Monday, August 22, 2016

On this day in 1787

August 22, 1787:

Mr. GERRY & Mr. McHENRY moved to insert after the second section, article 7, the clause following, to wit: -- "The Legislature shall pass no bill of attainder nor any ex post facto law."

Mr. GERRY urged the necessity of this prohibition, which he said was greater in the national than the state legislature, because the number of members in the former being fewer were on that account the more to be feared.

Mr. Govr. MORRIS thought the precaution as to ex post facto laws unnecessary; but essential as to bills of attainder.

Mr. ELLSWORTH contended that there was no lawyer, no civilian who would not say that ex post facto laws were void of themselves. It can not then be necessary to prohibit them.

Mr. WILSON was against inserting any thing in the Constitution as to ex post facto laws. It will bring reflexions on the Constitution and proclaim that we are ignorant of the first principles of legislation, or are constituting a Government which will be so.

The question being divided, the first part of the motion relating to bills of attainder was agreed to nem. contradicente.

On the second part, relating to ex post facto laws, --

Mr. CARROLL remarked that experience overruled all other calculations. It had proved that in whatever light they might be viewed by civilians or others, the state legislatures had passed them, and they had taken effect.

Mr. WILSON. If these prohibitions in the state Constitutions have no effect, it will be useless to insert them in this Constitution. Besides, both sides will agree to the principle, & will differ as to its application.

Mr. WILLIAMSON. Such a prohibitory clause is in the Constitution of N. Carolina, and tho it has been violated, it has done good there & may do good here, because the judges can take hold of it.

Docr. JOHNSON thought the clause unnecessary, and implying an improper suspicion of the national legislature.

Mr. RUTLEDGE was in favor of the clause.

On the question for inserting the prohibition of ex post facto laws.

N.H. ay. Mas. ay. Cont. no. N.J. no. Pa. no. Del. ay. Md. ay. Virga. ay N.C. divd. S.C. ay. Geo. ay.

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