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ledged, on the occasion, that to this Providence they owed their safety, that of Washington, and of the army. Thanks were solemnly offered up to God in the temples, and in the bosom of families; and it was from the bottom of their hearts that these religious men poured out the tribute of their gratitude.
Prosperous until now in all their enterprises, may Heaven preserve to them the spirit of justice and moderation by which they have been constantly guided! Fortune will not fail them.
THE FOURTEENTH CONGRESS.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
January 5, 1816.
UNIFORMITY OF ELECTION. MR. Pickens, of North-Carolina, rose to make a motion on a subject which he had for some time considered of great importance to the national interest. Although he had heretofore in vain pressed it on the consideration of the house, he thought the change of the circumstances of the nation, and the harmonious relations of political parties, at present, justified the hope that he should now meet with better success. The proposition he was about to submit had at different times been supported by the unanimous vote of both branches of the legislature of North-Carolina; and under the sanction of this respectable authority, he thought it his duty again to offer it to the consideration of the house, which he did in the following shape:
Resolved, by the senate and house of representative of the United States in congress assembled, two-thirds of both houses concurring therein, that the following amendment to the Constitution of the United States, be proposed to the legislatures of the several states, which, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the said states, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as a part of the said constitution:
“For the purpose of choosing representatives in the congress of the United States, each state shall be divided by its legisla
ture into a number of districts, equal to the number of representatives to which the state may be entitled each district shall contain as nearly as may be equal numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to serve for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. In each district, the qualified voters shall elect one representative.
“ For the purpose of choosing electors of president and vice president of the United States, each state shall be divided by its legislature into a number of districts, equal to the number of electors to which the state may be entitled; each district shall contain, as nearly as may be, equal numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to serve for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. In each district persons qualifed to vote for representatives in the congress of the United States, shall choose one elector. The legislature of each state shall have power to regulate the manner of holding elections, and making returns of the electors. In case all the electors should not meet at the time and place appointed for giving their votes, a majority of the electors met shall have power, and forthwith proceed to supply the vacancy.
“ A division of the states into districts for choosing representatives in the congress of the United States, and into districts for choosing electors of president and vice-president of the United States, shall take place as soon as conveniently may be after each enumeration and apportionment of representatives shall be made; which districts shall remain unaltered, until after the succeeding enumeration and apportionment of representatives."
The resolution was twice read and refersed to a committee of the whole,
December 17, 1816. The house having resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the state of the union, Mr. Smith, of Maryland, in the chair:
Mr. Pickens rose to support his proposition. In no other case can it be more important, he said, that the law should be fixed and uniform, than in the exercise of the right of suffrage. This is the only link between the people and their government. To preserve this connexion, this right should not only be ex, ercised in fact, but in such manner as to ensure it confidence and respect. For this purpose it would seem essential, that the mode of election should be fair in relation to different parts; that it should be free from sudden changes; that it should be as direct a communication of the public will as conveniently might be, and in a manner the most pure,
If our system of government is worthy of a fair trial, it must be an urgent duty on us to apply its fundamental powers so as to perform properly their several functions. The public will being the centre of motion, its influence must be properly imparted to the surrounding bodies, or the experiment will be unfair, and the system may become deranged; with this view the present amendment to the constitution has been offered.
Mr. Pickens said, the proposition now before the committee was so plain in itself, and had been so often brought into view in the different states, as well as before this body on several occasions, that he would only present a few leading ideas which induced him to hope for its adoption.
Steadiness and uniformity in the mode of election of either the representatives or the electors, is only attainable by a constitutional provision. While this is left to the varying views of congress, and the still more various and varying councils of the several states, such changes will be made by the prevailing parties, for the time being, as may answer their particular ends. Our own experience is ample to prove this: we have seen sometimes a general vote prescribed-districts of various sizes electing from one to three or four representatives or electors, and legislatures have taken upon themselves the appointment of electors. Thus have the people been kept in a state of fluctuation and uncertainty, about the most important right they possess, after enjoying it very equivocally and indirectly, if enjoyed at all. There have been exhibited between states and the parties in states, almost every four years, what might be called a political farce, but for the importance of the actors, and the weight of the results. The prevailing party in a state have generally been the advocates of state rights, and for giving a united suffrage, regardless of the sentiments of divisions forming a minority of the whole state. The minority in a state have contended for allowing to every section its proper and distinct weight, tending to divide the weight of suffrage. And this is the general character of the majority and minority, no matter of what political complexion.
We have seen the great state of Pennsylvania, though she generally acts with much regularity, at the point of losing her entire suffrage in the choice of electors; the choice was then in the legislature, and the two branches differing in political views, they were unable to agree on a ballot, until an actual compromise was effected, in which each side held out for the best terms it could procure. In this act the public voice was unheard.
About four years ago a similar case happened in Massachu. setts, in which a compromise was agreed to, after many vain attempts to effect the choice, the two branches being opposed to each other.
About the same time, in New Jersey, a general vote of the people being the established mode for choosing electors, and no change in the number of electors, or other ostensible reason for an alteration, existing, the legislature convened a few days previous to the time of election, and finding a majority of that body of a different political complexion from what they supposed the majority of the qualified voters in the state to be, the election law was instantly repealed, and the right of appointing electors was assumed by the legislature, giving the electoral college their own political image.
Would it not conduce more to the dignity and stability of the government, to have its principal offices filled by a fair uniform procedure, which long habit would render venerable? Nothing tends more to give respect to any institution, than long unaltered custom. This renders a bad government more tolerable, and is the foundation of half the laws of every country in the world, our own not excepted. When, to this regularity of method, are added the qualities of being fair, pure, and congenial to our free institutions, we can at least promise ourselves a fair trial of the theory of our government.
These qualities all attend the mode proposed, in an eminent degree, with others which add to its worth. In elections by the people, in single districts, the candidates will be well known to the voters; they can best judge by their own knowledge, who may be entitled to their confidence. The choice flows most directly from the people, who need no dictation from a caucus. The voter is not hampered by a general ticket of many names, some of whom he may not know, and others he may not like. The operation being confined to narrow limits, and the result being small, the public excitement cannot be great. The exercise of suffrage, originating with the people, it must be inaccessible to corruption. It is a maxim universally admitted, that the body of the people is honest, and free from intrigue. It would indeed be inconsistent to suppose that the people should feel an interest in injuring themselves; that they should be corruptible, would be absurd. Otherwise, in the case of a legislative choice, or caucus nomination. With all these properties, it has that of being perfectly convenient.
The states of Georgia, Connecticut, New-Hampshire, and Vermont, all have chosen representatives by general vote: in each of these there may be a diversity of opinion and of interest; this appears obvious from the majority being so equivocal in some of them, as to make entire changes in their delegation. It is presumable, that by the district plan there might be districts, having decided majorities, differing from the prevailing sentiment of the state. And why should not these be heard in their due proportions? Difference of opinion is no crime. It arises mostly from difference of interest and