Article XIX from the Committee of Detail has been renumbered to Article V.
Initially, Mr. GERRY was concerned that the States (I assume he means the larger states) might subvert the powers of the states. Note that the text of Article V still does not include Congress as a proposal agent.
Takeaway points from Hamilton:
- Hamilton notes, as did Col Mason earlier (June 11), that the new Constitution will have defects. No one dissented with this conclusion.
- Hamilton fears the State Legislatures will seek to gain more power.
- Hamilton thinks that Congress, being more perceptive of need for amendments, should also be able to propose amendments. He states this power will not be a problem since they people have the final say.
- We know Hamilton authored one of the plans submitted for consideration, which was referred to as the “British plan” as it closely resembled the British system. There are no states in that system. I view this move by Hamilton as a move toward Big Government and tyranny.
After some back and forth discussion from several speakers, Madison restates the wording of Article V. It includes:
- Both Congress and the State Legislatures can propose amendments
- Proposals of amendments require a two thirds majority
- Ratification is by the State Legislatures or State Conventions by a three fourths majority.
- There was only one dissenting vote, and one divided vote based on the wording as supplied.
Mr. GERRY moved to reconsider Art XIX. viz. "On the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the States in the Union, for an amendment of this Constitution, the Legislature of the U. S. shall call a Convention for that purpose." [see Aug. 6.] This Constitution he said is to be paramount to the State Constitutions. It follows, hence, from this article that two thirds of the States may obtain a Convention, a majority of which can bind the Union to innovations that may subvert the State-Constitutions altogether. He asked whether this was a situation proper to be run into.
Mr. HAMILTON 2ded. the motion, but he said with a different view from Mr. Gerry. He did not object to the consequence stated by Mr. Gerry. There was no greater evil in subjecting the people of the U. S. to the major voice than the people of a particular State. It had been wished by many and was much to have been desired that an easier mode for introducing amendments had been provided by the articles of Confederation. It was equally desireable now that an easy mode should be established for supplying defects which will probably appear in the New System. The mode proposed was not adequate. The State Legislatures will not apply for alterations but with a view to increase their own powers. The National Legislature will be the first to perceive and will be most sensible to the necessity of amendments, and ought also to be empowered, whenever two thirds of each branch should concur to call a Convention. There could be no danger in giving this power, as the people would finally decide in the case.
Mr. MADISON remarked on the vagueness of the terms, "call a Convention for the purpose," as sufficient reason for reconsidering the article. How was a Convention to be formed? by what rule decide? what the force of its acts?
On the motion of Mr. Gerry to reconsider
N. H. divd. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. GEO ay.
Mr. SHERMAN moved to add to the article "or the Legislature may propose amendments to the several States for their approbation, but no amendments shall be binding until consented to by the several States."
Mr. GERRY 2ded. the motion
Mr. WILSON moved to insert "two thirds of" before the words "several States"- on which amendment to the motion of Mr. Sherman
N. H. ay. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. ay. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. [FN6]
Mr. WILSON then moved to insert "three fourths of" before "the several Sts" which was agreed to nem: con:
Mr. MADISON moved to postpone the consideration of the amended proposition in order to take up the following,
"The Legislature of the U. S. whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem necessary, or on the application of two thirds of the Legislatures of the several States, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part thereof, when the same shall have been ratified by three fourths at least of the Legislatures of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Legislature of the U S:"
Mr. HAMILTON 2ded. the motion.
Mr. RUTLIDGE said he never could agree to give a power by which the articles relating to slaves might be altered by the States not interested in that property and prejudiced against it. In order to obviate this objection, these words were added to the proposition: "provided that no amendments which may be made prior to the year 1808, shall in any manner affect the 4 & 5 sections of the VII article"-The postponement being agreed to,
On the question on the proposition of Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton as amended
N. H. divd. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. ay. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. Geo ay
[The rest is unrelated to Article V]
Article V, the 1787 Formation Process
Index to all the Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention, Federalist 43 and 85, and Jefferson's letter to Samuel Kercheval