James Madison Papers

Census, [8 February] 1790


[8 February 1790]

A six-month time limit was proposed to complete the census.

Mr. Madison said, that some states had been in the practice of taking a census, but to others it was a new business; and this consideration should demand a longer time. But there was another consideration—the marshal might die, during the time of transacting his business; the President must be made acquainted with this, and it would be some time before he could appoint a new marshal, and even after he had appointed him, that one might decline the appointment. All these circumstances should be taken into a view. It would require some time for the marshal to receive communications from his assistants, &c. He concluded, by stating that the time must either be short, and inconvenient to some states; or it may be long, and thereby convenient to others. Which, said he, is the most reasonable? If we give a reasonable time we incommode no state; but if the time is made too short, we certainly must incommode several states. It has been often repeated and proved, that six months is rather too short.

N.Y. Daily Gazette, 9 Feb. 1790 (also reported in Gazette of the U.S., 10 Feb. 1790, and Cong. Register description begins Thomas Lloyd, comp., The Congressional Register; or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the First House of Representatives … (4 vols.; New York, 1789–90; Evans 22203–4, 22973–4). description ends , III, 240–41). The motion was agreed to and the bill passed the House. The Senate returned the bill on 18 Feb. with many amendments, including one to eliminate the census of occupations. The House on 22 Feb. approved this and most of the other Senate amendments. According to JM, the Senate threw out the census of occupations “as a waste of trouble and supplying materials for idle people to make a book” (DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds., Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America (3 vols. to date; Baltimore, 1972—). description ends , I, 243–44; III, 303; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , I, 101–3; JM to Jefferson, 14 Feb. 1790).

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