Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
[CONSTITUTION.] GERRY, Elbridge. Autograph manuscript, unsigned, n.d., [ca. 12 July 1787]. 2 pages, folio, blank integral leaf, closed tears at folds, remnants of tipping on last leaf, pencil notes in a later, 20th century hand, docketed by Gerry: "ye accommodating report."
[CONSTITUTION.] GERRY, Elbridge. Autograph manuscript, unsigned, n.d., [ca. 12 July 1787]. 2 pages, folio, blank integral leaf, closed tears at folds, remnants of tipping on last leaf, pencil notes in a later, 20th century hand, docketed by Gerry: "ye accommodating report."

Details
[CONSTITUTION.] GERRY, Elbridge. Autograph manuscript, unsigned, n.d., [ca. 12 July 1787]. 2 pages, folio, blank integral leaf, closed tears at folds, remnants of tipping on last leaf, pencil notes in a later, 20th century hand, docketed by Gerry: "ye accommodating report."

"THE REPRESENTATIVES OUGHT TO BE PROPORTIONED ACCORDING TO DIRECT TAXATION"

A RARE AND CRUCIAL DOCUMENT FROM THE MOST IMPORTANT PHASE OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION, Gerry's manuscript contains arguments and even a proposed resolution on how representatives should be apportioned in the House of Representatives. Gerry chaired an 11-state committee charged with the task of devising a compromise. Here he proposes "That in the original Formation of the legislature of the U.S. the first branch thereof shall consist of 65 Members--of which Number Viz...." He then lists the thirteen states with the number of their proposed representatives alongside. Virginia had the most with 10, Rhode Island the fewest with 1. "But as the present situation of the States may probably alter as well in point of wealth as in the Number of their Inhabitants that the Legislature be authorized from Time to Time to augment the number of Representatives & in case any of the States shall hereafter be divided or any two or more States united, or any new State created within the limits of the U.S. the legislature shall possess authority to regulate the Number of Representatives in any of the foregoing cases upon the principles of their Wealth & Number of Inhabs provided always that the representatives ought to be proportioned according to direct taxation & in order to ascertain the alteration in the direct taxation which may be required from Time to Time by the Changes in the relative Circumstances of the States [--] Resolved that a Census be taken with[in] six years from the first Meeting of the Legislature of the U States & once within the term of every 10 years afterwards of all the Inhabs of the U. States in the manner & according to the Ratio recommended by Congress in their Resolution of Apr 18 1783 & that the Legislature of the U. S. shall proportion the direct taxation accordingly."

The more populous states, such as Virginia and Massachusetts, had wanted the number of representatives determined by population. The smaller, less populous states wanted a legislature in which each state had an equal number of representatives. By the end of June the delegates accepted Roger Sherman's Great Compromise of two legislative houses, a Senate of equal representation and a House of Representatives of apportioned representation. The problem still remained of how to calculate the membership of the House. Should slaves be counted? Could those apportionments change? How frequently should a census be taken? Over three weeks of bitter debate, the convention nearly broke apart. Gerry likely drafted this memorandum on 12 July 1787, when, according to Madison's notes, the Convention took up the question of the census and discarded an earlier proposal calling for the first census to occur two years after the first Congress, and adopted instead Gerry's measure here for a six year deadline for the first census.

By 16 July the delegates devised the 3/5ths compromise whereby slaves would be partially counted for both population and taxation purposes. The resolution of this central problem gave the delegates the confidence to complete their proposed charter. In the end, however, Gerry refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked a bill of rights guaranteeing personal liberty, also he felt the new federal government had too much power relative to the state governments, and he feared the dangerous military powers inherent in the national government.

DOCUMENTS CREATED BY DELEGATES DURING THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION ARE EXTREMELY RARE.

More from Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts

View All
View All