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BASIS OF REPRESENTATION.
Many other provisions might be referred to; but enough have already been noticed to show the complex structure of the United States Government, as compared with a simple and pure democracy. It may, however, not be out of place yet to refer to the compromise in regard to the representation of the States in the Senate, and the basis of representation in the House of Representatives, now so frequently found fault with, and complained of, but without which the Constitution could have never been formed, nor the Union established. It was the vexed question, which caused more anxious deliberation and discussion, and was attended with more embarrassment, than any other subject; and a brief view of the deliberations of the Convention in relation to it will explain the reasons for the compromise finally agreed upon, as well as the danger now to be apprehended from any attempt to disturb it.
The second resolution of the series proposed by Mr. Randolph was in these words : “That the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem best in different cases." This Col. Hamilton moved to amend, by making it read: “That the rights of suffrage in the National Legislature ought to be proportioned to the number of free inhabitants.” Mr. Madison then moved, " that the equality of suffrage, established by the Articles of Confederation, ought not to prevail in the National Legislature, and that an equal ratio of representation ought to be substituted,” which was seconded by Gouverneur Morris, "and being generally relished, would have been agreed to," but for the interposition of Mr. Read of Delaware, as will appear from the following extract from the proceedings :
6 Mr. Read moved that the whole clause relating to the point of representation be postponed ; reminding the committee that the deputies from Delaware were restrained by their commission from assenting to any change of the rule of suffrage ; and in case such a change should be fixed on, it might become their duty to retire from the Convention. Mr. Gouverneur Morris observed, that the valuable assistance of those members could not be lost without real concern; and that so early a proof of discord in the Convention, as the secession of a State, would add much to the regret; that the change proposed was, however, so fundamental an article in a National Government, that it could not be dispensed with. Mr. Madison observed, that, whatever reason might have existed for the equality of suffrage when the Union was a federal one among sovereign States, it must cease when a National Government should be put into the place. In the former case, the acts of Congress depended so much for their efficacy on the cooperation of the States, that these had a weight, both within and without Congress, nearly in proportion to their extent and importance. In the latter case, as the acts of the General Government would take effect without the intervention of the State Legislatures, a vote from a small State would have the same efficacy and importance as a vote from a large one, and there was the same reason for different numbers of representatives from different States, as from counties of different extents within particular States. He suggested, as an expedient for at once taking the sense of the members on this point, and saving the Delaware deputies from embarrassment, that the question should be taken in committee, and the clause on report to the House, be postponed without a question there. This, however, did not appear to satisfy Mr. Read. By several it was observed, that no just construction of the act of Delaware could require or justify a secession of her deputies, even if the resolution were to be carried through the House as well as the committee. It was finally agreed, however, that the clause should be postponed, it being understood that, in the event, the proposed change of representation would certainly be agreed to, no objection or difficulty being started from any other quarter than from Delaware. 5 Elliott's Deb., 135. number of representatives, and different numbers of people, different numbers of repre sentatives. This principle had been improperly violated in the Confederation, owing to the urgent circumstances of the times. Representatives of different districts ought clearly to hold the same proportion to each other, as their respective constituents hold to each other. If the small States will not confederate on this plan, Pennsylvania, and he presumed some other States, would not confederate on any other. We have been told that each State being sovereign, all are equal. So each man is naturally a sovereign over himself; and all men are therefore naturally equal. Can he retain this equality when he becomes a member of civil government? He cannot. As little can a sovereign State, when it becomes a member of the Federal Government. If New Jersey will not part with her sovereignty, it is vain to talk of government. A new partition of the States is desirable, but evidently and totally impracticable.
Mr. Sherman proposed, that the proportion of suffrage in the first branch should be according to the respective numbers of free inhabitants; and that in the second branch, or Senate, each State should have one vote and no more. He said, as the States would remain possessed of certain individual rights, each State ought to be able to protect itself; otherwise, a few large States will rule the rest. The House of Lords in England, he observed, had certain particular rights under the Constitution, and hence they have an equal vote in the House of Commons, that they may be able to defend their rights.
Mr. Rutledge proposed, that the proportion of suffrage in the first branch should be according to the quotas of contribution. The justice of this rule, he said, could not be contested.
Mr. Butler urged the same idea; adding, that money was power; and that the States ought to have weight in the government in proportion to their wealth.
