of Representation in the Legislature, [5 July] 1787

Rule of Representation in the Legislature

[5 July 1787]

A grand committee (one delegate from each state) was appointed on 2 July to resolve the differences concerning representation in the two branches of the legislature and to submit a compromise plan. Its 5 July report proposed proportional representation in the first branch, which would have exclusive control over money bills, and equal representation of the states in the Senate.

Mr. Madison could not regard the exclusive privilege of originating money bills as any concession on the side of the small States. Experience proved that it had no effect. If seven States in the upper branch wished a bill to be originated, they might surely find some member from some of the same States in the lower branch who would originate it. The restriction as to amendments was of as little consequence. Amendments could be handed privately by the Senate to members in the other house. Bills could be negatived that they might be sent up in the desired shape. If the Senate should yield to the obstinacy of the 1st. branch the use of that body as a check would be lost. If the 1st. branch should yield to that of the Senate, the privilege would be nugatory. Experience had also shewn both in G.B. and the States having a similar regulation that it was a source of frequent & obstinate altercations. These considerations had produced a rejection of a like motion on a former occasion when judged by its own merits. It could not therefore be deemed any concession on the present, and left in force all the objections which had prevailed agst. allowing each State an equal voice. He conceived that the Convention 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 U.S. or of displeasing these by justly gratifying the larger States and the majority of the people. He could not himself hesitate as to the option he ought to make. The Convention with justice & 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 & supported by the enlightened and impartial part of America, & which they could themselves vindicate and urge. It should be considered that altho’ 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 & effectually obtain the public suffrage. He was not apprehensive that the people of the small States would obstinately refuse to accede to a Govt. 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 Govt.: 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 shd. that any foreign nation wd. be so rash as to hearken to the overture. As little could he suspect that the people of N. 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 U.S. should concur in a just & judicious Plan, he had the firmest hopes, that all the other States would by degrees accede to it.1

Ms (DLC).

1JM deleted the concluding sentence of his speech: “These observations wd. show that he was not only fixed in his opposition to the Report of the Comme. but was prepared for any [risk?] that might follow a negative of it.”

Yates’s version:

“Mr. Madison. I restrain myself from animadverting on the report, from the respect I bear to the members of the committee. But I must confess I see nothing of concession in it.

“The originating money bills is no concession on the part of the smaller states, for if seven states in the second branch should want such a bill, their interest in the first branch will prevail to bring it forward—it is nothing more than a nominal privilege.

“The second branch, small in number, and well connected, will ever prevail. The power of regulating trade, imposts, treaties, &c. are more essential to the community than raising money, and no provision is made for those in the report—We are driven to an unhappy dilemma. Two thirds of the inhabitants of the union are to please the remaining one third by sacrificing their essential rights.

“When we satisfy the majority of the people in securing their rights, we have nothing to fear; in any other way, every thing. The smaller states, I hope will at last see their true and real interest. And I hope that the warmth of the gentleman from Delaware will never induce him to yield to his own suggestion of seeking for foreign aid” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 535).

Lansing’s version:

“Madison—Altho’ the House was equally divided on the 2nd Branch—on the first there was a considerable Majority for departing from Equality—All the Concessions are on one Side—We are reduced to the Alternative of displeasing Minority or Majority—by deciding for the latter we have Nothing to fear—the former every Thing. He would rather have a System received by three or four States than none” (Strayer, Delegate from N.Y. description begins Joseph R. Strayer, ed., The Delegate from New York or Proceedings of the Federal Convention … from the Notes of John Lansing, Jr. (Princeton, 1939). description ends , p. 103).

Paterson’s version:


“The Interest of the smaller States to come into the Measure—

“Delaware—foreign Power—

“New-Jersey. Single and unconnected” (Ms [DLC: Paterson Papers]).

Index Entries