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chusetts for the reduction of salaries, and the attack made on that of the Governor, though secured by the spirit of the Constitution itself. He had, he said, been too republican herelofore: he was still, however, republican, but had been taught by experience the danger of the levelling spirit.
Mr. Mason argued strongly for an election of the larger branch by the people. It was to be the grand depository of the democratic principle of the government. It was, so to speak, to be our House of Commons. It ought to know and sympathize with every part of the community, and ought therefore to be taken, not only from different parts of the whole republic, but also from different districts of the larger members of it; which had in several instances, particularly in Virginia, different interests and views arising from difference of produce, of habits, &c., &c. He admitted that we had been too democratic, but was afraid we should incautiously run into the opposite extreme. We ought to attend to the rights of every class of the people. He had often wondered at the indifference of the superior classes of society to this dictate of humanity and policy; considering that, however affluent their circumstances, or elevated their situations might be, the course of a few years not only might, but certainly would, distribute their posterity throughout the lowest classes of society. Every selfish motive, therefore, every family attachment, ought to recommend such a system of policy as would provide no less carefully for the rights and happiness of the lowest, than of the highest, order of citizens.
Mr. Wilson contended strenuously for drawing the most numerous branch of the Legislature immediately from the people. He was for raising the federal pyramid to a considerable altitude, and for that reason wished to give it as broad a basis as possible. No government could long subsist without the confidence of the people. In a republican government, this confidence was peculiarly essential. He also thought it wrong to increase the weight of the State Legislatures by making them the electors of the National Legislature. All interference between the general and local governments should be obviated as much as possible. On examination, it would be found that the opposition of States to federal measures had produced much more from the officers of the States than from the people at large.
Mr. Madison considered the popular election of one branch of the National Legisla, ture as essential to every plan of free government. He observed, that, in some of the States, one branch of the Legislature was composed of men already removed from the people by an intervening body of electors; that, if the first branch of the General Legislature should be elected by the State Legislatures, the second branch elected by the first, the Executive by the second together with the first, and other appointments again made for subordinate purposes by the Executive, the people would be lost sight of altogether, and the necessary sympathy between them and their rulers and officers too little felt. He was an advocate for the policy of refining the popular appointments by successive filtrations, but thought it might be pushed too far. He wished the expedient to be resorted to only in the appointment of the second branch of the Legislature, and in the Executive and Judiciary branches of the government. He thought, too, that the great fabric to be raised would be more stable and durable, if it should rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves, than if it should stand merely on the pillars of the Legislatures.
Mr. Gerry did not like the election by the people. The maxims taken from the British Constitution were often fallacious when applied to our situation, which was extremely different. Experience, he said, had shown that the State Legislatures, drawn immediately from the people, did not always possess their confidence. He had no objection, however, to an election by the people, if it were so qualified that men of honor and character might not be unwilling to be joined in the appointments. He seemed to think the people might nominate a certain number, out of which the State Legislatures should be bound to choose.
Mr. Butler thought an election by the people an impracticable mode.
On the question for an election of the first branch of the National Legislature by the people,
— Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia-aye, 6; New Jersey, South Carolina--no, 2; Connecticut, Delaware, divided. 5 Elliott's Debates, 134.
When the subject again came under consideration, Gen. Pinckney moved " that the first branch, instead of being elected by the people, should be elected in such manner as the Legislatore should direct,” which was seconded by Luther Martin. Col. Hamilton “considered the motion as intended manifestly to transfer the election from the people to the State Legislatures, which would essentially vitiate the plan. It would increase that State influence which could not be too watchfully guarded against.” Mr. Mason was in favor of an election by the people. “ Whatever inconvenience may attend the democratic principle, it must actuate one part of the government.” Mr. Rutledge thought "an election by the Legislature would be more refined than an election imme. diately by the people.” Mr. Wilson “considered the election of the first branch by the people not only as the corner-stone, but as the foundation of the fabric.” Mr. King took the same view. Gen. Pinckney's motion was negatived, but four States, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and South Carolina, only voting for it. Ibid., 223. The Committee on detail, which was appointed to prepare and report the Constitution in form, reported the first section of article fourth as follows: “ The members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen, every second year, by the people of the several States comprehended within this Union. The qualification of the electors shall be the same, from time to time, as those of the electors, in the several States, of the most numerous branch of their own Legislature.” When this section came under consideration, the following proceedings took place :
Mr. Gouverneur Morris moved to strike out the last member of the section, beginning with the words, “ qualification of electors,” in order that some other provision might be snbstituted which would restrain the right of suffrage to freeholders.
