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Both the general legislature and the State legislature are expressly prohibited making ex post facto laws; though there never was nor can be a legislature but must and will make such laws, when necessity and the public safety require them ; which will hereafter be a breach of all the constitutions in the Union, and afford precedents for other innovations.
This government will set out [commence] a moderate aristocracy : it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy, or a corrupt, tyrannical Coppressive] aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.
The general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty odd years ; though such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence.
[This is a draft of the original “Objections” as written by George Mason on the blank sheets of the copy of the Constitution, printed for the use of the members of the Convention, and brought in September 13th. The words in brackets are those additions or alterations which appear in the "Objections " as printed later in pamphlet form. There was a change made also in the arrangement of the paragraphs, in this final form of Mason's paper, which there closes with the one beginning, “ This government will commence," etc. (See "Pamphlets on the Constitution," Paul L. Ford ; and Elliot's “ Debates," vol. i., p. 494).)
SPEECHES IN THE CONVENTION OF 1788.
Richmond, June 2, 1788.-G. Mason put on the committee of privileges and elections. He is second on the list. B. Harrison first. Gov. Randolph third. Clerk and printer appointed. Then on motion of G. M. the Convention adjourned until the next day, to meet at the New Academy on Schockoe Hill.
Tuesday, June 3.–Serjeant-at-arms and door-keeper appointed. Rules and regulations resolved on similar to those in House of Delegates. Resolution of Congress, read of Sept. 28, report of
Federal Convention, together with resolutions of General Assembly of October 25, and act of Assembly concerning the Convention now held.
Whereupon Mr. Mason addressed the president Mr. Pendleton] as follows: Mr. President, I hope and trust, sir, that this Convention, appointed by the people, on this great and important occasion, for securing, as far as possible, to the latest generation, the happiness and liberty of the people, will freely and fully investigate this important subject. For this purpose I humbly conceive the fullest and clearest investigation indispensably necessary, and that we ought not to be bound by any general rules whatsoever. The curse denounced by the divine vengeance will be small compared to what will justly fall upon us, if from any sinister views we obstruct the fullest inquiry. This subject, therefore, ought to obtain the freest discussion, clause by clause, before any general previous question be put; nor ought it to be precluded by any other question,
Mr. Tyler moved that the Convention should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole Convention, to-morrow, to take into consideration the proposed plan of government, in order to have a fairer opportunity of examining its merits.
Mr. Mason, after recapitulating his former reasons for having urged a full discussion, clause by clause, concluded by agreeing with Mr. Tyler that a Committee of the whole Convention was the proper mode of proceeding.
Mr. Madison concurred with the honorable gentleman in going into a full and free investigation of the subject before them, and said he had no objection to the plan proposed. Mr. Mason then moved the following resolution, which was agreed to by the Convention unanimously :
Resolved, That no question, general or particular, shall be propounded in this Convention, upon the proposed Constitution of government for the United States, or upon any clause or article thereof, until the said Constitution shall have been discussed, clause by clause, through all its parts.
Mr. Tyler said he should renew his motion &c.
Mr. Lee urged the necessity of immediately entering into the discussion.
Mr. Mason Mr. President, no man in this Convention is more averse to take up the time of the Convention than I am ; but I am equally against hurrying them precipitately into any measure. I humbly conceive, sir, that the members ought to have time to consider the subject. Precious as time is, we ought not to run into the discussion before we have the proper means.
Wednesday, June 4.—The preamble and two first sections of Article I. were read. Mr. Nicholas made a long speech in favor of the Constitution. Patrick Henry spoke against it-animadverted on the words “We, the people"—thought it should have been “We, the States." Gov. Randolph replied to Henry and concluded his speech thus: “In the whole of this business I have acted in the strictest obedience to the dictates of my conscience, in discharging what I conceive to be my duty to my country.” He had refused his signature, but as 8 States had adopted the Constitution, he was a friend to Union.
