For the following excerpts, answer these questions. Note that some of these answers must be inferred.
- When was this document written?
- Where was this document written?
- Who wrote this document?
- What type of document is this?
- What was the purpose of this document?
- Who was the audience for this document?
Note: Before reading please note the following excerpt, please note that it is taken from Madison’s Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention, with a few changes. The dialogue is now conveyed in the present tense, and from the first person point of view (“I” rather than “he”) Also, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, formatting, and abbreviations have been changed or the sake of clarity.
From a speech by Roger Sherman, June 6, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention
“The Objectives of the Union are Few:
- defense against foreign danger
- [defense] against internal disputes and a resort to force
- treaties with foreign nations
- regulating foreign commerce, and drawing revenue from it.
These and perhaps a few lesser objects alone render a Confederation of the States necessary. All other matters civil and criminal would be much better in the hands of the States…I am for giving the General Government power to legislate and execute [the laws] within a defined province.”
Source: “The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison: June 6.” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_606.asp
From a speech by Roger Sherman, June 20, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention
“If the difficulty of ratification cannot be otherwise got over, I would agree to have two branches, and a proportional representation in one of them, provided each State had an equal voice in the other. This is necessary to secure the rights of the lesser States; otherwise three or four of the large States would rule the others as they please. Each State like each individual has its peculiar habits, usages, and manners, which constitutes its happiness. It would not therefore give to others a power over this happiness, any more than an individual would do, when he could avoid it.”
Source: “The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison: June 6.” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_620.asp
- In 1787, what did Sherman say about the roles of the federal and state governments?
- Today, what would Sherman say about the roles of government?
- Why do you think the role of government has expanded since 1787?
- Sherman’s speech on June 20 is his attempt to find compromise between the two plans proposed by the Delegates from Virginia and New Jersey. How does he attempt to set up this compromise?
- How does he acknowledge the arguments from both the large and small States?
- Why do you think this approach was successful?
- How did reading these two sections differ from reaching Background: Roger Sherman?
- How did both documents help create a picture of Roger Sherman’s views?
- What other sources of information do you think would help improve your understanding of Roger Sherman?
Hall, Mark David (ed.) The Collected Works for Roger Sherman. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2016.