Mr. Fitzsimmons seconded the motion.
Mr. Wilson. This part of the Report was well considered by the Committee, and be did not think it could be changed for the better. It was difficult to form any uniform rule of qualifications for all the States. Unnecessary innovations, he thought, too, should be avoided. It would be very hard and disagreeable for the same person, at the same time, to vote for representatives in the State Legislature, and to be excluded from a vote for those in the National Legislature.
Mr. Gouverneur Morris. Such a hardship would be neither great nor novel. The people are accustomed to it, and not dissatisfied with it, in several of the States. In
some, the qualifications are different for the choice of the Governor and of the representatives ; , in others, for different Houses of the Legislature. Another objection against the clause, as it stands, is, that it makes the qualifications of the National Legislature depend on the will of the States, which he thought not proper.
Mr. Ellsworth thought the qualifications of the electors stood on the most proper footing. The right of suffrage was a tender point, and strongly guarded by most of the State Constitutions. The people will not readily subscribe to the National Constitution, if it should subject them to be disfranchised. The States are the best judges of the circumstances and temper of their own people.
Çol. Mason. The force of habit is certainly not attended to by those gentlemen who wish for innovations on this point: Eight or nine States have extended the right of suffrage beyond the freeholders: What will the people there say, if they should be disfranchised? A power to alter the qualifications would be a dangerous power in the hands of the Legislature.
Mr. Butler. There is no right of which the people are more jealous than that of suffrage. Abridgments of it tend to the same revolution as in Holland, where they have , at length thrown all power into thu hands of the Senates, who fill up vacancies themselves, and form a rank aristocracy.
Mr. Dickinson had a very different idea of the tendency of vesting the right of suffrage in the freeholders of the country. He considered them as the best guardians of liberty; and the restriction of the right to them as a necessary defence against the dangerous influence of those multitudes, without property and without principle, with which our country, like all others, will in time abound. As to the unpopularity of the innovation, it was, in his opinion, chimerical. The great mass of our citizens is composed at this time of freeholders, and will be pleased with it.
Mr. Ellsworth. How shall the freehold be defined ? Ought not every man who pays a tax, to vote for the representative who is to levy and dispose of his money ? Shall the wealthy merchants and manufacturers, who will bear a full share of the public burdens, be not allowed a voice in the imposition of them? Taxation and representation ought to go together.
Mr. Gouverneur Morris. He had long learned not to be the dupe of words. The sound of aristocracy, therefore, had no effect upon him. It was the thing, not the name, to which he was opposed; and one of his principal objections to the Constitution, as it is now before us, is, that it threatens the country with an aristocracy. The aristocracy will grow out of the House of Representatives. Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich, who will be able to buy them. We should not confine our attention to the present moment. The time is not distant when this country will abound with mechanics and manufacturers, who will receive their bread from their employers. Will such men be the secure and faithful guardians of liberty ? Will they be the impregnable barrier against aristocracy? He was as little duped by the association of the words, “taxation and representation.” The man who does not give his vote freely, is not represented. It is the man who dictates the vote. Children do not vote. Why? Because they want prudence; because they have no will of their
The ignorant and the dependent can be as little trusted with the public interest. He did not conceive the difficulty of defining “ freeholders” to be insuperable; still less that the restriction could be unpopular. Nine-tenths of the people are at the present freeholders, and these will certainly be pleased with it. As to merchants, &c., if they have wealth, and value the right, they can acquire it. If not, they don't deserve it.
Col. Mason. We all feel too strongly the remains of ancient prejudices, and view
things too much through a British medium. A freehold is the qualification in England, and hence it is imagined to be the only proper one. The true idea, in his opinion, was, that every man having evidence of attachment to, and permanent common interest with, the society, ought to share in all its rights and privileges. Was this qualification restrained to freeholders? Does no other kind of property but land evidence a common interest in the proprietor? Does nothing besides property mark a permanent attachment? Ought the merchant, the moneyed man, the parent of a number of children whose fortunes are to be pursued in his own country, to be viewed as suspicious characters, and unworthy to be trusted with the common rights of their fellow-citizens ?