Mr. George Mason. Mr. Chairman, whether the Constitution be good or bad, the present clause [Art. I., Sect. 2] clearly discovers that it is a national government, and no longer a Confederation. I mean that clause which gives the first hint of the general government laying direct taxes. The assumption of this power of laying direct taxes does, of itself, entirely change the confederation of the States into one consolidated government. This power being at discretion, unconfined, and without any kind of control, must carry everything before it. The very idea of converting what was formerly a confederation to a consolidated government, is totally subversive of every principle which has hitherto governed us. This power is calculated to annihilate totally the State governments. Will the people of this great community submit to be individually taxed by two different and distinct powers? Will they suffer themselves to be doubly harassed ? These two concurrent powers cannot exist long together; the one will destroy the other : the general government being paramount to, and in every respect more powerful than the State governments, the latter must give way to the former. Is it to be supposed that one national government will suit so extensive a country, embracing so many climates, and containing inhabitants so very different in manners, habits and customs? It is ascertained, by history, that there never was a government over a very extensive country without destroying the liberties of the people : history also, supported by the opinions of the best writers, shows us that monarchy may
suit a large territory, and despotic governments ever so extensive a country, but that popular governments can only exist in small territories. Is there a single example, on the face of the earth, to support a contrary opinion? Where is there one exception to this general rule? Was there ever an instance of a general national government extending over so extensive a country, abounding in such a variety of climates, &c., where the people retained their liberty ? I solemnly declare that no man is a greater friend to a firm union of the American States than I am ; but, sir, if this great end can be obtained without hazarding the rights of the people, why should we recur to such dangerous principles ? Requisitions have been often refused, sometimes from an impossibility of complying with them; often from that great variety of circumstances which retards the collection of moneys; and perhaps sometimes from a wilful design of procrastinating. But why shall we give up to the national government this power, so dangerous in its nature, and for which its members will not have sufficient information ? Is it not well known that what would be a proper tax in one State would be grievous in another? The gentleman who has favored us with a eulogium in favor of this system, must, after all the encomiums he has been pleased to bestow upon it, acknowledge that our federal representatives must be unacquainted with the situation of their constituents. Sixty-five members cannot possibly know the situation and circumstances of all the inhabitants of this immense continent. When a certain sum comes to be taxed, and the mode of levying to be fixed, they will lay the tax on that article which will be most productive and easiest in the collection, without consulting the real circumstances or convenience of a country, with which, in fact, they cannot be sufficiently acquainted.
The mode of levying taxes is of the utmost consequence; and yet here it is to be determined by those who have neither knowledge of our situation, nor a common interest with us, nor a fellow-feeling for us. The subjects of taxation differs in three fourths, nay, I might say with truth, in four fifths of the States. If we trust the national government with an effectual way of raising the necessary sums, it is sufficient : everything we do further is trusting the happiness and rights of the people. Why, then, should we give up this dangerous power of individual taxation? Why leave the manner of laying taxes to those who, in the nature of things, cannot be acquainted with the situation of those on whom they are to impose them, when it can be done by those who are well acquainted with it? If, instead of giving this oppressive power, we give them such an effectual alternative as will answer the purpose, without encountering the evil and danger that might arise from it, then I would cheerfully acquiesce ; and would it not be far more eligible? I candidly acknowledge the inefficacy of the Confederation ; but requisitions have been made which were impossible to be complied with-requisitions for more gold and silver than were in the United States. If we give the general government the power of demanding their quotas of the States, with an alternative of laying direct taxes in case of non-compliance, then the mischief would be avoided ; and the certainty of this conditional power would, in all human probability, prevent the application, and the sums necessary for the Union would be then laid by the States, by those who know how it can best be raised, by those who have a fellowfeeling for us. Give me leave to say, that the sum raised one way with convenience and ease, would be very oppressive another way. Why, then, not leave this power to to be exercised by those who know the mode most convenient for the inhabitants, and not by those who must necessarily apportion it in such manner as shall be oppressive ?
With respect to the representation so much applauded, I cannot think it such a full and free one as it is represented; but I must candidly acknowledge that this defect results from the very nature of the government. It would be impossible to have a full and adequate representation in the general government; it would be too expensive and too unwieldy. We are, then, under the necessity of having this a very inadequate representation. Is this general representation to be compared with the real, actual, substantial representation of the State legislatures ? It cannot bear a comparison. To make representation real and actual, the number of representatives ought to be adequate; they ought to mix with the people, think as they think, feel as they feel,-ought to be perfectly amenable to them, and thoroughly acquainted with their interest and condition. Now, these great ingredients are either not at all, or in a small degree, to be found in our federal representatives ; so that we have no real, actual, substantial representation; but I acknowledge it results from the nature of the