Last Updated on October 1, 2021 by Constitutional Militia
Understanding “General Government” vs. “Federal Government”
As used on this website, the term “General Government” refers solely to the new government the Constitution created, consisting of Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court, as distinct from “the federal government” or “the federal system”, which consists of the General Government, the States, and WE THE PEOPLE. This is a clarifying usage common among the Founding Fathers. For instance:
• “[I]t is to be remembered that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws.”—The Federalist No. 14 (James Madison).
• “I confess I am at a loss to discover what temptation the persons intrusted with the administration of the general government could ever feel to divest the States of the[ir] authorities[.]”—The Federalist No. 17 (Alexander Hamilton).
• “Is the aggregate power of the general government greater than ought to have been vested in it?”—The Federalist No. 41 (James Madison).
• “The second class of powers lodged in the general government consist of those which regulate the intercourse with foreign nations[.]”—The Federalist No. 42 (James Madison).
Luther Martin was the Attorney-General of Maryland and delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Martin’s “Genuine Information” was delivered to the Maryland legislature November 29, 1787. It was first printed in Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser, December 28, 1787—February 8, 1788. In that address Martin used the term “general government” eighty one times.
The Genuine Information, delivered to the Legislature of the State of Maryland, relative to the Proceedings of the General Convention, held at Philadelphia, in 1787, by LUTHER MARTIN, Esquire, Attorney-General of Maryland, and one of in the said Convention.Mr. Martin, when called upon, addressed the House nearly as follows:
 Since I was notified of the resolve of this Honorable House, that we should attend this day, to give information with regard to the proceedings of the late convention, my time has necessarily been taken up with business, and I have also been obliged to make a journey to the Eastern Shore. These circumstances have prevented me from being as well prepared as I could wish, to give the information required. However, the few leisure moments I could spare, I have devoted to refreshing my memory, by looking over the papers and notes in my possession; and shall, with pleasure, to the best of my abilities, render an account of my conduct.
 It was not in my power to attend the convention immediately on my appointment. I took my seat, I believe, about the eighth or ninth of June. I found that Governor Randolph, of Virginia, had laid before the convention certain propositions for their consideration, which have been read to this House by my honorable colleague, and I believe he has very faithfully detailed the substance of the speech with which the business of the convention was opened; for, though I was not there at the time, I saw notes which had been taken of it.
 The members of the convention from the States, came there under different powers, The greatest number, I believe, under powers nearly the same as those of the delegates of this State. Some came to the convention under the former appointment, authorising the meeting of delegates merely to regulate trade. Those of Delaware were expressly instructed to agree to no system, which should take away from the States that equality of suffrage secured by the original articles of confederation. Before I arrived, a number of rules had been adopted to regulate the proceedings of the convention, by one of which, seven States might proceed to business, and consequently four States, the majority of that number, might eventually have agreed upon a system, which was to affect the whole Union. By another, the doors were to be shut, and the whole proceedings were to be kept secret; and so far did this rule extend, that we were thereby prevented from corresponding with gentlemen in the different States upon the subjects under our discussion; a circumstance, Sir, which, I confess, I greatly regretted. I had no idea, that all the wisdom, integrity, and virtue of this State, or of the others, were centered in the convention. I wished to have corresponded freely and confidentially with eminent political characters in my own and other States; not implicitly to be dictated to by them, but to give their sentiments due weight and consideration. So extremely solicitous were they, that their proceedings should not transpire, that the members were prohibited even from taking copies of resolutions, on which the convention were deliberating, or extracts of any kind from the journals, without formally moving for, and obtaining permission, by a vote of the convention for that purpose.
 You have heard, Sir, the resolutions which were brought forward by the honorable member from Virginia; let me call the attention of this House to the conduct of Virginia, when our confederation was entered into — That State then proposed, and obstinately contended, contrary to the sense of, and unsupported by the other States, for an inequality of suffrage founded on numbers, or some such scale, which should give her,1 and certain other States, influence in the Union over the rest. Pursuant to that spirit which then characterized her, and uniform in her conduct, the very second resolve, is calculated expressly for that purpose, to give her a representation proportioned to her numbers, as if the want of that was the principal defect in our original system, and this alteration the great means of remedying the evils we had experienced under our present government.
 The object of Virginia, and other large States, to increase their power and influence over the others, did not escape observation; the subject, however, was discussed with great coolness, in the committee of the whole House (for the convention had resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to deliberate upon the propositions delivered in by the honorable member from Virginia). Hopes were formed, that the farther we proceeded in the examination of the resolutions, the better the House might be satisfied of the impropriety of adopting them, and that they would finally be rejected by a majority of the committee; if, on the contrary, a majority should report in their favor, it was considered, that it would not preclude the members from bringing forward and submitting any other system to the consideration of the convention; and accordingly, while those resolves were the subject of discussion in the committee of the whole House, a number of the members, who disapproved them, were preparing another system, such as they thought more conducive to the happiness and welfare of the States. The propositions originally submitted to the convention having been debated, and undergone a variety of alterations in the course of our proceedings, the committee of the whole House, by a small majority agreed to a report, which I am happy, Sir, to have in my power to lay before you; it was as follows:
 “1. Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme legislative, judiciary, and executive.
“2. That the legislative ought to consist of two branches.
“3. That the members of the first branch of the national legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States, for the term of three years, to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury, to be ineligible to any office established by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those particularly belonging to the functions of the first branch, during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after its expiration.
“4. That the members of the second branch of the legislature ought to be chosen by the individual legislatures; to be of the age of thirty years at least; to hold their offices for a term sufficient to insure their independency, namely, seven years, one third to go out biennially; to receive fixed stipends, by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury; to be ineligible to any office by a particular State, or under the authority of the United States, except those peculiarly belonging to the functions of the second branch, during the term of service, and under the national government, for the space of one year after its expiration.
“5. That each branch ought to possess the right of originating acts.
