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ally of some other states, during the late war;) it might also be useful for this reason — lest a few powerful states should combine, and make regulations concerning elections which might deprive many of the electors of a fair exercise of their rights, and thus injure the community, and occasion great dissatisfaction. And it seems natural and proper that every government should have in itself the means of its own preservation. A few of the great states might combine to prevent any election of representatives at all, and thus a majority might be wanting to do business; but it would not be so easy to destroy the government by the non-election of senators, because one third only are to go out at a time, and all the states will be equally represented in the Senate. It is not probable this power would be abused; for, is it should be, the state legislatures would immediately resent it, and their authority over the people will always be extremely great. These reasons induce me to think that the power is both necessary and useful. But I am sensible great jealousy has been entertained concerning it; and as perhaps the danger of a combination, in the manner I have mentioned, to destroy or distress the general government, is not very probable, it may be better to incur the risk, than occasion any discontent by suffering the clause to continue as it now stands. I should, therefore, not object to the recommendation of an amendment similar to that of other states that this power in Congress should only be exercised when a state legislature neglected or was disabled from making the regulations required.
Mr. SPENCER. Mr. Chairman, I did not mean to insinuate that designs were made, by the honorable gentlemen who composed the Federal Constitution, against our liberties. I only meant to say that the words in this place were exceeding vague. It may adınit of the gentleman's construction; but it may admit of a contrary construction. In a matter of so great moment, words ought not to be so vague and indeterminate. I have said that the states are the basis on which the government of the United States ought to rest, and which must render us secure. wishes more for a federal government than I do. I think it necessary for our happiness ; but at the same time, when we form a government which must entail happiness or misery on posterity, nothing is of more consequence than
settling it so as to exclude animosity and a contest between the general and individual governments. With respect to the mode here mentioned, they are words of very great ex tent. This clause provides that a Congress may at any time alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators. These words are so vague and uncertain, that it must ultimately destroy the whole liberty of the United States. It strikes at the very existence of the states, and supersedes the necessity of having them at all. I would therefore wish to have it amended in such a manner as that the Congress should not interfere but when the states refused or neglected to regulate elections.
Mr. BLOODWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I trust that such learned arguments as are offered to reconcile our minds to such dangerous powers will not have the intended weight. The House of Representatives is the only democratical branch. This clause may destroy representation entirely. What does it say? “ The times, places, and manner, of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators.” Now, sir, does not this clause give an unlimited and unbounded power to Congress over the times, places, and manner, of choosing representatives? They may make the time of election so long, the place so inconvenient, and the manner so oppressive, that it will entirely destroy representation. I hope gentlemen will exercise their own understanding on this occasion, and not let their judgment be led away by these shining characters, for whom, however, I have the highest respect. This Constitution, if adopted in its present mode, must end in the subversion of our liberties. Suppose it takes place in North Carolina ; can farmers elect them ? No, sir. The elections may be in such a manner that men may be appointed who are not representatives of the people. This may exist, and it ought to be guarded against. As to the place, suppose Congress should order the elections to be held in the most inconvenient place in the most inconvenient district; could every person entitled to vote attend at such a place ? Suppose they should order it to be laid off into so many districts, and order the election to be held within each district, yet may
not their power over the manner of election enable them to exclude from voting every description of men they please? The democratic branch is so much endangered, that no arguments can be made use of to satisfy my mind to it. The honorable gentleman has amused us with learned discussions, and told us he will condescend to propose amendments. I hope the representatives of North Carolina will never swallow the Constitution till it is amended.
Mr. GOUDY. Mr. Chairman, the invasion of these states is urged as a reason for this clause. But why did they not mention that it should be only in cases of invasion ? But that was not the reason,
humble opinion. I fear it was a combination against our liberties. I ask, when we give them the purse in one hand, and the sword in another, what power have we left? It will lead to an aristocratical government, and establish tyranny over us. We are freemen, and we ought to have the privileges of such.
