James Madison Papers

Notes on Debates, 28 March 1783

Notes on Debates

MS (LC: Madison Papers). For a description of the manuscript of Notes on Debates, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (6 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , V, 231–34.

The Come. last mentd. reported that two blacks be rated as equal to one freeman.1

Mr. Wolcot was for rating them as 4 to 3.

Mr. Carrol as 4 to 1.

Mr. Williamson sd. he was principled agst. slavery; & that he thought slaves an incumbrance to Society instead of increasing its ability to pay taxes.

Mr. Higgenson as 4 to 3.

Mr. Rutlidge sd. for the sake of the object he wd. agree to rate Slaves, as 2 to 1, but he sincerely thought 3 to 1. would be a juster proportion

Mr. Holten—as 4 to 3.

Mr. Osgood sd. he cd not go beyond 4 to 3.

On a question for rating them as 3 to 2, the votes were N. H. ay. Mas: no. R.I. divd. Cont. ay. N.J. ay. Pa. ay. Delr. ay. Maryd. no Virga. no N.C. no. S. C. no2

The paragraph was then postponed by general consent; some wishing for further time to deliberate on it; but it appearing to be the general opinion that no compromise wd. be agreed to

After some further discussions on the report in which the necessity of some simple & practicable rule of apportionment came fully into view, Mr. Madison said that in order to give a proof of the sincerity of his professions of liberality he wd. propose that Slaves should be rated as 5 to 3. Mr. Rutlidge 2ded. motion. Mr. Wilson sd. he wd. sacrifice his opinion to this compromise.

Mr. Lee was agst. changing the rule, but gave it as his opinion that 2 Slaves were not equal to 1 freeman.

On the question for 5 to 3, it passed in the affirmative N.H. ay. Mas: divd. R. I. no. Cont. no. N.J. ay. Pa. ay Maryd. ay. Va. ay N.C. ay. S.C. ay.

A motion was then made by Mr. Bland 2ded. by Mr. Lee to strike out the clause so amended, and on the question, “shall it stand” it passed in the negative. N.H. ay. Mas. no. R.I. no. Con no N.J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Mar. ay. Virga. ay. N.C. ay. S.C. no. so the clause was struck out.3

The arguments used by those who were for rating slaves high were; that the expence of feeding & cloathing them was as far below that incident to freemen, as their industry & ingenuity were below those of freemen: and that the warm climate within wch. the States having slaves lay, compared wth. the rigorous climate & inferior fertility of the others, ought to have great weight in the case & that the exports of the former states were greater than of latter.4 on the other side it was said that Slaves were not put to labour as young as the children of laboring families, that having no interest in their labor they did as little as possible, & omitted every exertion of thought requisite to facilitate & expedite it: that if the exports of the States having slaves exceeded those of the others, their imports were in proportion, Slaves being employed wholly in agriculture, not in manufactures: & that in fact the balance of trade formerly was much more agst. the So. States than the others.

on the main question, see Journal5

2This proposal may have been made by JM as a compromise between the 2 for 1 recommended by the committee and the 4 for 3 evidently desired by some New England delegates. On fol. 434 of NA: PCC, No. 26, the following was noted, apparently by Benjamin Bankson, Jr., a clerk in the office of the secretary of Congress: “The latter clause of the report of the Comee. being recommitted the Commite reported the enclosed in lieu thereof and motion being made to fill the blank before the words ‘the number of all other inhabitants’ with the words ‘two thirds of.’ Question taken 5 ayes 4 Noes 2 divided. N H a[y] Mass. div. R I divd Con ay N J ay Pens ay Delr ay Maryland, Virg. N. Car. & [S] Cr. no So the question was lost & this part relative to an alteration of the Art: of Confederation was [bis] postponed March 28. 1783.” This tally is identical with that of JM in his notes, except that he recorded Massachusetts as “no” rather than “div”—a distinction which leaves unchanged the outcome of the poll. Georgia was not represented in Congress, and William Floyd was the only delegate present from New York.

3JM’s use of the word “clause” is misleading, for only the words “three-fifths of” were struck out, leaving the “clause,” “in proportion to the whole number of free inhabitants and the number of all other inhabitants” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 214–15, 215, n. 1).

5The “main question” was whether the twelfth and thirteenth paragraphs of the report of 6 March by the committee on restoring public credit should be adopted. Those paragraphs were evidently treated as one, since they were interdependent. Bland and Lee moved that they be struck out. The question as put was “shall the paragraph, as amended, stand as part of the report?” Except that William Floyd, who was now present to cast a lone, ineffective “ay” vote for New York, the ballot was identical with that recorded by JM for the first Bland-Lee motion, six states voting “ay,” five “no.” “So the question was lost, and the paragraph struck out” (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXIV, 173–74, 215–16; NA: PCC, No. 26, fol. 411; Report on Restoring Public Credit, 6 Mar. 1783; and n. 20). For a reconsideration by Congress of the issue, see JM Notes, 1 April 1783.

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