The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787/Volume 3/Appendix A/CCXIV

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ⅭⅭⅩⅣ. Debate in the Virginia Convention.[1]

June 19, 1788.

(The 1st and 2d sections, of the 3d article, were read.)

… Mr. George Mason. … The principle itself goes to the destruction of the legislation of the states, whether or not it was intended. As to my own opinion, I most religiously and conscientiously believe, that it was intended, though I am not absolutely certain. But I think it will destroy the state governments, whatever may have been the intention. There are many gentlemen in the United States who think it right, that we should have one great national consolidated government, and that it was better to bring it about slowly and imperceptibly, rather than all at once. This is no reflection on any man, for I mean none. To those who think that one national consolidated government would be best for America, this extensive judicial authority will be agreeable; but I hope there are many in this convention of a different opinion, and who see their political happiness resting on their state governments. I know, from my own knowledge, many worthy gentlemen of the former opinion. — (Here Mr. Madison interrupted Mr. Mason, and demanded an unequivocal explanation. As those insinuations might create a belief, that every member of the late federal convention was of that opinion, he wished him to tell who the gentlemen were to whom he alluded.) — Mr. Mason then replied — I shall never refuse to explain myself. It is notorious that this is a prevailing principle. — It was at least the opinion of many gentlemen in convention, and many in the United States. I do not know what explanation the honorable gentleman asks. I can say with great truth, that the honorable gentleman, in private conversation with me, expressed himself against it: Neither did I ever hear any of the delegates from this state advocate it.

Mr. Madison declared himself satisfied with this, unless the committee thought themselves entitled to ask a further explanation.

After some desultory remarks, Mr. Mason continued. — I have heard that opinion advocated by gentlemen, for whose abilities, judgment, and knowledge, I have the highest reverence and respect.

… The last clause is still more improper. To give them cognizance in disputes between a state and the citizens thereof, is utterly inconsistent with reason or good policy.

Here Mr. Nicholas arose, and informed Mr. Mason, that his interpretation of this part was not warranted by the words.

Mr. Mason replied, that if he recollected rightly, the propriety of the power as explained by him, had been contended for; but that as his memory had never been good, and was now much impaired from his age, he would not insist on that interpretation.

  1. Robertson, Debates of the Convention of Virginia, 1788 (2d edit., 1805), pp. 371–372.