Mr. King and Mr. Wilson, in order to bring the question to a point, moved, “ that the right of suffrage in the first branch of the National Legislature ought not to be according to the rule established in the Articles of Confederation; but according to some equitable ratio of representation.” The clause, so far as it related to suffrage in the first branch, was postponed, in order to consider this motion. [In the printed Journal, Mr. Rutledge is named as the seconder of the motion.]
Mr. Dickinson contended for the actual contributions of the States, as the rule of their representation and suffrage in the first branch; by thus connecting the interests of the States with their duty, the latter would be sure to be performed.
Mr. King remarked, that it was uncertain what mode might be used in levying a national revenue; but that it was probable imposts would be one source of it. If the actual contributions were to be the rule, the non-importing States, as Connecticut and New Jersey, would be in a sad condition indeed. It might so happen that they would have no representation. This situation of particular States had always been one powerful argument in favor of the five per cent. impost.
The question being about to be pat, Dr. Franklin said he had thrown his ideas of the matter on a paper; which Mr. Wilson read to the Committee in the words following :
Mr. Chairman : It has given me great pleasure to observe, that till this point-the proportion of representation-came before us, our debates were carried on with great
coolness and temper. If any thing of a contrary kind has on this occasion appeared, I hope it will not be repeated ; for we are sent here to consult, not to contend.
“But, sir, in the present mode of voting by States, it is equally in the power of the lesser States to swallow up the greater; and this is mathematically demonstrable. Sup. pose, for example, that seven smaller States had each three members in the House, and the six larger to have, one with another, six members; and that, upon a question, two members of each small State should be in the affirmative, and one in the negative, they would make, affirmatives, fourteen ; negatives, seven ; and that all the larger States should be unanimously in the negative, they would make, negatives, thirty-six ; in all, affirmatives, fourteen; negatives, forty-three.
." It is, then, apparent, that the fourteen carry the question against the forty-three, and the minority overpowers the majority, contrary to the common practice of assemblies in all countries and ages.
The greater States, sir, are naturally as unwilling to have their property left in the disposition of the smaller, as the smaller are to have theirs in the disposition of the greater. An honorable gentlemen has, to avoid this difficulty, hinted a proposition of equalizing the States. It appears to me an equitable one, and I should, for my own part, not be against such a measure, if it might be found practicable. Formerly, indeed, when almost every province had a different constitution,—some with greater, others with fewer privileges,—it was of importance to the borderers, when their boundaries were contested, whether by running the division lines, they were placed on one side or the other. At present, when such differences are done away, it is less material. The interests of a State are made up of the interests of its individual members. If they are not injured, the State is not injured. Small States are more easily well and happily governed than large ones. If, therefore, in such an equal division, it should be found necessary to diminish Pennsylvania, I should not be averse to the giving a part of it to New Jersey, and another to Delaware. But as there would probably be considerable difficulty in adjusting such a division, and, however equally made at first, it would be continually varying by the augmentation of inhabitants in some States, and their fixed proportion in others, and thence frequently occasion new divisions ; I beg leave to propose, for the consideration of the committee, another mode, which appears to me to be as equitable, more easily carried into practice, and more permanent in its nature.
“Let the weakest State say what proportion of money or force it is able and willing to
“Let all the others oblige themselves to furnish each an equal proportion ;
“The Congress, in this case, to be composed of an equal number of delegates from each State;
“ After their decisions to be by the majority of individual voting;
“If these joint and equal supplies should, on particular occasions, not be sufficient, let Congress make requisitions on the richer and more powerful States for further aids, to be voluntarily afforded, leaving to each State the right of considering the necessity and utility of the aid desired, and of giving more or less, as it should be found proper.
“This mode is not new-it was formerly practiced with success by the British gov. ernment with respect to Ireland and the colonies. We sometimes gave even more than they expected, or thought just to accept ; and, in the last war, carried on while we were united, they gave us back in five years a million sterling. We should probably have continued such voluntary contributions, whenever the occasions appeared to require
Whether the plan proposed by the motion was a proper one, was another question, as it depended on the practicability of instituting a tribunal for impeachments as certain and as adequate in the one case as in the other. On the other hand, respect for the mover entitled his proposition to a fair hearing and discussion, until a less objectionable expedient should be applied for guarding against a dangerous union of the legislative and executive departments.
Col. Mason. This motion was made some time ago, and negatived by a very large majority. He trusted that it would be again negatived. It would be impossible to