“6. That the national legislature ought to empowered to enjoy the legislative rights vested in Congress by the confederation, and, moreover, to legislate in all cases to which the separate States are incompetent, or in which the harmony of the United States may be interrupted, by the exercise of individual legislation; to negative all laws passed by the several States, contravening, in the opinion of the legislature of the United States, the articles of union, or any treaties subsisting under the authority of the Union.
“7. That the right of suffrage in the first branch of the national legislature, ought not to be according to the rule established in the articles of confederation, but according to some equitable rate of representation, namely, in proportion to the whole number of white, and other free citizens and inhabitants of every age, sex, and condition, including those bound to servitude for a term of years, and three-fifths of all other persons not comprehended in the foregoing description, except Indians not paying taxes in each State.
“8. That the right of suffrage in the second branch of the national legislature, ought to be according to the rule established in the first.
“9. That a national executive be instituted, to consist of a single person, to be chosen by the national legislature for the term of seven years, with power to carry into execution the national laws, to appoint to offices in cases not otherwise provided for, to be ineligible a second time, and to be removable on impeachment and conviction of malpractice or neglect of duty; to receive a fixed stipend, by which he may be compensated for the devotion of his time to public service, to be paid out of the national treasury.
“10. That the national executive shall have a right to negative any legislative act which shall not afterwards be passed, unless by two third parts of each branch of the national legislature.
“11. That a national judiciary be established, to consist of one supreme tribunal, the judges of which, to be appointed by the second branch of the national legislature, to hold their offices during good behaviour, and to receive punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or diminution shall be made, so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time of such increase or diminution.
 The Jersey propositions being thus rejected, the convention took up those reported by the committee, and proceeded to debate them by paragraphs. It was now that they, who disapproved the report, found it necessary to make a warm and decided opposition, which took place upon the discussion of the seventh resolution, which related to the inequality of representation in the first branch. Those who advocated this inequality urged, that, when the articles of confederation were formed, it was only from necessity and expediency that the States were admitted each to have an equal vote; but that our situation was now altered, and therefore those States who considered it contrary to their interest, would no longer abide by it. They said, no State ought to wish to have influence in government, except in proportion to what it contributes to it; that, if it contributes but little, it ought to have but a small vote; that taxation and representation ought always to go together; that if one State had sixteen times as many inhabitants as another, or was sixteen times as wealthy, it ought to have sixteen times as many votes; that an inhabitant of Pennsylvania ought to have as much weight and consequence as an inhabitant of Jersey or Delaware; that it was contrary to the feelings of the human mind; what the large States would never submit to; that the large States would have great objects in view, in which they would never permit the smaller States to thwart them; that equality of suffrage was the rotten part of the constitution, and that this was a happy time to get clear of it. In fine, that it was the poison which contaminated our whole system, and the source of all the evils we experienced.
 This, Sir, is the substance of the arguments, if arguments they may be called, which were used in favor of inequality of suffrage. Those who advocated the equality of suffrage, took the matter up on the original principles of government; they urged, that all men, considered in a state of nature, before any government is formed, are equally free and independent, no one having any right or authority to exercise power over another, and this without any regard to difference in personal strength, understanding, or wealth. That, when such individuals enter into government, they have each a right to an equal voice in its first formation, and afterwards have each a right to an equal vote in every matter which relates to their government. That, if it could be done conveniently, they have a right to exercise it in person. Where it cannot be done in person, but for convenience representatives are appointed, to act for them, every person has a right to an equal vote in choosing that representative; who is intrusted to do for the whole, that which the whole, if they could assemble, might do in person, and in the transaction of which, each would have an equal voice. That, if we were to admit, because a man was more wise, more strong, or more wealthy, he should be entitled to more votes than another, it would be inconsistent with the freedom and liberty of that other, and would reduce him to slavery. Suppose, for instance, ten individuals in a state of nature, about to enter into government, nine of whom are equally wise, equally strong, and equally wealthy, the tenth is ten times as wise, ten times as strong, or ten times as rich; if, for this reason, he is to have ten votes for each vote of either of the others, the nine might as well have no vote at all; since, though the whole nine might assent to a measure, yet the vote of the tenth would countervail, and set aside all their votes. If this tenth approved of what they wished to adopt, it would be well, but if he disapproved, he could prevent it; and in the same manner, he could carry into execution any measure he wished, contrary to the opinion of all the others, he having ten votes, and the other altogether but nine. It is evident, that, on these principles, the nine would have no will or discretion of their own, but must be totally dependent on the will and discretion of the tenth; to him they would be as absolutely slaves, as any negro is to his master. If he did not attempt to carry into execution any measures injurious to the other nine, it could only be said, that they had a good master; they would not be the less slaves, because they would be totally dependent on the will of another, and not on their own will. They might not feel their chains, but they would, notwithstanding, wear them; and whenever their master pleased, he might draw them so tight as to gall them to the bone. Hence it was urged, the inequality of representation, or giving to one man more votes than another, on account of his wealth, &c., was altogether inconsistent with the principles of liberty, and in the same proportion as it should be adopted, in favor of one or more, in that proportion are the others enslaved. It was urged, that though every individual should have an equal voice in the government, yet, even the superior wealth, strength, or understanding, would give great and undue advantages to those who possessed them. That wealth attracts respect and attention; superior strength would cause the weaker and more feeble to be cautious how they offended, and to put up with small injuries rather than to engage in an unequal contest; in like manner, superior understanding would give its possessor many opportunities of profiting at the expense of the more ignorant.
