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Constitutional Convention. Motion on Citizenship Requirement for Membership in the House of Representatives, [13 August 1787]

Constitutional Convention. Motion on
Citizenship Requirement for Membership
in the House of Representatives1

[Philadelphia, August 13, 1787]

Col. Hamilton was in general agst. embarrassing the Govt. with minute restrictions.2 There was on one side the possible danger that had been suggested3 On the other side, the advantage of encouraging foreigners was obvious & admitted. Persons in Europe of moderate fortunes will be fond of coming here where they will be on a level with the first Citizens. He moved that the section be so altered as to require merely citizenship & inhabitancy.4 The right of determining the rule of naturalization will then leave a discretion to the Legislature on this subject which will answer every purpose.

Hunt and Scott, Debates description begins Gaillard Hunt and James Brown Scott, eds., The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America. Reported by James Madison (New York, 1920). description ends , 384.

1Both Robert Yates and John Lansing, Jr., left the Convention early in July. As a consequence, James Madison’s notes constitute the only source of H’s remarks in the Constitutional Convention after July.

The exact date of H’s return to the Convention cannot be determined, but it was between August 6, the date of the preceding letter (H to _____, August 6, 1787), and August 13, the date on which he again spoke in the Convention.

On July 26, the Convention appointed a Committee of Detail to prepare and report a detailed constitution conformable to the resolution previously adopted by the Convention. The committee reported on August 6, and its report was debated from that date until the last day of August.

2H’s remarks were made in the course of a debate on the qualifications to be imposed on members of the House of Representatives. James Wilson and Edmund Randolph had proposed that four years of citizenship be imposed for membership in the House of Representatives. Elbridge Gerry then suggested that “the eligibility might be confined to Natives,” and Hugh Williamson of North Carolina “moved to insert 9 years.” H’s remarks followed Williamson’s motion (Hunt and Scott, Debates description begins Gaillard Hunt and James Brown Scott, eds., The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America. Reported by James Madison (New York, 1920). description ends , 384).

3H presumably referred to Gerry’s remark that if membership in the House of Representatives were not confined to natives “Foreign powers will intermeddle in our affairs, and spare no expence to influence them. Persons having foreign attachments will be sent among us & insinuated into our councils, in order to be made instruments for their purposes” (Hunt and Scott, Debates description begins Gaillard Hunt and James Brown Scott, eds., The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Which Framed the Constitution of the United States of America. Reported by James Madison (New York, 1920). description ends , 384).

4After a brief debate, H’s motion was defeated.

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