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New York Ratifying Convention. First Speech of June 23 (Francis Childs’s Version), [23 June 1788]

New York Ratifying Convention
First Speech of June 231
(Francis Childs’s Version2)

[Poughkeepsie, New York, June 23, 1788]

The honorable Mr. Hamilton. It is not my design, Mr. Chairman, to extend this debate by any new arguments on the general subject.3 I have delivered my sentiments so fully on what has been advanced by the gentlemen this morning, that any further reasonings from me will be easily dispensed with. I only rise to state a fact, with respect to the motives which operated in the general convention.4 I had the honor to state to the committee the diversity of interests which prevailed between the navigating and non-navigating—the large and the small states; and the influence which those interests had upon the conduct of each.5 It is true, a difference did take place between the large and small states; the latter insisting on equal advantages in the house of representatives. Some private business calling me to New-York, I left the Convention for a few days:6 On my return, I found a plan, reported by the committee of details; and soon after, a motion was made, to increase the number of representatives.7 On this occasion the members rose from one side and the other, and declared, that the plan reported was entirely a work of accommodation; and that to make any alterations in it, would destroy the Constitution. I discovered that several of the states, particularly New-Hampshire, Connecticut and New-Jersey, thought it would be difficult to send a great number of delegates from the extremes of the continent to the national government:8 They apprehended their constituents would be displeased with a very expensive government; and they considered it as a formidable objection. After some debate on this motion, it was withdrawn.9 Many of the facts stated by the gentleman and myself are not substantially different. The truth is, the plan in all its parts was a plan of accommodation.

Childs, Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York description begins The Debates and Proceedings of the State of New-York, Assembled at Poughkeepsie, on the 17th June, 1788. To deliberate and decide on the Form of Federal Government recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia, on the 17th September, 1787. Taken in Short Hand (New York: Printed and Sold by Francis Childs, 1788). description ends , 51.

1The debate on June 23 was begun by Richard Harison, delegate from New York County, who defended the rule of representation provided in the proposed Constitution. Harison was answered by John Lansing, Jr., who like the Antifederalist speakers of the previous day, objected to the rule.

3John Lansing, Jr., had stated that the question of representation “has been fully discussed; and I believe few new lights can be thrown on it” (Elliot, Debates description begins Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia, 1836). description ends , II, 273).

4Lansing, who, like H, had been a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, had given the New York Ratifying Convention his interpretation of the reasons for the adoption of the plan of representation contained in the Constitution.

6H left the Constitutional Convention on June 29, 1787. Although he did not again take part in the debates until August 13, apparently he returned to the Convention shortly after August 6. In McKesson’s account of the debates of the Ratifying Convention, however, H states, “I was absent 10 days.”

7On August 6, 1787, the Committee of Detail reported a plan of a Constitution. It was not until September 8 that a motion was made to increase the number of representatives (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 , 337, 538).

8H’s account of the debates which followed the motion of September 8, 1787, to increase the number of representatives is not recorded in 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 , 538. The only recorded debate to which H could have referred was that of July 10, 1787. On that date Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut objected to the number of representatives on the ground of expense, and on the same day Roger Sherman of the same state argued that “the great distance they will have to travel will render their attendance precarious” (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 , 229).

H thus must have been mistaken in stating that the delegates from New Hampshire participated in such a debate, for they did not attend the Convention until July 23.

9Madison’s motion that the number of representatives allowed each state in the proposed House of Representatives be doubled was defeated with only Virginia and Delaware supporting it (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 , 230).

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