 Having thus established these principles, with respect to the rights of individuals in a state of nature, and what is due to each, on entering into government, (principles established by every writer on liberty,) they proceeded to show, that States, when once formed, are considered, with respect to each other, as individuals in a state of nature; that, like individuals, each State is considered equally free and equally independent, the one having no right to exercise authority over the other, though more strong, more wealthy, or abounding with more inhabitants. That, when a number of States unite themselves under a federal government, the same principles apply to them, as when a number of individual men unite themselves under a State government. That every argument which shows one man ought not to have more votes than another, because he is wiser, stronger, or wealthier, proves that one State ought not to have more votes than another, because it is stronger, richer, or more populous. And, that by giving one State, or one or two States, more votes than the others, the others thereby are enslaved to such State or States, having the greater number of votes, in the same manner as in the case before put, of individuals, when one has more votes than the others. That the reason why each individual man in forming a State government should have an equal vote, is because each individual, before he enters into government, is equally free and independent. So each State, when States enter into a federal government, are entitled to an equal vote; because, before they entered into such federal government, each State was equally free and equally independent. That adequate representation of men formed into a State government, consists in each man having an equal voice, either personally, or, if by representatives, that he should have an equal voice in choosing the representatives. So, adequate representation of States in a federal government, consists in each State having an equal voice, either in person or by its representative, in every thing which relates to the federal government. That this adequacy of representation is more important in a federal, than in a State government, because the members of a State government, the district of which is not very large, have generally such a common interest, that laws can scarcely be made by one part, oppressive to the others, without their suffering in common; but the different States, composing an extensive federal empire, widely distant one from the other, may have interests so totally distinct, that the one part might be greatly benefited by what would be destructive to the other.
 They were not satisfied by resting it on principles; they also appealed to history. They showed, that in the amphictyonic confederation of the Grecian cities, each city, however different in wealth, strength, and other circumstances, sent the same number of deputies, and had each an equal voice in every thing that related to the common concerns of Greece. It was shown, that in the seven provinces of the United Netherlands, and the confederated Cantons of Switzerland, each Canton and each province have an equal vote, although there are as great distinctions of wealth, strength, population, and extent of territory among those provinces and those Cantos, as among these States. It was said, that the maxim, that taxation and representation ought to go together, was true so far, that no person ought to be taxed who is not represented, but not in the extent insisted upon, to wit, that the quantum of taxation and representation ought to be the same; on the contrary, the quantum of representation depends upon the quantum of freedom; and therefore all, whether individual States, or individual men, who are equally free, have a right to equal representation. That to those who insist, that he who pays the greatest share of taxes ought to have the greatest number of votes, it is a sufficient answer to say, that this rule would be destructive of the liberty of the others, and would render them slaves to the more rich and wealthy. That if one man pays more taxes than another, it is because he has more wealth to be protected by government, and he receives greater benefits from the government. So if one State pays more to the federal government, it is because, as a State, she enjoys greater blessings from it; she has more wealth protected by it, or a greater number of inhabitants, whose rights are secured, and who share its advantages.
 It was urged, that, upon these principles, the Pennsylvanian, or inhabitant of a large State, was of as much consequence as the inhabitant of Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, or any other State. That his consequence was to be decided by his situation in his own State; that if he was there as free, if he had as great share in the forming of his own government, and in the making and executing its laws, as the inhabitants of those other States, then was he equally important, and of equal consequence. Suppose a confederation of States had never been adopted, but every State had remained absolutely in its independent situation, no person could, with propriety, say that the citizen of the large State was not as important as the citizen of the smaller; the confederation of the States cannot alter the case. It was said, that in all transactions between State and State, the freedom, independence, importance, and consequence, even the individuality of each citizen of the different States, might with propriety be said to be swallowed up, or concentrated, in the independence, the freedom, and the individuality of the State of which they are citizens. That the thirteen States are thirteen distinct political individual existences, as to each other; that the federal government is, or ought to be, a government over these thirteen political individual existences, which form the members of that government; and that, as the largest State, is only a single individual of this government, it ought to have only one vote; the smallest State, also being one individual member of this government, ought also to have one vote. To those who urged, that for the States to have equal suffrage was contrary to the feelings of the human heart, it was answered, that it was admitted to be contrary to the feelings of pride and ambition, but those were feelings which ought not to be gratified at the expense of freedom.
 It was urged, that the position, that great States would have great objects in view, in which they would not suffer the less States to thwart them, was one of the strongest reasons why inequality of representation ought not to be admitted. If those great objects were not inconsistent with the interest of the less States, they would readily concur in them; but if they were inconsistent with the interest of a majority of the States composing the government, in that case two or three States ought not to have it in their power to aggrandize themselves, at the expense of all the rest. To those who alleged, that equality of suffrage in our federal government, was the poisonous source from which all our misfortunes flowed, it was answered, that the allegation was not founded in fact; that equality of suffrage had never been complained of by the States, as a defect in our federal system; that, among the eminent writers, foreigners and others, who had treated of the defects of our confederation, and proposed alterations, none had proposed an alteration in this part of the system; and members of the convention, both in and out of Congress, who advocated the equality of suffrage, called upon their opponents, both in and out of Congress, and challenged them to produce one single instance where a bad measure had been adopted, or a good measure had failed of adoption, in consequence of the States having an equal vote; on the contrary, they urged, that all our evils flowed from the want of power in the federal head, and that, let the right of suffrage in the States be altered in any manner whatever, if no greater powers were given to the government, the same inconveniences would continue.
 It was denied that the equality of suffrage was originally agreed to on principles of necessity or expediency; on the contrary, that it was adopted on the principles of the rights of men and the rights of States, which were then well known, and which then influenced our conduct, although now they seem to be forgotten. For this, the Journals of Congress were appealed to; it was from them shown, that when the committee of Congress reported to that body the articles of confederation, the very first article, which became the subject of discussion, was that respecting equality of suffrage. That Virginia proposed divers modes of suffrage, all on the principle of inequality, which were almost unanimously rejected; that on the question for adopting the article, it passed, Virginia being the only State which voted in the negative. That, after the articles of confederation were submitted to the States, by them to be ratified, almost every State proposed certain amendments, which they instructed their delegates to endeavour to obtain before ratification, and that among all the amendments proposed, not one State, not even Virginia, proposed an amendment of that article, securing the equality of suffrage, — the most convincing proof it was agreed to and adopted, not from necessity, but upon a full conviction, that, according to the principles of free governments, the States had a right to that equality of suffrage.
