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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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Page 973


On Friday, July 12 [1776], the committee appointed to draw the Articles of Confederation
reported them, and, on the 22d, the House resolved themselves into a committee to take them
into consideration. On the 30th and 31st of that month, and 1st of the ensuing, those articles
were debated which determined the proportion, or quota, of money which each state should
furnish to the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first of these
articles was expressed in the original draught in these words. “Art. XI. All charges of war and
all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed
by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall
be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex,
and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony, a true account of which, distinguishing
the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the Assembly
of the United States.”

Mr. Chase moved that the quotas should be fixed, not by the number of inhabitants of every
condition, but by that of the “white inhabitants.” He admitted that taxation should be always
in proportion to property, that this was, in theory, the true rule; but that, from a variety of difficulties,
it was a rule which could never be adopted in practice. The value of the property in
every State, could never be estimated justly and equally. Some other measure for the wealth
of the State must therefore be devised, some standard referred to, which would be more simple.
He considered the number of inhabitants as a tolerably good criterion of property, and that this
might always be obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode which we could adopt, with
one exception only: he observed that negroes are property, and as such, cannot be distinguished
from the lands or personalties held in those States where there are few slaves; that the surplus
of profit which a Northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in cattle, horses, &c., whereas a
Southern farmer lays out the same surplus in slaves. There is no more reason, therefore, for
taxing the Southern States on the farmer's head, and on his slave's head, than the Northern ones
on their farmer's heads and the heads of their cattle; that the method proposed would, therefore,
tax the Southern States according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the
Northern would be taxed on numbers only; that negroes, in fact, should not be considered as
members of the State, more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.

Mr. John Adams observed, that the numbers of people were taken by this article, as an index
of the wealth of the State, and not as subjects of taxation; that, as to this matter, it was of no
consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of freemen or of slaves; that
in some countries the laboring poor were called freemen, in others they were called slaves; but
that the difference as to the state was imaginary only. What matters it whether a landlord, employing
ten laborers on his farm, gives them annually as much money as will buy them the
necessaries of life, or gives them those necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers add as much
wealth annually to the State, increase its exports as much in the one case as the other. Certainly
five hundred freemen produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the payment of taxes,
than five hundred slaves. Therefore, the State in which are the laborers called freemen, should
be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose by an extraordinary
operation of nature or of law, one-half the laborers of a State could in the course of one night
be transformed into slaves; would the State be made the poorer or the less able to pay taxes?
That the condition of the laboring poor in most countries, that of the fishermen particularly of
the Northern States, is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers which produces
the surplus for taxation, and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index of wealth;
that it is the use of the word “property” here, and its application to some of the people of the
State, which produces the fallacy. How does the Southern farmer procure slaves? Either by
importation or by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number
of laborers in his country, and proportionably to its profits and abilities to pay taxes; if he buys
from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a laborer from one farm to another, which does not
change the annual produce of the State, and therefore, should not change its tax: that if a
Northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten
men's labor in cattle; but so may the Southern farmer, working ten slaves; that a State of
one hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle, than one of one hundred thousand
slaves. Therefore, they have no more of that kind of property; that a slave may indeed, from
the custom of speech, be more properly called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer
might be called the wealth of his employer; but as to the State, both were equally its wealth,
and should, therefore, equally add to the quota of its tax.

Mr. Harrison proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves should be counted as one freeman.
He affirmed that slaves did not do as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more
than one; that this was proved by the price of labor; the hire of a laborer in the Southern colonies
being from 8 to £12, while in the Northern it was generally £24.

Mr. Wilson said, that if this amendment should take place, the Southern colonies would
have all the benefit of slaves, whilst the Northern ones would bear the burthen: that slaves
increase the profits of a State, which the Southern States mean to take to themselves; that they
also increase the burthen of defence, which would of course fall so much the heavier on the
Northern: that slaves occupy the places of freemen, and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves,
and freemen will take their places. It is our duty to lay every discouragement on the importation
of slaves; but this amendment would give the jus trium liberorum to him who would
import slaves; that other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all the
colonies: there were as many cattle, horses and sheep, in the North as the South, and South as
the North; but not so as to slaves: that experience has shown that those colonies have been
always able to pay most, which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or white; and
the practice of the Southern colonies has always been to make every farmer pay poll taxes
upon all his laborers, whether they be black or white. He acknowledges, indeed, that freemen
work the most; but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater surplus for
taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman. Again, white


Page 974
women are exempted from labor generally, but negro women are not. In this, then, the
Southern States have an advantage as the article now stands. It has sometimes been said, that
slavery is necessary, because the commodities they raise would be too dear for market if
cultivated by freemen; but now it is said that the labor of the slave is the dearest.