Mr. Madison. The right of suffrage is certainly one of the fundamental articles of republican government, and ought not to be left to be regulated by the Legislature. A gradual abridgment of this right has been the mode in wbich aristocracies have been built on the ruins of popular forms. Whether the constitutional qualification ought to be a freehold, would with him depend much on the probable reception such a change would meet with in the States where the right was now exercised by every description of people. In several of the States, a freehold was now the qualification. Viewing the subject on its merits alone, the freeholders of the country would be the safest depositories of republican liberty. In future times, a great majority of the people will not only be without landed, but any other sort of property. These will either combine, under the influence of their common situation,-in which case the rights of property and the public liberty will not be secure in their hands,—or, what is more probable, they will become the tools of opulence and ambition; in which case, there will be equal danger on another side. The example of England has been misconceived, (by Col. Mason.) A very small proportion of the representatives are there chosen by freeholders. The greatest part are chosen by the cities and boroughs, in many of which the qualification of suffrage is as low as it is in any one of the United States ; and it was in the boroughs and cities, rather than the counties, that bribery most prevailed and the influence of the crown on elections was most dangerously exerted.
Dr. Franklin. It is of great consequence that we should not depress the virtue and public spirit of our own common people, of which they displayed a great deal during the war, and which contributed principally to the favorable issue of it. He related the honorable refusal of the American seamen, who were carried in great numbers into the British prisons during the war, to redeem themselves from 'misery, or to seek their fortunes, by entering on board the ships of the enemies to their country: contrasting their patriotism with a contemporary instance, in which the British seamen, made prisoners by the Americans, readily entered on the ships of the latter, on being promised a share of the prizes that might be made out of their own country. This proceeded, he said, from the different manner in which the common people were treated in America and Great Britain. He did not think that the elected had any right, in any case, to narrow the privileges of electors. He quoted, as arbitrary, the British statute setting forth the danger of tumultuous meetings, and, under that pretext, narrowing the right of suffrage to persons having freeholds of a certain value; observing, that this statute was soon followed by another, under the succeeding parliament, subjecting the people who had no votes to peculiar labor and hardships. He was persuaded, also, that such a restriction as was proposed would give great uneasiness in the populous States. The sons of a substantial farmer not being themselves freeholders, would not be pleased at being disfranchised, and there are a great many persons of that description.
Mr. Mercer. The Constitution is objectionable in many points, but in none more than the present. He objected to the footing on which the qualification was put, but
particularly to the mode of election by the people. The people cannot know and judge of the character of candidates. The worst possible choice will be made. He quoted the case of the Senate in Virginia, as an example in point. The people in towns can unite their votes in favor of one favorite, and by that means always prevail over the people of the country, who, being dispersed, will scatter their votes among a variety of candidates.
Mr. Rutledge thought the idea of restraining the right of suffrage to the freeholders a very unadvised one. It would create division among the people, and make enemies of all those who should be excluded.
On the question for striking out, as moved by Mr. Gouverneur Morris, from the word “ qualification” to the end of the third article,
Delaware-aye, 1; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina—no, 7; Maryland, divided ; Georgia, not present. 5 Elliott's, p. 385.
Mr. Mercer expressed his dislike of the whole plan, and his opinion that it never could succeed.
Mr. Gorham. He had never seen any inconvenience from allowing such as were not freeholders to vote, though it had long been tried. The elections in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, where the merchants and mechanics vote, are at least as good as those made by freeholders only. The case in England was not accurately stated yesterday, (by Mr. Madison.) The cities and large towns are not the seat of crown influence and corruption. These prevail in the boroughs, and not on account of the right which those who were not freeholders had to vote, but of the smallness of the number who · vote. The people have been long accustomed to this right in various parts of America, and will never allow it to be abridged. We must consult their rooted prejudices, if we expect their concurrence in our propositions.
Mr. Mercer did not object so much to an election by the people at large, including such as were not freeholders, as to their being left to make their choice without any guidance. He hinted that candidates ought to be nominated by the State Legislatures.
On the question for agreeing to Article 4, sect. 1, it passed, nem. con. 5 Elliott's De bates, p. 388.
The Convention having thus agreed upon the qualifications requisite for electors, the inquiry next arises what were those qualifications, at that time, in the respective States ? An answer to which cannot be better given than in the following remarks of Mr. Warner, in the American Review:
There was some variety in the arrangements of the different States upon the subject. They were uniform in principle, however, with not more than one exception that I know of, in a point of consequence. The age of competency for voting was fixed at twentyone years. Not that younger persons might not often be possessed of the requisite knowledge and judgment for that purpose, but because the majority of minors would not be likely to possess them, and a general rule was necessary. The condition of a short local residence was imposed, say from six to twelve months—not that persons from beyond the county line would in all cases be deficient in intelligence and trustworthiness for the duty, but because it was thought best in general that they should know and be known in the neighborhood. And what is more remarkable, there was a further condition added, to the effect that every elector must have a stake in the county (and for the most part it must be within the county where he used his privilege) in the shape of property. Generally speaking, this stake must be a freehold, though the