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would be difficult to say what course we ought to take. No member of the Convention could say what the opinions of his constituents were at this time; much less could he say what they would think, if possessed of the information and light possessed by the members here ; and still less, what would be their way of thinking six or twelve months hence. We ought to consider what was right, and what was necessary in itself for the attainment of a proper government. A plan adjusted to this idea will recommend itself. The respectability of this Convention will give weight to their recommendation of it. Experience will be constantly urging the adoption of it; and all the most enlightened and respectable citizens will be its advocates. Should we fall short of the necessary and proper point, this influential class of citizens will be turned against the plan, and little support, in opposition to them, can be gained to it from the unreflecting multitude.
Mr. Gerry repeated his opinion, that it was necessary to consider what the people would approve. This had been the policy of all legislators. If the reasoning (of Mr. Madison) was just, and we supposed a limited monarchy the best form in itself, we ought to recommend it, though the genius of the people was decidedly adverse to it, and, hav. ing no hereditary distinctions among us, we were destitute of the essential materials for such an innovation.
On the question for the triennial election of the first branch,
New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia—aye, 7; Massachusetts, (Mr. King, aye: Mr. Gorham, wavering) Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina-no, 4. 5 Elliott's Debates, 183.
The term thus agreed upon was however subsequently reduced to two years, at which time the discussion was resumed, and continued as follows:
Mr. Randolph moved to strike out “ three years,” and insert stwo years.” He was sensible that annual elections were a source of great mischief in the States, yet it was the want of such checks against the popular intemperance as were now proposed that rendered them so mischievous. He would have preferred annual to biennial, but for the extent of the United States, and the inconvenience which would result from them to the representatives of the extreme parts of the empire. The people were attached to the frequency of elections. All the Constitutions of the States, except South Carolina, had established annual elections.
Mr. Dickinson. The idea of annual elections was borrowed from the ancient usage of England, a country much less extensive than ours. He supposed biennial would be inconvenient. He preferred triennial, and in order to prevent the inconvenience of an entire change of the whole number at the same moment, suggested a rotation by an annual election of one-third.
Mr. Ellsworth was opposed to three years, supposing that even one year was prefer. able to two years. The people were fond of frequent elections, and might be safely indulged in one branch of the Legislature. He moved for “ one year.”
Mr. Strong seconded and supported the motion.
Mr. Wilson, being for making the first branch an effectual representation of the people at large, preferred an annual election of it. This frequency was most familiar and pleasing to the people. It would not be more inconvenient to them than triennial elections, as the people in all the States have annual meetings, with which the electior of the national representatives might be made to coincide. He did not conceive that it States were the planets, and ought to be left to move freely in their proper orbits.
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Wilson) wished, he said, to extinguish these ets. If the State governments were excluded from all agency in the national one, all power drawn from the people at large, the consequence would be, that the national rnment would move in the same direction as the State governments now do, and d run into all the same mischiefs. The reform would only unite the thirteen small ms into one great current, pursuing the same course without any opposition what,
He adhered to the opinion that the Senate ought to be composed of a large ber, and that their influence, from family weight and other causes, would be increased by. He did not admit that the tributes lost their weight in proportion as their ber was augmented, and gave an historical sketch of this institution. If the reasonof Mr. Madison) was good, it would prove that the number of the Senate ought to duced below ten, the highest number of the tribunitial corps. r, Wilson. The subject, it must be owned, is surrounded with doubts and difficul
But we must surmount them. The British government cannot be our model. have no materials for a similar one. Our manners, our laws, the abolition of entails of primogeniture, the whole genius of the people, are opposed to it. He did not the danger of the States being devoured by the National Government. On the rary, he wished to keep them from devouring the National Government. He
not, however, for extinguishing these planets, as was supposed by Mr. Dickn; neither did he, on the other hand, believe that they would warm or enlighten sun. Within their proper orbits they must still be suffered to act, for subordinate joses, for which their existence is made essential by the great extent of our country. could not comprehend in what manner the landed interest would be rendered less ominant in the Senate by an election through the medium of the Legislatures than he people themselves. If the Legislatures, as was now complained, sacrificed the mercial to the landed interest, what reason was there to expect such a choice from a as would defeat their own views? He was for an election by the people, in large ricts, which would be most likely to obtain men of intelligence and uprightness; lividing the districts only for the accommodation of voters. [r. Madison could as little comprehend in what manner family weight, as desired by Dickinson, would be more certainly conveyed into the Senate through elections by State Legislatures than in some other modes. The true question was, in what mode best choice would be made. If an election by the people, or through any other channel
the State Legislatures, promised as uncorrupt and impartial a preference of merit, there ld surely be no necessity for an appointment by those Legislatures. Nor was it apparent ta more useful check would be derived through that channel than from the people through le other. The great evils complained of were, that the State Legislatures ran into emes of paper money, &c., whenever solicited by the people, and sometimes without in the sanction of the people. Their influence, then, instead of checking a like prosity in the National Legislature, may be expected to promote it. Nothing can be re contradictory than to say that the National Legislature, without a proper check, | follow the example of the State Legislatures, and, in the same breath, that the State çislatures are the only proper check. Mr. Sherman opposed elections by the people, in districts, as not likely to produce h fit men as elections by the State Legislatures. Mr. Gerry insisted, that the commercial and moneyed interest would be more secure the hands of the State Legislatures, than of the people at large. The former have re sense of character, and will be restrained by that from injustice. The people CHAPTER XXXII.