Mr. Payne urged the original resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas of the States
to the number of souls.

Dr. Witherspoon was of opinion, that the value of lands and houses was the best estimate
of the wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. This is the true
barometer of wealth. The one now proposed is imperfect in itself, and unequal between the
States. It has been objected that negroes eat the food of freemen, and, therefore, should be
taxed; horses also eat the food of freemen; therefore they also should be taxed. It has been
said too, that in carrying slaves into the estimate of the taxes the State is to pay, we do no more
than those States themselves do, who always take slaves into the estimate of the taxes the
individual is to pay. But the cases are not parallel. In the Southern colonies slaves pervade
the whole colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent. That as to the original
resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas according to the souls, it was temporary only,
and related to the moneys heretofore emitted: whereas we are now entering into a new compact,
and therefore stand on original ground.

August 1. The question being put, the amendment proposed was rejected by the votes of
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania, against those of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina.
Georgia was divided.

The other article was in these words. “Art. XVII. In determining questions, each colony
shall have one vote.”

July 30, 31, August 1. Present forty-one members. Mr. Chase observed this article was the
most likely to divide us, of any one proposed in the draught then under consideration: that the
larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all, if their weight in Congress
should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the confederacy; while the smaller
ones declared against a union, if they did not retain an equal vote for the protection of their
rights. That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together, as, should we
sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different States
will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and
bloodshed, which in such a state of separation and independence, would render us a miserable
people. That our importance, our interests, our peace required that we should confederate,
and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question. He
was of opinion, the smaller colonies would lose their rights, if they were not in some instances
allowed an equal vote; and, therefore, that a discrimination should take place among the
questions which would come before Congress. That the smaller States should be secured in all
questions concerning life or liberty, and the greater ones, in all respecting property. He
therefore, proposed, that in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned
to the number of its inhabitants.

Dr. Franklin thought, that the votes should be so proportioned in all cases. He took notice
that the Delaware counties had bound up their delegates to disagree to this article. He thought
it a very extraordinary language to be held by any State, that they would not confederate with us,
unless we would let them dispose of our money. Certainly, if we vote equally, we ought to pay
equally; but the smaller States will hardly purchase the privilege at this price. That had he
lived in a State where the representation, originally equal, had become unequal by time and
accident, he might have submitted rather than disturb government; but that we should be very
wrong to set out in this practice, when it is in our power to establish what is right. That at the
time of the Union between England and Scotland, the latter had made the objection which the
smaller States now do; but experience had proved that no unfairness had ever been shown them:
that their advocates had prognosticated that it would again happen, as in times of old, that the
whale would swallow Jonas, but he thought the prediction reversed in event, and that Jonas had
swallowed the whale; for the Scotch had in fact got possession of the government, and gave laws
to the English. He reprobated the original agreement of Congress to vote by colonies, and,
therefore, was for their voting, in all cases, according to the number of taxables.

Dr. Witherspoon opposed every alteration of the article. All men admit that a confederacy
is necessary. Should the idea get abroad that there is likely to be no union among us, it will
damp the minds of the people, diminish the glory of our struggle, and lessen its importance;
because it will open to our view future prospects of war and dissension among ourselves. If an
equal vote be refused, the smaller States will become vassals to the larger; and all experience
has shown that the vassals and subjects of free States are the most enslaved. He instanced
the Helots of Sparta, and the provinces of Rome. He observed that foreign powers, discovering
this blemish, would make it a handle for disengaging the smaller States from so unequal a
confederacy. That the colonies should in fact be considered as individuals; and that, as such,
in all disputes, they should have an equal vote; that they are now collected as individuals
making a bargain with each other, and, of course, had a right to vote as individuals. That in
the East India Company they voted by persons, and not by their proportion of stock. That the
Belgic confederacy voted by provinces. That in questions of war the smaller States were as
much interested as the larger, and therefore, should vote equally; and indeed, that the larger
States were more likely to bring war on the confederacy, in proportion as their frontier was more
extensive. He admitted that equality of representation was an excellent principle, but then it
must be of things which are co-ordinate; that is, of things similar, and of the same nature: that
nothing relating to individuals could ever come before Congress; nothing but what would
respect colonies. He distinguished between an incorporating and a federal union. The union
of England was an incorporating one; yet Scotland had suffered by that union; for that its
inhabitants were drawn from it by the hopes of places and employments: nor was it an instance
of equality of representation; because, while Scotland was allowed nearly a thirteenth of representation,
they were to pay only one-fortieth of the land tax. He expressed his hopes, that in
the present enlightened state of men's minds, we might expect a lasting confederacy, if it was
founded on fair principles.