Gov. JOHNSTON. Mr. Chairman, I do not impute any impure intentions to the gentlemen who formed this Constitution. I think it unwarrantable in any one to do it. I believe that were there twenty conventions appointed, and as many constitutions formed, we never could get men more able and disinterested than those who formed this; nor a constitution less exceptionable than that which is now before you. I am not apprehensive that this article will be attended with all the fatal consequences which the gentleman conceives. I conceive that Congress can have no other power than the states had. The states, with regard to elections, must be governed by the articles of the Constitution ; so must Congress. But I believe the power, as it now stands, is unnecessary. I should be perfectly satisfied with it in the mode recommended by the worthy member on my right hand.
Although I should be extremely cautious to adopt any constitution that would endanger the rights and privileges of the people, I have no fear in adopting this Constitution, and then proposing amendments. I feel as much attachment to the rights and privileges of my country as any man in it; and if I thought any thing in this Constitution tended to abridge these rights, I would not agree to it. I cannot conceive that this is the case. 1 have not the least doubt but it will be adopted by a very great
majority of the states. For states who have been as jealous of their liberties as any in the world have adopted it, and they are some of the most powerful states. We shall have the assent of all the states in getting amendments. Some gentlemen have apprehensions that Congress will immediately conspire to destroy the liberties of their country. The men of whom Congress will consist are to be chosen from among ourselves. They will be in the same situation with us. They are to be bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. They cannot injure us without injuring themselves. I have no doubt but we shall choose the best men in the community. Should different men be appointed, they are sufficiently responsible. I therefore think that no danger is to be apprehended.
Mr. M’DOWALL. Mr. Chairman, I have the highest esteem for the gentleman who spoke last. He has amused us with the fine characters of those who formed that
government. Some were good, but some were very imperious, aristocratical, despotic, and monarchical. If parts of it are extremely good, other parts are very bad.
The freedom of election is one of the greatest securities we have for our liberty and privileges. It was supposed by the member from Edenton, that the control over elections was only given to Congress to be used in case of invasion. I differ from him. That could not have been their intention, otherwise they could have expressed it. But, sir, it points forward to the time when there will be no state legislatures — to the consolidation of all the states. The states will be kept up as boards of elections. I think the same men could make a better constitution ; for good government is not the work of a short time. They only had their own wisdom. Were they to go now, they would have the wisdom of the United States. Every gentleman who must reflect on this must see it. The adoption of several other states is urged. I hope every gentleman stands for himself, will act according to his own judgment, and will pay no respect to the adoption by the other states. It may embarrass us in some political difficulties, but let us attend to the interest of our constituents.
Mr. IREDELL answered, that he stated the case of invasion as only one reason out of many for giving the ultimate control over elections to Congress. VOL. IV.
Mr. DAVIE. Mr. Chairman, a consolidation of the states is said by some gentlemen to have been intended. They insinuate that this was the cause of their giving this power of elections. If there were any seeds in this constitution which might, one day, produce a consolidation, it would, sir, with me, be an insuperable objection, I am so perfectly convinced that so extensive a country as this can never be managed by one consolidated government. The Federal Convention were as well convinced as the members of this house, that the state governments were absolutely necessary to the existence of the federal government. They considered them as the great massy pillars on which this political fabric was to be extended and supported; and were fully persuaded that, when they were removed, or should moulder down by time, the general government must tumble into ruin. A very little reflection will show that no department of it can exist without the state governments.
Let us begin with the House of Representatives. Who are to vote for the federal representatives? Those who vote for the state representatives. If the state government vanishes, the general government must vanish also. This is the foundation on which this government was raised, and without which it cannot possibly exist.
The next department is the Senate. How is it formed ? By the states themselves. Do they not choose them ? Are they not created by them ? And will they not have the interest of the states particularly at heart? The states, sir, can put a final period to the government, as was observed by a gentleman who thought this power over elections unnecessary. If the state legislatures think proper, they may refuse to choose senators, and the government must be destroyed.
Is not this government a nerveless mass, a dead carcase, without the executive power ? Let your representatives be the most vicious demons that ever existed; let them plot against the liberties of America ; let them conspire against its happiness, — all their machinations will not avail if not put in execution. By whom are their laws and projects to be executed ? By the President. How is he created ? By electors appointed by the people under the direction of the legislatures — by a union of the interest of the people and the state governments. The state governments can put a veto, at any time, on the general government, by ceasing to continue the executive power. Admitting
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