 But, Sir, it was to no purpose that the futility of their objections were shown, when driven from the pretence, that the equality of suffrage had been originally agreed to on principles of expediency and necessity; the representatives of the large States persisting in a declaration, that they would never agree to admit the smaller States to an equality of suffrage. In answer to this, they were informed, and informed in terms the most strong and energetic that could possibly be used, that we never would agree to a system giving them the undue influence and superiority they proposed. That we would risk every possible consequence. That from anarchy and confusion, order might arise. That slavery was the worst that could ensue, and we considered the system proposed to be the most complete, most abject system of slavery that the wit of man ever devised, under the pretence of forming a government for free States. That we never would submit tamely and servilely, to a present certain evil, in dread of a future, which might be imaginary; that we were sensible the eyes of our country and the world were upon us. That we would not labor under the imputation of being unwilling to form a strong and energetic federal government; but we would publish the system which we approved, and also that which we opposed, and leave it to our country, and the world at large, to judge between us, who best understood the rights of free men and free States, and who best advocated them; and to the same tribunal we would submit, who ought to be answerable for all the consequences, which might arise to the Union from the convention breaking up, without proposing any system to their constituents. During this debate we were threatened, that if we did not agree to the system proposed, we never should have an opportunity of meeting in convention to deliberate on another, and this was frequently urged. In answer, we called upon them to show what was to prevent it, and from what quarter was our danger to proceed; was it from a foreign enemy? Our distance from Europe, and the political situation of that country, left us but little to fear. Was there any ambitious State or States, who, in violation of every sacred obligation, was preparing to enslave the other States, and raise itself to consequence on the ruin of the others? Or was there any such ambitious individual? We did not apprehend it to be the case; but suppose it to be true, it rendered it the more necessary, that we should sacredly guard against a system, which might enable all those ambitious views to be carried into effect, even under the sanction of the constitution and government. In fine, Sir, all these threats were treated with contempt, and they were told, that we apprehended but one reason to prevent the States meeting again in convention; that, when they discovered the part this convention had acted, and how much its members were abusing the trust reposed in them, the States would never trust another convention. At length, Sir, after every argument had been exhausted by the advocates of equality of representation, the question was called, when a majority decided in favor of the inequality; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia voting for it; Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware against it; Maryland divided. It may be thought surprising, Sir, that Georgia, a State now small and comparatively trifling in the Union, should advocate this system of unequal representation, giving up her present equality in the federal government, and sinking herself almost to total insignificance in the scale; but, Sir, it must be considered, that Georgia has the most extensive territory in the Union, being larger than the whole island of Great Britain, and thirty times as large as Connecticut. This system being designed to preserve to the States their whole territory unbroken, and to prevent the erection of new States within the territory of any of them, Georgia looked forward when, her population being increased in some measure proportioned to her territory, she should rise in the scale, and give law to the other States, and hence we found the delegation of Georgia warmly advocating the proposition of giving the States unequal representation. Next day the question came on, with respect to the inequality of representation in the second branch, but little debate took place; the subject had been exhausted on the former question. On the votes being taken, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, voted for the inequality. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland3 were in the negative. Georgia had only two representatives on the floor, one of whom (not, I believe, because he was against the measure, but from a conviction, that we would go home, and thereby dissolve the convention, before we would give up the question,) voted also in the negative, by which that State was divided. Thus, Sir, on this great and important part of the system, the convention being equally divided, five States for the measure, five against, and one divided, there was a total stand, and we did not seem very likely to proceed any further. At length, it was proposed, that a select committee should be balloted for, composed of a member from each State, which committee should endeavour to devise some mode of conciliation or compromise. I had the honor to be on that committee; we met, and discussed the subject of difference; the one side insisted on the inequality of suffrage in both branches, the other insisted on the equality in both; each party was tenacious of their sentiments, when it was found, that nothing could induce us to yield to the inequality in both branches; they at length proposed, by way of compromise, if we would accede to their wishes as to the first branch, they would agree to the equal representation in the second Branch. To this it was answered, that there was no merit in the proposal; it was only consenting, after they had struggled, to put both their feet on our necks, to take one of them off, provided we would consent to let them keep the other on; when they knew at the same time, that they could not put one foot on our necks, unless we would consent to it and that by being permitted to keep on that one foot, they should afterwards be able to place the other foot on whenever they pleased.
 They were also called on to inform us what security they could give us should we agree to this compromise, that they would abide by the plan of government formed upon it, any longer that it suited their interests, or they found it expedient. “The States have a right to an equality of representation. This is secured to us by our present articles of confederation; we are in possession of this privilege — It is now to be torn from us — What security can you give us, that, when you get the power the proposed system will give you, when you have men and money, that you will not force from the States that equality of suffrage in the second branch, which you now deny to be their right, and only give up from absolute necessity? Will you tell us we ought to trust you because you now enter into a solemn compact with us? This you have done before, and now treat with the utmost contempt. — Will you now make an appeal to the Supreme Being, and call on him to guarantee your observance of this compact? The same you have formerly done, for your observance of the articles of confederation, which you are now violating in the most wanton manner.