QUALIFICATION OF ELECTORS.
The qualification of electors was another subject of serious embarrassment to the framers of the Federal Constitution. In noticing this subject, Mr. Warner expresses himself as follows:
It is a naked act, which nothing but a Constitution of government can put in any man's power, and of which the power cannot even come from thence but upon a trust that does not permit it to rest in the receiver as his own. He is, therefore, a trusted agent in the whole matter. He fills an office which his country honors him with, not for his benefit in particular, but for hers in general. So that claims to the franchise are quite out of the question. And the pretence, so often and so childishly uttered in the progress of our history, that such and such a man was entitled to be a voter, or that he ought in justice to be one, though not legally qualified, is strangely futile.
Well, then, the fathers had a right to do as in their judgment the well-being of the country required. And aeting on this principle, they gave the franchise of the polls, not to everybody, nor to the half, or even a fourth part, of the popular multitude, but only to persons answering a particular description, which it was hoped might include the best informed and most virtuous and independent portion of society, while it would shut out persons of a less enlightened or less reliable character.
So thought and acted our revolutionary statesmen, whose republicanism no one can dispute. They were the champions of liberty, but knew that
. a democracy would not necessarily be a free government, and that political liberty can only be preserved by that government in which it is not abusėd. We accordingly find that when Mr. Randolph submitted his proposition, that the people should elect the members of the first branch of the National Legislature, a variety of opinions manifested themselves among the members who framed the Federal Constitution, as the following account of the debate will show:
Mr. Sherman opposed the election by the people, insisting that it ought to be by the State Legislatures. The people, he said, immediately, should have as little to do as may be about the government. They want information, and are constantly liable to be misled.
Mr. Gerry. The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, bu are the dupes of pretended patriots. In Massachusetts, it had been fully confirmed by experience, that they are daily misled into the most baneful measures and opinions, by the false reports circulated by designing men, and which no one on the spot can refute. One principal evil arises from the want of due provision for those employed in the administration of government. It would seem to be a maxim of democracy to starve the public servants. He mentioned the popular clamor in Massachusetts 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 indif. ference 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 Legislature 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 require merely s citizenship and inhabitancy." The right of determining the rule of naturalization will then leave a discretion to the Legislature on this subject, which will answer every purpose.
Mr. Madison seconded the motion. He wished to maintain the character of liberality which had been professed in all the constitutions and publications of America. He wished to invite foreigners of merit and republican principles among us. America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture, and the arts. There was a possible danger, he admitted, that men with foreign predilections might obtain appointments ; but it was by no means probable that it would happen in any dangerous degree. For the same reason that they would be attached to their native country, our own people would prefer natives of this country to them. Experience proved this to be the case. Instances were rare of a foreigner being elected by the people within any short space after his coming among us. If bribery was to be practiced by foreign powers, it would not be attempted among the electors, but among the elected, and among natives having full confidence of the people ; not among strangers, who would be regarded with a jealous eye.
Mr. Wilson cited Pennsylvania as a proof of the adventure of encouraging immigrants. It was perhaps the youngest settlement (except Georgia) on the Atlantic; yet it was at least among the foremost in population and prosperity. He remarked, that almost all the general officers of the Pennsylvania line of the late army were foreigners, and no complaint had ever been made against their fidelity or merit. Three of her deputies to the Convention, (Mr. R. Morris, Mr. Fitzsimmons, and himself,) were also not natives. He had no objection to Col. Hamilton's motion, and would withdraw the one made by himself.
Mr. Butler was strenuous against admitting foreigners into our public councils.
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia--aye, 4; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia—no, 7.
On the question on Mr. Williamson's motion, to insert “nine years" instead of "seven,”
New Hampshire, South Carolina, Georgia--aye, 3; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina-no, 8.
Mr. Wilson renewed the motion for four years instead of seven ; and on the question,
Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia—aye, 3; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia—no, 8.
Mr. Gouverneur Morris moved to add to the end of the section (article 4, section 2,) a proviso, that the limitation of seven years should not affect the rights of any person now a citizen.
Mr. Mercer seconded the motion. It was necessary, he said, to prevent a disfranchisement of persons who bad become citizens, under the faith and according to the laws and Constitution, from their actual level in all respects with natives.
Mr. Rutledge. It might as well be said that all qualifications are disfranchisements, and that to require the age of twenty-five years was a disfranchisement. The policy of the precaution was as great with regard to foreigners, now citizens, as to those who are to be naturalized in future.
the end Mr. Sherman. The United States have not invited foreigners, nor pledged their faith that they should enjoy equal privileges with native citizens.