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chance of getting it amended afterwards. When it is confessed to be replete with defects, is it not offering to insult your understandings, to attempt to reason you out of the propriety of rejecting it, till it be amended ? Does it not insult your judgments to tell you—adopt first, and then amend? Is your rage for novelty so great, that you are first to sign and seal, and then to retract? Is it possible to conceive a greater solecism? I am at a loss what to say. You agree to bind yourselves hand and foot--for the sake of what? Of being unbound. You go into a dungeon-for what? To get out. Is there no danger when you go in, that the bolts of federal authority shall shut you in? Human nature never will part from power. Look for an example of a voluntary relinquishment of power, from one end of the globe to another-you will find none. ( Nine tenths of our fellow-men have been, and are now, depressed by the most intolerable slavery, in the different parts of the world; because the strong hand of power has bolted them in the dungeon of despotism. Review the present situation of the nations of Europe, which is pretended to be the freest quarter of the globe. Cast your eyes on the countries called free there. Look at the country from which we are descended, I beseech you; (and although we are separated by everlasting, insuperable partitions, yet there are some virtuous people there who are friends to human nature and liberty. Look at Britain; see there the bolts and bars of power; see bribery and corruption defiling the fairest fabric that ever human nature reared. Can a gentleman, who is an Englishman, or who is acquainted with the English history, desire to prove these evils ? See the efforts of a man descended from a friend of America ; see the efforts of that man, assisted even by the king, to make reforms. But you find the faults too strong to be amended. Nothing but bloody war can alter them. See Ireland : that country groaned from century to century, without getting their government amended. Previous adoption was the fashion there. They sent for amendments from time to time, but
never obtained them, though pressed by the severest oppression, till eighty thousand volunteers demanded them sword in hand-till the power of Britain was prostrate;, when the American resistance was crowned with success. Shall we do so? If you judge by the experience of Ireland, you must obtain the amendments as early as possible. But, I ask you again, where is the example that a government was amended by those who instituted it ? Where is the instance of the errors of a government rectified by those who adopted them?
I shall make a few observations to prove, that the power over elections, which is given to Congress, is contrived by the federal government; that the people may be deprived of their proper influence in the government, by destroying the force and effect of their suffrages. Congress is to have a discretionary control over the time, place and manner of elections. The representatives are to be elected consequently when and where they please. As to the time and place gentlemen have attempted to obviate the objection by saying, that the time is to happen once in two years, and that the place is to be within a particular district, or in the respecttive counties. But how will they obviate the danger of referring the manner of election to Congress? Those illumined yenii may see that this may not endanger the rights of the people; but to my unenlightened understanding, it appears plain and clear, that it will impair the popular weight in the gove ernment. Look at the Roman history. They had two ways of voting: the one by tribes, and the other by centuries. By the former, numbers prevailed: in the latter, riches preponderated. According to the mode prescribed, Congress may tell
you, have a right to make the vote of one gentleman go as far as the votes of one hundred poor men. The power over the manner admits of the most dangerous latitude. They may modify it as they please. They may regulate the number of votes by the quantity of
property, without involving any repugnancy to the constitution. I should not have thought of this trick or contrivance, had I not seen how the public liberty of Rome was trifled with by the mode of voting by centuries, whereby one rich man had as many votes as a multitude of poor men. The plebeians were trampled on till they resisted. The patricians trampled on the liberties of the plebeians, till the latter had spirit_to assert their right to freedom and equality. The result of the American mode of election may be similar. Perhaps I shall be told, that I have gone through the regions of fancy; that I deal in noisy exclamations, and mighty professions of patriotism. Gentlemen may retain their
but I look on that paper as the most fatal plan, that could possibly be conceived to enslave a free people. If such be your rage for novelty, take it and welcome, but you never shall have my consent. (My sentiments may appear extravagant, but I can tell you, that a number of my
fellow-citizens have kindred sentiments; and I am anxious, if my country should come into the hands of tyranny, to exculpate myself from being in any degree the cause; and to exert my faculties to the utmost to extricate her. Whether I am gratified or not in my beloved form of government, I consider that the more she is plunged into distress, the more it is my duty to relieve her.' Whatever may be the result, I shall wait with patience till the day may come, when an opportunity shall offer to exert myself in her cause.
But I should be led to take that man for a lunatic, who should tell me to run into the adoption of a government avowedly defective, in hopes of having it amended afterwards. Were I about to give away the meanest particle of my own property, I should act with more prudence and discretion. My anxiety and fears are great, lest America, by the adoption of this system, should be cast into a fathomless abyss.
SPEECH OF JOHN MARSHALL,
ON THE EXPEDIENCY
OF ADOPTING THE
DELIVERED IN THE CONVENTION OF VIRGINIA, JUNE 20th, 1788
The first and second sections of the third article of the constitution
being under consideration, Mr. Marshall addressed the convention as follows:
MR. CHAIRMAN, This part of the plan before us, is a great improvement on that system from which we are now departing. Here are tribunals appointed for the decision of controversies, which were before, either not at all, or improperly provided for. That many benefits will result from this to the members of the collective society, every one confesses. Unless its organization be defective, and so constructed as to injure, instead of accommodating the convenience of the people, it merits our approbation. After such a candid and fair discussion by those gentlemen who support it, after the very able manner in which they have investigated and examined it, I conceived it would be no longer considered as so very defective, and that those, who opposed it, would be convinced of the impropriety of some of their objections. But I perceive they still continue the same opposition. Gentlemen have gone on an idea, that the federal courts will not determine the causes, which may come before them, with the same fairness and impartiality, with which other courts decide.
What are the reasons of this supposition? Do they draw them from the manner in which the judges are chosen, or the tenure of their office? What is it that makes us trust our judges ?—Their independence in office and manner of appointment. Are not the judges of the federal court chosen with as much wisdom, as the judges of the state governments ? Are they not equally, if not more independent? If so, shall we not conclude that they will decide with equal impartiality and candor? If there be as much wisdom and knowledge in the United States, as in a particular state, shall we conclude that that wisdom and knowledge will not be equally exercised in the selection of the judges ?
The principle on which they object to the federal jurisdiction, seems to me to be founded on a belief, that a fair trial will not be had in those courts. If this committee will consider it fully, they will find it has no foundation, and that we are as secure there as. any where else. What mischief results from some causes being tried there? Is there not the utmost reason to conclude, that judges wisely appointed, and independent in their office, will never countenance any unfair trial? What are the subjects of its jurisdiction? Let us examine them with an expectation that causes will be as candidly tried there, as elsewhere, and then determine. The objection, which was made by the honorable member who was first up yesterday, (Mr. Mason,) has been so fully refuted, that it is not worth while to notice it. He objected to Congress having power to create a number of inferior courts according to the necessity of public circumstances. I had an apprehension that those gentlemen, who placed no confidence in Congress, would object that there might be no inferior courts. I own that I thought, that those gentlemen would think there would be no inferior courts, as it depended on the will of Congress, but that we should be dragged to the centre of the union. But. I did not conceive, that the power of increasing the