How did the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the period immediately following it deal with the issue of the debate between those who supported a strong central government and those who wanted more power given to the states?

     It is not denied that there are implied as well as express powers, are that the former are as effectually delegated as the latter. And for the sake of accuracy it shall be mentioned, that there is another class of powers, which may be properly denominated resulting powers. It will not be doubled, that if the United States should make a conquest of any of the territories of its neighbors, they would possess sovereign jurisdiction over the conquered territory. This would be rather a result from the whole mass of the powers of the government, and from the nature of political society, than a consequence of either of the powers specially enumerated…
     It is conceded that implied powers are to be considered as delegated equally with express ones. Then it follows, that as a power of erecting a corporation [such as a bank] may as well be implied as any other thing, it may as well be employed as an instrument or means whatever. The only question must be, in this, as in every other case, whatever the means to be employed, or, in this instance, the corporation to be erected, has a natural relation to any of the acknowledged object or lawful ends of the government. Thus a corporation may not be erected by Congress for superintending the police of the city of Philadelphia, because they are not authorized to regulate the police of that city. But one may be erected in relation to the trade with foreign countries, or to the province of the federal government to regulate those objects, and because it is incident to a general sovereign or legislative power to regulate a thing, to employ all the means which regulate to its regulation to the best and greatest advantage.

Alexander Hamilton
Opinion on the Constitutionality of an Act
to Establish a Bank, 1791


     ….. My principal objections to the plan, are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people-that they have no security for the right of election-that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous-that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature-that the judicial department will be oppressive-that the treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the president with the advice of two-thirds of a quorum of the senate- and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights. These are objections which are not local, but apply equally to all the states….

Elbridge Gerry, letter to the President
of Senate and Speaker of House of
Representatives of Massachucets
October 18, 1787

     Resolved, that the several States composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that by compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for specific purposes, delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: That to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral party, its co-States as to itself, the other party: That the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself; as well of infractions as of mode and measure of redress….
     That they will view this as seizing the rights of the States, and consolidating then in the hands of the general government, with a power assumed to bind the States (not merely in cases made Federal) but in all cases whatsoever, by laws made, not with their consent, but by others against their consent: That this would be to surrender the form of government we have chosen, and to live under one deriving its powers from its own will, and not from our authority; and that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not made Federal, will concur in delegating these acts void and of no force….

Kentucky Resolution
November 16, 1798

     …. He (Mr. Randolph) observed that in revising the federal system we ought to inquire 1) into the properties, which such a government ought to posses, 2) the defeats of the confederation, 3) the danger of our situation and 4) the remedy.

     … 2) In speaking of the defeats of the confederation he professed a high respect for its authors, and considered them, as having done all that patriots could do, in the infancy of the science, of constitutions and of confederacies,-when the inefficiency of requisitions was unknown-no commercial discord had arisen among any states-no rebellion had appeared as in Massachusetts-foreign debts had not become urgent-the havoc of paper money had not been forseen-treaties had not been violated-and perhaps nothing better could be obtained from the jealousy of the states with regard to their sovereignty….

The Virginia Plan
May 29, 1787


Section VIII. Powers Granted to Congress
Congress possesses certain enumerated powers:
1. Congress may lay and collect taxes. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…
2. Congress may borrow money. To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
3. Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes…
9. Congress may establish inferior courts. To constitute tribunals to the Supreme Court…
11. Congress may declare war, may authorize privateering…
12. Congress may maintain an army…
17. Congress makes laws for the District of Columbia and other federal areas…

Section X. Powers Denied to the States
Absolute prohibitions on the states:
1. The States forbidden certain powers. No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation… emit bills of credit (issue paper money); make anything but gold and silver coin (legal) tender to payment of debts…

Conditional prohibitions on the States:
2. The states not to levy duties without the consent of Congress…
3. Other federal powers forbidden the states. No State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage (i.e. duty on ship tonnage), keep (nonmilitia) troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.

Constitution of the United States of America

Ninth Amendment. Any rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution are also guaranteed against government infringement.

Tenth Amendment. All powers not delegated to the federal government belong to the states or to the people.

United States Bill of Rights


     …We have thought proper to inform you of some of the principle causes of the late risings of the people, and also of the present movement, viz.
     1st. The present expensive mode of collecting debts, which by reason of the great scarcity of cash, will of necessity fill our goals with unhappy debtors; and thereby a reputable body of the people rendered incapable of being serviceable either to themselves or the community.
     2nd. The monies raised by impost and excise being appropriated to discharge the interest of governmental securities, and not the foreign debt, when these securities are not subject to taxation.
     3rd. A suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus, by which those persons who have stepped forth to assert and maintain the rights of the people, are liable to be taken and conveyed even to the most distant part of the Commonwealth, and thereby subjected to an unjust punishment.
     4th. The unlimited power granted to Justices of the Peace and sheriffs, Deputy Sheriffs, and Constables, by the Riot Act, indemnifying them to the prosecution thereof, when perhaps, wholly actuated from the principle of revenge, hatred, and envy.
     Furthermore, Be assured, that this body, now at arms, despise the idea of being instigated by British emissaries, which is so strenuously propagated by the enemies of our liberties: And also wish the most proper and speedy measures may be taken, to discharge both foreign and domestic debt.
Per Order,

Daniel Gray, Chairman of the Committee


     … In one respect, the establishment of a common measure for representation and taxation will have a very salutary effect. As the accuracy of the census to be obtained by the Congress will necessarily depend, in a considerable degree, on the disposition, if not on the corporation, of the States, it is of great importance that the States should feel as little bias as possible, to swell or to reduce the amount of their numbers. Were their share of representation alone to be governed by this rule, they would have as interest in exaggerating their inhabitants. Were the rule to decide their share of taxation alone, a contrary temptation would prevail. By extending the rule to both objects, the States will have opposite interests, which will control and balance each other, and produce the requisite impartiality.

From the Federalist Papers: The Apportionment of Members
Among The States

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