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Fringe Meetings at the U.S. Consitutional Convention

Diary Entry Recording Meeting of Maryland Delegation - 7 August 1787


McHenry records a second meeting of the Maryland delegation to discuss the Committee of Detail's report and the tactics for how they might proceed in the Convention.

Fringe Meetings at the U.S. Consitutional Convention

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McHenry records a second meeting of the Maryland delegation to discuss the Committee of Detail's report and the tactics for how they might proceed in the Convention.


At five o’clock in the evening I went to Mr. Carrolls lodging to confer with my colleagues on the points I had submitted to their consideration. I found Mr. Carroll alone when We entered upon their merits. He agreed with me that the deputation should oppose a resolute face to the 5 sect of the IV article, and that they ought to reject it. He appeared fully sensible of its tendency — That lodging in the house of representatives the sole right of raising and appropriating money, upon which the Senate had only a negative, gave to that branch an inordinate power in the constitution, which must end in its destruction. That without equal powers they were not an equal check upon each other — and that this was the chance that appeared for obtained an equal suffrage, or a suffrage equal to wht we had in the present confedn.

We accorded also that the deputation should in no event consent to the 6 sect. of VII article. He saw plainly that as a quorum consisted of a majority of the members of each house — that the dearest interest of trade were under the controul of four States or of 17 membes in one branch and 8 in the other branch.

We adverted also to the 1st sect of the VII article which enabled the legislature to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, and to regulate commerce among the several States. We almost shuddered at the fate of the commerce of Maryland should we be unable to make any change in this extraordinary power.

We agreed that our deputation ought never to assent to this article in its present form or without obtaining such a provision as I proposed.

I now begged his particular attention to my last proposition. By the XXII article we were called upon to agree that the system should be submitted to a convention chosen in each State under the recommendation of its legislature. And that a less number of conventions than the whole agreeing to the system should be sufficient to organise the constitution.

We had taken an oath to support our constitution and frame of government. We had been empowered by a legislature legally constituted to revise the confederation and fit it for the exigencies of government, and preservation of the union. Could we do this business in a manner contrary to our constitution? I feared (This was said first I thought — then I feared) we could not. If we relinquished any of the rights or powers of our government to the U. S. of America, we could no otherwise agree to that relinquishment than in the mode our constitution prescribed for making changes or alterations in it.

Mr. Carrol said he had felt his doubts respecting the propriety of this article as it respected Maryland; but he hoped we should be able to get over this difficulty.

Mr. Jenifer now came in to whom Mr. Carroll repeated what we had said upon my propositions and our determinations. Mr. Jenifer agreed to act in unison with us but seemed to have vague ideas of the mischiefs of the system as it stood in the report.

I wished to impress him with the necessity to support us, and touched upon some popular points.

I suggested to him the unfavorable impression it would make upon the people on account of its expence — An army and navy was to be raised and supported, expensive courts of judicature to be maintained, and a princely president to be provided for etc — That it was plain that the revenue for these purposes was to be chiefly drawn from commerce. That Maryland in this case would have this resource taken from her, without the expences of her own government being lessened. — That what would be raised from her commerce and by indirect taxation would far exceed the proportion she would be called upon to pay under the present confederation.

An increase of taxes, and a decrease in the objects of taxation as they respected a revenue for the State would not prove very palatable to our people, who might think that the whole objects of taxation were hardly sufficient to discharge the States obligations.

Mr. Mercer came in, and said he would go with the deputation on the points in question. He would wish it to be understood however, that he did not like the system, that it was weak — That he would produce a better one since the convention had undertaken to go radically to work, that perhaps he would not be supported by any one, but if he was not, he would go with the stream —

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McHenry's Notes (Max Farrand, 1911)