 “The same reasons, which you now urge for destroying our present federal government, may be urged for abolishing the system, which you now propose to adopt; and as the method prescribed by the articles of confederation is now totally disregarded by you, as little regard may be shown by you to the rules prescribed for the amendment of the new system, whenever, having obtained power by the government, you shall hereafter be pleased either to discard it entirely, or so to alter it as to give yourselves all that superiority, which you have now contended for, and to obtain which you have shown yourselves disposed to hazard the Union.” — Such, Sir, was the language used on that occasion, and they were told, that, as we could not possibly have a greater tie on them for their observance of the new system than we had for their observance of the articles of confederation, which had proved totally insufficient, it would be wrong and imprudent to confide in them. — It was further observed, that the inequality of the representation would be daily increasing. — — — That many of the States, whose territory was confined and whose population was at the time large in proportion to their territory, would probably, twenty, thirty, or forty years hence, have no more representatives than at the introduction of the government; whereas, the States having extensive territory, where lands are to be procured cheap, would be daily increasing in the number of their inhabitants, not only from propagation, but from the emigration of the inhabitants of the other States, and would have soon double, or perhaps treble the number of representatives that they are to have at first, and thereby enormously increase their influence in the national councils. However, the majority of the select committee at length agreed to a series of propositions, by way of compromise, part of which related to the representation in the first branch, nearly as the system is now published: And part of them to the second branch, securing, in that, equal representation, and reported them as a compromise, upon the express terms, that they were wholly to be adopted, or wholly to be rejected: upon this compromise, a great number of the members so far engaged themselves, that, if the system was progressed upon agreeable to the terms of compromise, they would lend it their names, by signing it, and would not actively oppose it, if their States should appear inclined to adopt it. — Some, however, in which number was myself, who joined in the report, and agreed to proceed upon those principles, and see what kind of a system would ultimately be formed upon it, yet reserved to themselves, in the most explicit manner, the right of finally giving a solemn dissent to the system, if it was thought by them inconsistent with the freedom and happiness of their country. This, Sir, will account why the members of the convention so generally signed their names to the system; not because they thought it a proper one; not because they thoroughly approved, or were unanimous for it; but because they thought it better than the system attempted to be forced upon them. This report of the select committee was after long dissension, adopted by a majority of the convention, and the system was proceeded in accordingly. I believe near a fortnight, perhaps more, was spent in the discussion of this business, during which we were on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of an hair, though the public papers were announcing our extreme unanimity.
 Mr. Speaker, I think it my duty to observe, that, during this struggle to prevent the large States from having all power in their hands, which had nearly terminated in a dissolution of the convention, it did not appear to me, that either of those illustrious characters, the honorable Mr. Washington or the President of the State of Pennsylvania, was disposed to favor the claims of the smaller States, against the undue superiority attempted by the large States; on the contrary, the Honorable President of Pennsylvania was a member of the committee of compromise, and there advocated the right of the large States to an inequality in both branches, and only ultimately conceded it in the second branch on the principle of conciliation, when it was found no other terms would be accepted. This, Sir, I think it my duty to mention, for the consideration of those, who endeavour to prop up a dangerous and defective system by great names; Soon after this period, the Honorable Mr. Yates and Mr. Lansing, of New York, left us — they had uniformly opposed the system, and, I believe, despairing of getting a proper one brought forward, or of rendering any real service, they returned no more.4 The propositions reported by the committee of the whole house having been fully discussed by the convention, and, with many alterations having been agreed to by a majority, a committee of five, were appointed to detail the system, according to the principles contained in what had been agreed to by that majority — This was likely to require some time, and the convention adjourned for eight or ten days. — Before the adjournment, I moved for liberty to be given to the different members to take correct copies of the propositions, to which the convention had then agreed, in order that during the recess of the convention, we might have an opportunity of considering them, and, if it should be thought that any alterations or amendments were necessary, that we might be prepared against the convention met, to bring them forward for discussion. But, Sir, the same spirit, which caused our doors to be shut, our proceedings to be kept secret, — our journals to be locked up, — and every avenue, as far as possible, to be shut to public information, prevailed also in this case; and the proposal, so reasonable and necessary, was rejected by a majority of the convention; thereby precluding even the members themselves from the necessary means of information and deliberation on the important business in which they were engaged.
 It has been observed, Mr. Speaker, by my honorable colleagues, that the debate respecting the mode of representation, was productive of considerable warmth; this observation is true. But, Sir, it is equally true, that, if we could have tamely and servilely consented to be bound in chains, and meanly condescended to assist in riveting them fast, we might have avoided all that warmth, and have proceeded with as much calmness and coolness as any Stoic could have wished.
 Having thus, Sir, given the honorable members of this house a short history of some interesting parts of our proceedings, I shall beg leave to take up the system published by the convention, and shall request your indulgence, while I make some observations on different parts of it, and give you such further information as may be in my power. (Here Mr. Martin read the first section of the first article, and then proceeded.) With respect to this part of the system, Mr. Speaker, there was a diversity of sentiment; those who were for two branches in the legislature, a House of Representatives and a Senate, urged the necessity of a second branch, to serve as a check upon the first, and used all those trite and common-place arguments which may be proper and just, when applied to the formation of a State government, over individuals variously distinguished in their habits and manners, fortune and rank; where a body chosen in a select manner, respectable for their wealth and dignity, may be necessary, frequently, to prevent the hasty and rash measures of a representation more popular. But, on the other side, it was urged, that none of those arguments could with propriety be applied to the formation of a federal government over a number of independent States; that it is the State governments which are to watch over and protect the rights of the individual, whether rich or poor, or of moderate circumstances, and in which the democratic and aristocratic influence or principles are to be so blended, modified, and checked, as to prevent oppression and injury; that the federal government is to guard and protect the States and their rights, and to regulate their common concerns; that a federal government is formed by the States, as States, that is, in their sovereign capacities, in the same manner as treaties and alliances are formed; that sovereignties, considered as such, cannot be said to have jarring interests or principles, the one aristocratic, and the other democratic; but that the principles of a sovereignty, considered as a sovereignty, are the same, whether that sovereignty is monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed — That the history of mankind doth not furnish an instance, from its earliest period to the present time, of a federal government constituted of two distinct branches; that the members of the federal government, if appointed by the States, in their State capacities that is, by their legislatures, as they ought, would be select in their choice, and, coming from different States, having different interests and views, this difference of interests and views would always be a sufficient check over the whole. And it was shewn, that even Adams, who, the reviewers have justly observed, appears to be as fond of checks and balances as Lord Chesterfield of the Graces, even he declares, that a council consisting of one branch has always been found sufficient in a federal government.
