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title:“R. D. Spaight in the North Carolina Convention”
authors:Richard Dobbs Spaight
date written:1788-7-30

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:34 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 12, 2017, 8:08 a.m. UTC

Spaight, Richard Dobbs. "R. D. Spaight in the North Carolina Convention." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

R. D. Spaight in the North Carolina Convention (July 30, 1788)

July 30, 1788.
Mr. Chairman, I am one of those who formed this Constitution. The gentleman says, we exceeded our powers. I deny the charge. We were sent with a full power to amend the existing system. This involved every power to make every alteration necessary to meliorate and render it perfect. It cannot be said that we arrogated powers altogether inconsistent with the object of our delegation. There is a clause which expressly provides for future amendments, and it is still in your power.1 W2hat the Convention has done is a mere proposal. It was found impossible to improve the old system without changing its very form; for by that system the three great branches of government are blended together. All will agree that the concession of a power to a government so constructed is dangerous. The proposing a new system, to be established by the assent and ratification of nine states, arose from the necessity of the case. It was thought extremely hard that one state, or even three or four states, should be able to prevent necessary alterations. The very refractory conduct of Rhode Island, in uniformly opposing every wise and judicious measure, taught us how impolitic it would be to put the general welfare in the power of a few members of the Union. It was, therefore, thought by the Convention, that, if so great a majority as nine states should adopt it, it would be right to establish it. It was recommended by Congress to the state legislatures to refer it to the people of their different states. Our Assembly has confirmed what they have done, by proposing it to the consideration of the people. It was there, and not here, that the objection should have been made. This Convention is therefore to consider the Constitution, and whether it be proper for the government of the people of America; and had it been proposed by any one individual, under these circumstances, it would be right to consider whether it be good or bad. The gentleman has insinuated that this Constitution, instead of securing our liberties, is a scheme to enslave us. He has produced no proof, but rests it on his bare assertion — an assertion which I am astonished to hear, after the ability with which every objection has been fully and clearly refuted in the course of our debates. I am, for my part, conscious of having had nothing in view but the liberty and happiness of my country; and I believe every member of that Convention was actuated by motives equally sincere and patriotic.
. . . The gentleman has again brought on the trial by jury. The Federal Convention, sir, had no wish to destroy the trial by jury. It was three or four days before them. There were a variety of objections to any one mode. It was thought impossible to fall upon one any mode but what would produce some inconveniences. I cannot now recollect all the reasons given. Most of them have been amply detailed by other gentlemen here. I should suppose that, if the representatives of twelve states, with many able lawyers among them, could not form any unexceptionable mode, this Convention could hardly be able to do it.
. . . He has made another objection, that land might not be taxed, and the other taxes might fall heavily on the poor people. Congress has a power to lay taxes, and no article is exempted or excluded. The proportion of each state may be raised in the most convenient manner. The census or enumeration provided is meant for the salvation and benefit of the Southern States. It was mentioned that land ought to be the only object of taxation. As an acre of land in the Northern States is worth many acres in the Southern States, this would have greatly oppressed the latter. It was then judged that the number of people, as therein provided, was the best criterion for fixing the proportion of each state, and that proportion in each state to be raised in the most easy manner for the people.3

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