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Constitutional Convention. Remarks on the Abolition of the States, [19 June 1787]

Constitutional Convention. Remarks on the
Abolition of the States1

[Philadelphia, June 19, 1787]

Col. Hamilton coincided with the proposition as it stood in the Report.2 He had not been understood yesterday.3 By an abolition of the States, he meant that no boundary could be drawn between the National & State Legislatures; that the former must therefore have indefinite authority. If it were limited at all, the rivalship of the States would gradually subvert it. Even as Corporations the extent of some of them as Va. Massts. &c. would be formidable. As States, he thought they ought to be abolished. But he admitted the necessity of leaving in them, subordinate jurisdictions The examples of Persia & the Roman Empire, cited by (Mr. Wilson)4 were he thought in favor of his doctrine: the great powers delegated to the Satraps & proconsuls, having frequently produced revolts, and schemes of independence.

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 , 129.

1The version of H’s first remarks on June 19 reported by Robert Yates differed in minor particulars from that given by Madison. It reads:

“I agree to the proposition. I did not intend yesterday a total extinguishment of state governments; but my meaning was, that a national government ought to be able to support itself without the aid or interference of the state governments, and that therefore it was necessary to have full sovereignty. Even with corporate rights the states will be dangerous to the national government, and ought to be extinguished, new modified, or reduced to a smaller scale.” (Yates, Secret Proceedings and Debates description begins Robert Yates, Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Convention Assembled at Philadelphia, in the Year 1787, For the Purpose of Forming the Constitution of The United States of America (Albany, 1821). description ends , 141.)

2The Convention, after rejecting the propositions of William Paterson of New Jersey, took up the Virginia Plan, proposed by Edmund Randolph, as amended and agreed to by a committee of the whole. A copy, in an unidentified handwriting, of the Virginia Plan, thus amended, is in the Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress. H is referring to the first proposition of that plan which read: “Resolved that it is the opinion of this Committee that a national government ought to be established consisting of a Supreme Legislature, Judiciary, and Executive” (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 , 127).

3Speaking before H, James Wilson had observed “that by a Natl. Govt. he did not mean one that would swallow up the State Govts. as seemed to be wished by some gentlemen” (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 , 129).

4In arguing for the retention of state governments under the new form of government, Wilson had said that “All large Governments must be subdivided into lesser jurisdictions. As Examples he mentioned Persia, Rome, and particularly the divisions & subdivisions of England by Alfred” (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 , 129).

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