 It was urged, that the government we were forming was not in reality a federal, but a national government; not founded on the principles of the preservation, but the abolition or consolidation of all State governments; that we appeared totally to have forgot the business for which we were sent, and the situation of the country for which we were preparing our system — That we had not been sent to form a government over the inhabitants of America, considered as individuals; that as individuals, they were all subject to their respective State governments, which governments would still remain, though the federal government should be dissolved; that the system of government we were entrusted to prepare, was a government over these thirteen States; but that, in our proceedings, we adopted principles which would be right and proper, only on the supposition that there were no State governments at all, but that all the inhabitants of this extensive continent were, in their individualcapacity, without government, and in a state of nature; that, accordingly, the system proposes the legislature to consist of two branches, the one to be drawn from the people at large, immediately in their individual capacity, the other to be chosen in a more select manner, as a check upon the first. It is, in its very introduction, declared to be a compact between the people of the United States, as individuals; and it is to be ratified by the people at large, in their capacity as individuals; all which it was said would be quite right and proper, if there were no State governments, if all the people of this continent were in a state of nature, and we were forming one national government for them as individuals; and is nearly the same as was done in most of the States when they formed their governments over the people who compose them.
 Whereas it was urged, that the principles on which a federal government over States ought to be constructed and ratified, are the reverse; that instead of the legislature consisting of two branches, one branch was sufficient, whether examined by the dictates of reason, or the experience of ages; that the representation, instead of being drawn from the people at large, as individuals, ought to be drawn from the States as States, in their sovereign capacity; that, in a federal government, the parties to the compact are not the people, as individuals, but the States, as States; and that it is by the States as States, in their sovereign capacity, that the system of government ought to be ratified, and not by the people, as individuals.
 It was further said, that, in a federal government over States equally free, sovereign, and independent, every State ought to have an equal share in making the federal laws or regulations, in deciding upon them, and in carrying them into execution; neither of which was the case in this system, but the reverse; the States not having an equal voice in the legislature, nor in the appointment of the executive, the judges, and the other officers of government. It was insisted, that, in the whole system, there was but one federal feature, — the appointment of the senators by the States in their sovereign capacity, that is, by their legislatures, and the equality of suffrage in that branch; but it was said, that this feature was only federal in appearance.
 To prove this, and the Senate as constituted could not be a security for the protection and preservation of the State governments, and that the senators could not be justly considered the representatives of the States, as States, it was observed, that upon just principles of representation, the representative ought to speak the sentiments of his constituents, and ought to vote in the same manner that his constituents would do, (as far as he can judge,) provided his constituents were acting in person, and had the same knowledge and information with himself; and, therefore, that the representative ought to be dependent on his constituents, and answerable to them; that the connexion between the representative and the represented ought to be as near and as close as possible. According to these principles, Mr. Speaker, in this State it is provided by its constitution, that the representatives in Congress shall be chosen annually, shall be paid by the State, and shall be subject to recall even within the year; so cautiously has our constitution guarded against an abuse of the trust reposed in our representatives in the federal government; whereas, by the third and sixth section of the first article of this new system, the senators are to be chosen for six years, instead of being chosen annually; instead of being paid by their States, who send them, they, in conjunction with the other branch, are to pay themselves, out of the treasury of the United States; and are not liable to be recalled during the period for which they are chosen. Thus, Sir, for six years the senators are rendered totally and absolutely independent of their States, of whom they ought to be the representatives, without any bond or tie between them. During that time, they may join in measures ruinous and destructive to their States, even such as should totally annihilate their State governments, and their States cannot recall them, nor exercise any control over them.
 Another consideration, Mr. Speaker, it was thought ought to have great weight, to prove that the smaller States cannot depend on the Senate for the preservation of their rights, either against large and ambitious States, or against an ambitious and aspiring President. The Senate, Sir, is so constituted, that they are not only to compose one branch of the legislature, but, by the second section of the second article, they are to compose a privy council for the President; hence, it will be necessary, that they should be, in a great measure, a permanent body, constantly residing at the seat of government. Seven years are esteemed for the life of a man; it can hardly be supposed, that a senator, especially from the States remote from the seat of empire, will accept of an appointment which must estrange him for six years from his State, without giving up, to a great degree, his prospects in his own State. If he has a family, he will take his family with him to the place where the government shall be fixed; that will become his home, and there is every reason to expect, that his future views and prospects will centre in the favors and emoluments of the general government, or of the government of that State where the seat of empire is established. In either case, he is lost to his own State. If he places his future prospects in the favors and emoluments of the general government, he will become the dependent and creature of the President, as the system enables a senator to be appointed to offices, and, without the nomination of the President, no appointment can take place; as such, he will favor the wishes of the President, and concur in his measures; who, if he has no ambitious views of his own to gratify, may be too favorable to the ambitious views of the large States, who will have an undue share in his original appointment, and on whom he will be more dependent afterwards than on the States which are smaller. If the senator places his future prospects in that State where the seat of empire is fixed, from that time he will be, in every question wherein its particular interest may be concerned, the representative of that State, not of his own.
 But even this provision, apparently for the security of the State governments, inadequate as it is, is entirely left at the mercy of the general government; for, by the fourth section of the first article, it is expressly provided, that the Congress shall have a power to make and alter all regulations concerning the time and manner of holding elections for senators; a provision expressly looking forward to, and, I have no doubt designed for, the utter extinction and abolition of all State governments; nor will this, I believe, be doubted by any person, when I inform you, that some of the warm advocates and patrons of the system, in convention, strenuously opposed the choice of the senators by the State legislatures, insisting, that the State governments ought not to be introduced in any manner, so as to be component parts of, or instruments for carrying into execution, the general government. Nay, so far were the friends of the system from pretending that they meant it, or considered it as a federal system, that on the question being proposed, “that a union of the States, merely federal, ought to be the sole object of the exercise of the powers vested in the convention,” it was negatived by a majority of the members, and it was resolved “that a national government ought to be formed.” Afterwards the word “national” was struck out by them, because they thought the word might tend to alarm; and although, now, they who advocate the system pretend to call themselves federalists, in convention the distinction was quite the reverse; those who opposed the system were there considered and styled the federal party, those who advocated it, the antifederal.
