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nable to them? Is there any thing in this Constitution which gives them the power to perpetuate the sitting members ? Is there any such strange absurdity? If the legislature of this state has the power to fix the time, place, and manner, of holding elections, why not place the same confidence in the general government? The members of the general government, and those of the state legislature, are both chosen by the people. They are both from among the people, and are in the same situation. Those who served in the state legislature are eligible, and may be sent to Congress. If the elections be regulated in the best manner in the state government, can it be supposed that the same man will lose all his virtue, his character and principles, when he goes into the general government, in order to deprive us of our liberty ?
The gentleman from New Hanover seerns to think it possible Congress will so far forget themselves as to point out such improper seasons of the year, and such inconvenient places for elections, as to defeat the privilege of the democratic branch altogether. He speaks of inconsistency in the arguments of the gentlemen. I wish he would be consistent himself. If I do not mistake the politics of that gentleman, it is his opinion that Congress had sufficient power under the Confederation. He has said, without contradiction, that we should be better without the Union than with it; that it would be better for us to be by ourselves than in the Union. His antipathy to a general government, and to the Union, is evidently inconsistent with his predilection for a federal democratic branch. We should have no democratic part of the government at all, under such a government as he would recommend. There is no such part in the old Confederation. The body of the people had no agency in that system, The members of the present general government are selected by the state legislatures, and have the power of the purse, and other powers, and are not amenable to the people at large. Although the gentleman may deny my assertions, yet this argument of his is inconsistent with his other assertions and doctrines. It is impossible for any man in his senses to think that we can exist by ourselves, separated from our sister states. Whatever gentlemen may pretend to say on this point, it must be a matter of serious alarm to every reflecting mind, to be disunited from the other states.
Mr. BLOODWORTH begged leave to wipe off the asser
tion of the gentleman; that he could not account for any expression which he might drop among a laughing, jocose people, but that it was well known he was for giving power to Congress to regulate the trade of the United
States; that he had said that Congress had exercised power not given them by the Confederation, and that he was accurate in the assertion; that he was a freeman, and was under the control of no man.
Mr. MACLAINE replied, that he meant no aspersions ; that he only meant to point out a fact; that he had committed mistakes himself in argument, and that he supposed the gentleman not more infallible than other people.
Mr. J. TAYLOR wished to know why the states had control over the place of electing senators, but not over that of choosing the representatives.
Mr. SPAIGHT answered, that the reason of that reservation was to prevent Congress from altering the places for holding the legislative assemblies in the different states.
Mr. JAMES GALLOWAY. Mr. Chairman, in the beginning I found great candor in the advocates of this government, but it is not so towards the last. I hope the gentleman from Halifax will not take it amiss, if I mention how he brought the motion forward. They began with dangers. As to Rhode Island being governed by a faction, what has that to do with the question before us? I ask, What have the state governments left for them, if the general government is to be possessed of such extensive powers, without control or limitation, without any responsibility to the states? He asks, How is it possible for the members to perpetuate themselves? I think I can show how they can do it. For instance, were they to take the government as it now stands organized. We send five members to the House of Representatives in the general government. They will go, no doubt, from or near the seaports. In other states, also, those near the sea will have more interest, and will go forward to Congress; and they can, without violating the Constitution, make a law continuing themselves, as they have control over the place, time, and manner, of elections. This may happen; and where the great principles of liberty are endangered, no general, indeterminate, vague expression ought to be suffered. Shall we pass over this article as it is now? They will be able to perpetuate themselves as well as if it had expressly said so.