Page 975

John Adams advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said that we stand here
as the representatives of the people: that in some States the people are many, in others they are
few; that therefore, their vote here should be proportioned to the numbers from whom it comes.
Reason, justice and equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth, to govern the
councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted:
that therefore the interests within doors, should be the mathematical representatives of the
interests without doors: that the individuality of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the
individuality of a colony increase its wealth or numbers? If it does, pay equally. If it does
not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in
argument. A. has £ 50, B. £ 500, C. £ 1000 in partnership. Is it just they should equally
dispose of the moneys of the partnership? It has been said, we are independent individuals
making a bargain together. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be
when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to
form us like separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our
separate individuality, but become a single individual as to all questions submitted to the confederacy.
Therefore, all those reasons, which prove the justice and expediency of equal representation
in other assemblies, hold good here. It has been objected that a proportional vote
will endanger the smaller States. We answer that an equal vote will endanger the larger.
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, are the three greater colonies. Consider their distance,
their difference of produce, of interests, and of manners, and it is apparent they can never
have an interest or inclination to combine for the oppression of the smaller: that the smaller
will naturally divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode Island, from its relation, similarity
and intercourse, will generally pursue the same objects with Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware,
and Maryland, with Pennsylvania.

Dr. Rush took notice, that the decay of the liberties of the Dutch republic proceeded from
three causes. 1. The perfect unanimity requisite on all occasions. 2. Their obligation to consult
their constituents. 3. Their voting by provinces. This last destroyed the equality of representation,
and the liberties of Great Britain also are sinking from the same defect. That a
part of our rights is deposited in the hands of our legislatures. There, it was admitted, there
should be an equality of representation. Another part of our rights is deposited in the hands
of Congress: why is it not equally necessary there should be an equal representation there?
Were it possible to collect the whole body of the people together, they would determine the questions
submitted to them by their majority. Why should not the same majority decide when
voting here, by their representatives? The larger colonies are so providentially divided in situation,
as to render every fear of their combining visionary. Their interests are different, and
their circumstances dissimilar. It is more probable they will become rivals, and leave it in the
power of the smaller States to give preponderance to any scale they please. The voting by the
number of free inhabitants, will have one excellent effect, that of inducing the colonies to discourage
slavery, and to encourage the increase of their free inhabitants.

Mr. Hopkins observed, there were four larger, four smaller, and four middle-sized colonies.
That the four largest would contain more than half the inhabitants of the confederated States,
and therefore, would govern the others as they should please. That history affords no instance
of such a thing as equal representation. The Germanic body votes by States. The Helvetic
body does the same; and so does the Belgic confederacy. That too little is known of the
ancient confederations, to say what was their practice.

Mr. Wilson thought, that taxation should be in proportion to wealth, but that representation
should accord with the number of freemen. That government is a collection or result of the
wills of all: that if any government could speak the will of all, it would be perfect; and that,
so far as it departs from this, it becomes imperfect. It has been said that Congress is a representation
of States, not of individuals. I say, that the objects of its care are all the individuals
of the States. It is strange that annexing the name of “State” to ten thousand men, should
give them an equal right with forty thousand. This must be the effect of magic, not of reason.
As to those matters which are referred to Congress, we are not so many States; we are one large
State. We lay aside our individuality, whenever we come here. The Germanic body is a
burlesque on government; and their practice, on any point, is a sufficient authority and proof that
it is wrong. The greatest imperfection in the constitution of the Belgic confederacy is their
voting by provinces. The interest of the whole is constantly sacrificed to that of the small States.
The history of the war in the reign of Queen Anne sufficiently proves this. It is asked, shall
nine colonies put it into the power of four to govern them as they please? I invert the question,
and ask, shall two millions of people put it in the power of one million to govern them as they
please? It is pretended, too, that the smaller colonies will be in danger from the greater.
Speak in honest language and say, the minority will be in danger from the majority. And is
there an assembly on earth, where this danger may not be equally pretended? The truth is, that
our proceedings will then be consentaneous with the interests of the majority, and so they
ought to be. The probability is much greater, that the larger States will disagree, than that they
will combine. I defy the wit of man to invent a possible case, or to suggest any one thing on
earth, which shall be for the interests of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and which
will not also be for the interest of the other States.

These articles, reported July 12, '76, were debated from day to day, and time to time, for two
years, were ratified July 9, '78, by ten States, by New Jersey on the 26th of November of the
same year, and by Delaware on the 23d of February following. Maryland alone held off two
years more, acceding to them March 1, '81, and thus closing the obligation.—
i, 26. Ford ed., i, 38.