 Viewing it as a national, not a federal government, as calculated and designed not to protect and preserve, but to abolish and annihilate the State governments, it was opposed for the following reasons. It was said, that this continent was much too extensive for one national government, which should have sufficient power and energy to pervade and hold in obedience and subjection all its parts, consistent with the enjoyment and preservation of liberty — that the genius and habits of the people of America were opposed to such a government. That during their connexion with Great Britain, they had been accustomed to have all their concerns transacted within a narrow circle, their colonial district; they had been accustomed to have their seats of government near them, to which they might have access, without much inconvenience, when their business should require it — That, at this time, we find, if a county is rather large, the people complain of the inconvenience, and clamor for a division of their county, or for a removal of the place where their courts are held, so as to render it more central and convenient. That in those States, the territory of which is extensive, as soon as the population increases remote from the seat of government, the inhabitants are urgent for the removal of the seat of their government, or to be erected into a new State. As a proof of this, the inhabitants of the western parts of Virginia and North Carolina, of Vermont and the province of Maine, were instances; even the inhabitants of the western parts of Pennsylvania, who, it is said, already seriously look forward to the time when they shall either be erected into a new State, or have their seat of government removed to the Susquehanna. If the inhabitants of the different States consider it as a grievance to attend a county court, or the seat of their own government, when a little inconvenient, can it be supposed they would ever submit to have a national government established, the seat of which would be more than a thousand miles removed from some of them?
 It was insisted, that governments of a republican nature are those best calculated to preserve the freedom and happiness of the citizen; that governments of this kind are only calculated for a territory but small in its extent; that the only method by which an extensive continent like America could be connected and united together, consistent with the principles of freedom, must be by having a number of strong and energetic State governments for securing and protecting the rights of individuals forming those governments, and for regulating all their concerns; and a strong, energetic federal government over those States, for the protection and preservation, and for regulating the common concerns of the State. It was further insisted, that, even if it was possible to effect a total abolition of the State governments at this time, and to establish one general government over the people of America, it could not long subsist, but in a little time would again be broken into a variety of governments of a smaller extent, similar, in some manner, to the present situation of this continent; the principal difference, in all probability, would be, that the governments so established, being affected by some violent convulsion, might not be formed on principles so favorable to liberty as those of our present State governments. That this ought to be an important consideration to such of the States as had excellent governments, which was the case with Maryland and most others, whatever it might be to persons who disapproving of their particular State government, would be willing to hazard every thing to overturn and destroy it. These reasons, Sir, influenced me to vote against two branches in the legislature, and against every part of the system which was repugnant to the principles of a federal government.5 Nor was there a single argument urged, or reason assigned, which to my mind was satisfactory, to prove, that a good government on federal principles was unattainable; the whole of their arguments only proving, what none of us controverted, that our federal government as originally formed, was defective, and wanted amendment. However, a majority of the convention hastily and inconsiderately, without condescending to make a fair trial, in their great wisdom, decided that a kind of government, which a Montesquieu and a Price have declared the best calculated of any to preserve internal liberty, and to enjoy external strength and security, and the only one by which a large continent can be connected and united, consistently with the principles of liberty, was totally impracticable; and they acted accordingly.
 With respect to that part of the second section of the first article, which relates to the apportionment of representation and direct taxation, there were considerable objections made to it, besides the great objection of inequality. It was urged, that no principle could justify taking slaves into computation in apportioning the number of representatives a State should have in the government. That it involved the absurdity of increasing the power of a State in making laws for freemen in proportion as that State violated the rights of freedom. That it might be proper to take slaves into consideration, when taxes were to be apportioned, because it had a tendency to discourage slavery; but to take them into account in giving representation tended to encourage the slave-trade, and to make it the interest of the States to continue that infamous traffic. That slaves could not be taken into account as men or citizens, because they were not admitted to the rights of citizens, in the States which adopted or continued slavery. If they were to be taken into account as property, it was asked, what peculiar circumstance should render this property, (of all others the most odious in its nature,) entitled to the high privilege of conferring consequence and power in the government to its possessors, rather than any other property? and why slaves should, as property, be taken into account, rather than horses, cattle, mules, or any other species — and it was observed by an honorable member from Massachusetts, that he considered it as dishonorable and humiliating to enter into compact with the slaves of the Southern States, as it would with the horses and mules of the Eastern. It was also objected, that the numbers of representatives appointed by this section, to be sent by the particular States to compose the first legislature, were not precisely agreeable to the rule of representation adopted by this system, and that the numbers in this section are artfully lessened for the large States, while the smaller States have their full proportion, in order to prevent the undue influence which the large States will have in the government from being too apparent; and I think, Mr. Speaker, that this objection is well founded. I have taken some pains to obtain information of the number of freemen and slaves in the different States, and I have reason to believe, that, if the estimate was now taken, which is directed, and one delegate to be sent for every thirty thousand inhabitants, Virginia would have at least twelve delegates, Massachusetts eleven, and Pennsylvania ten, instead of the number stated in this section; whereas the other States, I believe, would not have more than the number there allowed them, nor would Georgia, most probably, at present, send more than two. If I am right, Mr. Speaker, upon the enumeration being made, and the representation being apportioned according to the rule prescribed, the whole number of delegates would be seventy-one, thirty-six of which would be a quorum to do business; the delegates of Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, would amount to thirty-three of that quorum. Those three States will, therefore, have much more than equal power and influence in making the laws and regulations, which are to affect this continent, and will have a moral certainty of preventing any laws or regulations which they disapprove, although they might be thought ever so necessary by a great majority of the States. It was further objected, that even if the States who had most inhabitants ought to have a greater number of delegates, yet the number of delegates ought not to be in exact proportion to the number of inhabitants, because the influence and power of those States whose delegates are numerous, will be greater, when compared to the influence and power of the other States, than the proportion which the numbers of their delegates bear to each other; as, for instance, though Delaware has one delegate, and Virginia but ten, yet Virginia has more than ten times as much power and influence in the government as Delaware; to prove this, it was observed, that Virginia would have a much greater chance to carry any measure, than any number of States whose delegates were altogether ten, (suppose the States of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire,) since the ten delegates from Virginia, in every thing that related to the interest of that State, would act in union, and move one solid and compact body; whereas, the delegates of these four States, though collectively equal in number to those from Virginia, coming from different States, having different interests, will be less likely to harmonize and move in concert. As a further proof, it was said, that Virginia, as the system is now reported, by uniting with her the delegates of four other States, can carry a question against the sense and interest of eight States, by sixty-four different combinations; the four States voting with Virginia being every time so far different, as not to be composed of the same four; whereas, the State of Delaware can only, by uniting four other States with her, carry a measure against the sense of eight States, by two different combinations, — a mathematical proof, that the State of Virginia has thirty-two times greater chance of carrying a measure, against the sense of eight States, than Delaware, although Virginia has only ten times as many delegates.