Mr. STEELE. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman has said that the five representatives which this state shall be entitled to send to the general government, will go from the seashore. What reason has he to say they will go from the sea-shore? The time, place, and manner, of holding elections are to be prescribed by the legislatures. Our legislature is to regulate the first election, at any event. They will regulate it as they think proper. They may, and most probably will, lay the state off into districts. Who are to vote for them? Every man who has a right to vote for a representative to our legislature will ever have a right to vote for a representative to the general government. Does it not expressly provide that the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for the most numerous branch of the state legislature? Can they, without a most manifest violation of the Constitution, alter the qualifications of the electors? The power over the manner of elections does not include that of saying who shall vote :- the Constitution expressly says that the qualifications which entitle a man to vote for a state representative. It is, then, clearly and indubitably fixed and determined who shall be the electors; and the power over the manner only enables them to determine how these electors shall elect - whether by ballot, or by vote, or by any other way. Is it not a maxim of universal jurisprudence, of reason and common sense, that an instrument or deed of writing shall be so construed as to give validity to all parts of it, if it can be done without involving any absurdity? By construing it in the plain, obvious way I have mentioned, all parts will be valid. By the way, gentlemen suggest the most palpable contradiction, and absurdity will follow. To say that they shall go from the seashore, and be able to perpetuate themselves, is a most extravagant idea. Will the members of Congress deviate from their duty without any prospect of advantage to themselves ? What interest can they have to make the place of elections inconvenient? The judicial power of that government is so well constructed as to be a check. There was no check in the old Confederation. Their power was, in principle and theory, transcendent. If the Congress make laws inconsistent with the Constitution, independent judges will not uphold them, nor will the people obey them. A universal resistance will ensue. In some countries, the
arbitrary disposition of rulers may enable them to overturn the liberties of the people ; but in a country like this, where every man is his own master, and where almost every man is a freeholder, and has the right of election, the violations of a constitution will not be passively permitted. Can it be supposed that in such a country the rights of suffrage will be tamely surrendered ? Is it to be supposed that 30,000 free persons will send the most abandoned wretch in the district to legislate for them in the general legislature? I should rather think they would choose men of the most respectable characters.
SATURDAY, July 26, 1788. Mr. KENNION in the chair. The 5th section of the 1st article read.
Mr. STEELE observed, that he had heard objections to the 3d clause of this section, with respect to the periodical publication of the Journals, the entering the yeas and nayş on them, and the suppression of such parts as required secrecy — that he had no objection himself, for that he thought the necessity of publishing their transactions was an excellent check, and that every principle of prudence and good policy pointed out the necessity of not publishing such transactions as related to military arrangements and war — that this provision was exactly similar to that which was in the old Confederation.
Mr. GRAHAM wished to hear an explanation of the words " from time to time," whether it was a short or a long time, or how often they should be obliged to publish their proceedings.
Mr. DAVIE answered, that they would be probably published after the rising of Congress, every year — that if they sat two or three times, or oftener, in the year, they might be published every time they rose – that there could be no doubt of their publishing them as often as it would be convenient and proper, and that they would conceal nothing but what it would be unsafe to publish. He further observed, that some states had proposed an amendment, that they should be published annually; but he thought it very safe and proper
as it stood that it was the sense of the Convention that they should be published at the end of every session. The gentleman from Salisbury had said, that in this particu
lar it resembled the old Confederation. Other gentlemen have said there is no similarity at all. He therefore wished the difference to be stated.
Mr. IREDELL remarked, that the provision in the clause under consideration was similar in meaning and substance to that in the Confederation — that in time of war it was absolutely necessary to conceal the operations of government; otherwise no attack on an enemy could be premeditated with success, for the enemy could discover our plans soon enough to defeat them — that it was no less imprudent to divulge our negotiations with foreign powers, and the most salutary schemes might be prevented by imprudently promulgating all the transactions of the government indiscriminately.
Mr. J. GALLOWAY wished to obviate what gentlemen had said with regard to the similarity of the old Confederation to the new system, with respect to the publication of their proceedings. He remarked, that, at the desire of one member from any state, the yeas and nays were to be put on the Journals, and published by the Confederation ; whereas, by this system, the concurrence of one fisth was necessary.
To this it was answered, that the alteration was made because experience had showed, when any two members could require the yeas and nays, they were taken on many trifling occasions; and there was no doubt one fifth would require them on every occasion of importance.
The 6th section read without any observations.
1st clause of the 7th section likewise read without any observations.
2d clause read.
Mr. IREDELL. Mr. Chairman, this is a novelty in the Constitution, and is a regulation of considerable importance. Permit me to state the reasons for which I imagine this regulation was made. They are such as, in my opinion, fully justify it.
One great alteration proposed by the Constitution - and which is a capital improvement on the Articles of Confederation — is, that the executive, legislative, and judicial powers should be separate and distinct. The best writers, and all the most enlightened part of mankind, agree that it is essential to the preservation of liberty, that such dis