 It was also shown, that the idea was totally fallacious, which was attempted to be maintained, that, if a State had one thirteenth part of the numbers composing the delegation in this system, such State would have as much influence as under the articles of confederation. To prove the fallacy of this idea, it was shown, that, under the articles of confederation, the State of Maryland had but one vote in thirteen, yet no measure could be carried against her interests without seven States, a majority of the whole, concurring in it; whereas in this system, though Maryland has six votes, which is more than the proportion of one in thirteen, yet five States may, in a variety of combinations, carry a question against her interest, though seven other States concur with her; and six States, by a much greater number of combinations, may carry a measure against Maryland, united with six other States. I shall here, Sir, just observe, that, as the committee of detail reported the system, the delegates from the different States were to be one for every forty thousand inhabitants; it was afterwards altered to one for every thirty thousand. This alteration was made after I left the convention, at the instance of whom I know not; but it is evident, that the alteration is in favor of the States which have large and extensive territory, to increase their power and influence in the government, and to the injury of the smaller States, — since it is the States of extensive territory, who will most speedily increase the number of their inhabitants, as before has been observed, and will, therefore, most speedily procure an increase to the number of their delegates. By this alteration, Virginia, North Carolina, or Georgia, by obtaining one hundred and twenty thousand additional inhabitants, will be entitled to four additional delegates; whereas, such State would only have been entitled to three, if forty thousand had remained the number by which to apportion the delegation. As to that part of this section that relates to direct taxation, there was also an objection, for the following reasons. It was said, that a large sum of money was to be brought into the national treasury by the duties on commerce, which would be almost wholly paid by the commercial States; it would be unequal and unjust, that the sum which was necessary to be raised by direct taxation, should be apportioned equally upon all the States, obliging the commercial States to pay as large a share of the revenue arising therefrom, as the States from whom no revenue had been drawn by imposts; since the wealth and industry of the inhabitants of the commercial States will, in the first place, be severely taxed through their commerce, and afterwards be equally taxed with the industry and wealth of the inhabitants of the other States, who have paid no part of that revenue; so that, by this provision, the inhabitants of the commercial States are in this system obliged to bear an unreasonable and disproportionate share in the expenses of the Union, and the payment of that foreign and domestic debt, which was incurred not more for the benefit of the commercial than of the other States.
 In the sixth section of the first article, it is provided, that senators and representatives may be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, except such as shall have been created, or the emoluments of which have been increased, during the time for which they were elected. Upon this subject, Sir, there was a great diversity of sentiment among the members of the convention. As the propositions were reported by the committee of the whole House, a senator or representative could not be appointed to any office under a particular State, or under the United States, during the time for which they were chosen, nor to any office under the United States, until one year after the expiration of that time. It was said, and, in my opinion justly, that no good reason could be assigned, why a senator or representative should be incapacitated to hold an office in his own government, since it can only bind him more closely to his State, and attach him the more to its interests, which, as its representative, he is bound to consult and sacredly guard, as far as is consistent with the welfare of the Union; and therefore, at most, would only add the additional motive of gratitude for discharging his duty; and, according to this idea, the clause which prevented senators or delegates from holding offices in their own States, was rejected by a considerable majority. But, Sir, we sacredly endeavoured to preserve all that part of the resolution which prevented them from being eligible to offices under the United States; as we considered it essentially necessary to preserve the integrity, independence, and dignity of the legislature, and to secure its members from corruption.
 I was in the number of those who were extremely solicitous to preserve this part of the report; but there was a powerful opposition made by such as wished the members of the legislature to be eligible to offices under the United States. Three different times did they attempt to procure an alteration, and as often failed; a majority firmly adhering to the resolution as reported by the committee — However, an alteration was at length, by dint of perseverance, obtained, even within the last twelve days of the convention; for it happened after I left Philadelphia. As to the exception, that they cannot be appointed to offices created by themselves, or the emoluments of which are by themselves increased, it is certainly of little consequence, since they may easily evade it by creating new offices, to which may be appointed the persons who fill the offices before created, and thereby vacancies will be made, which may be filled by the members who, for that purpose, have created the new offices.
1.) See THE GENUINE INFORMATION, DELIVERED TO THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, RELATIVE TO THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE GENERAL CONVENTION, HELD AT PHILADELPHIA, IN 1787, BY LUTHER MARTIN, ESQUIRE, ATTORNEY-GENERAL OF MARYLAND, AND ONE OF THE DELEGATES IN THE SAID CONVENTION (29 November 1787), reproduced in The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, Max Farrand, Editor (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1966), Volume 3, at 173-232.
1.) The Sword and Sovereignty: The Constitutional Principles of “the Militia of the several States”, Front Royal, Virginia CD ROM Edition 2012, by Dr. Edwin Vieira, Jr., page 6.
2.) U.S. Const. preamble. The typeset version of The Constitution of the United States of America, Bicentennial Edition, House Document No. 94-539, 94th Congress, 2d Session (Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1976).
3.) Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 174 (1803).
4.) Wilson v. New, 243 U.S. 332, 345 (1917).