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The truth is, in every election, no matter what its form, the will of the majority must prevail. Their voice must be victorious in every choice; and that of the minority must be unregarded. The committee must at once perceive the vanity of any attempt to remove a consequence flowing directly from the nature of every free government, and from the essential principles of representation.
I come now to the last and great complaint-executive interference in the election of a successor. The deformity of a legislative caucus-state intrigues-have been rung in our ears without cessation.
But by what strange course of reasoning have gentlemen brought themselves to the conclusion, that this proposed amend. ment will prevent the recurrence of these alarming scenes? Vain, and worse than vain, is this effort to restrain a dominant party. Divide the state into districts, will that destroy the caucus? O, no; the men whose interest it may be to preserve the monster, will still protect him. He will laugh at your vain attempts, and again and again, trampling down the weak fences of the constitution, he will, as it shall please him, or rather, as it shall please the existing executive, make and unmake presidents with the same ease as did the prætorian cohorts the masters of the Roman world.
Do gentlemen think that districts will be less under the control of a caucus than states? or that states, when districted, will be less subject to his influence than at present? On the contrary, in proportion as you narrow the territory, the intelligence, the wealth, and the integrity upon which that influence is to operate, do you give force and facility to its operations. Do you believe the future candidates, the future secretaries of state, will be destitute of the powers of calculation? They will be able to count the districts secured to their influence, and those that are of doubtful or opposite character. In the latter it will only be necessary to secure a few leading men, and upon them they will bear down with the united influence of a legislative caucus, the patronage of the general government, and the power and intrigues of the state, in which the districts are situated. Can they fail thus to triumph in any district. Let it not be forgot. ten too, that these districts are to be arranged by the states themselves. Will they fail so to arrange them as to give the most ample facility to all this sinister influence?
With these facts in full view, can gentlemen hope any good from their districting plan?-Will it prevent future caucussing? Will it prevent state intrigue? Will it secure a fair hearing to the voice of the minority in each state? Will it palsy executive influence, or prevent executive interposition? On the contrary, the vilest character of party will be exhibited, in contriving districts to give an undivided party vote. Each district insu
lated and unsupported, will become the victim of caucus influence, state intrigue, and executive patronage.
Mr. Chairman, the source of all these evils is the practice of legislative caucussing; this practice must cease, and with it the evils will vanish-no amendment of the constitution will effect this desirable object. The constitution now provides that no member of congress shall be qualified to vote for a president. Yet have not the majority of congress expressly violated the spirit of this prohibition? Have they not in truth, by this new invention of caucussing, become electors de facto of the chief magistrate? True, they only " recommend.” -Sir, let us not be imposed upon by the juggle of names. Do we not know that this “ recommendation" made in solemn convention, signed by chairman and secretary, is tantamount to an election? Has not experience shown beyond the power of cavil, that when the caucus at Washington decides, the business is substantially done and all that remains is a ceremonious meeting of men chosen and pledged to register in due and constitutional form the mandate of the caucus? The constitution then is violatedand if a dominant party in the legislature of the nation can thus openly trample on the charter, and if the delusions of party can prevail on the people to view with applause the proceeding, is it not mere babbling to talk of erecting other constitutional fences to guard the purity of election?
SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES.
March 30, 1816. The amendment proposed to the constitution of the United States, for establishing an uniform mode of election, by districts, of electors of president and vice president of the United States, and of representatives to congress, being under consideration
Mr. Barbour having stated his idea of a marked difference in principle between the two objects of electing electors and representatives; in which view he was seconded by Mr. Lacock; and Mr. Mason, of New-Hampshire, having remarked thereon
Mr. BARBOUR said, that it was essential to the character of a pure representation, that the representative should have a common feeling with his constituents; that he should know their wants and be possessed of their sentiments. Residence is part of the proper character of a representative, who ought
not to be placed at such a distance from his constituents, that he can know neither their wants nor their feelings. The case is different with respect to the election of electors, in respect to whom that personal knowledge is not necessary to their constituents. Not, Mr. Barbour said, that he would take the power of electing a president of the United States out of the hands of the people. God forbid, said he, that the power of electing a president of the United States should be lodged in any other hands than those of the people themselves. The whole congress uniting, dictating a nomination, would weigh no more than a feather in the balance against the public will: any dictation in opposition to the public sentiment, would be considered as an outrage on the rights of the people, and justly scouted by them. The man who is chosen an elector knows the sentiments of his constituents, which he is bound to carry with him into the electoral college, and which only it is his duty to express. The people emphatically elect the president; but those selected to express their will, may be chosen by general ticket without violating the representative principle. Mr. Barbour was, therefore, opposed to that part of the proposition before the senate, which embraced the electors of president and vice president. In regard to the inconvenience of laying out states into districts for electing representatives, he said, he could not see the inconveniences suggested, as it would occur but once in ten years. The advantages of an uniformity in the mode of election, he said, was obvious in regard to representatives. It would put down all that maneuvring which would repress the sentiments of the people by a juggle, which, he said, was an inconvenience much greater than the labour of designating the metes and bounds of a district. In consequence of the elections by districts in the large states, and by general ticket in the small states, an undue preponderance had heretofore been given, Mr. Barbour said, to the small states in the councils of the nation. The general ticket for electors had its origin in one of the eastern states, to which we are indebted for many political ideas; it had been received with great opposition indeed, but from selfdefence the southern states had been most of them obliged to follow the example. Under the district system, Pennsylvania exhibited a melancholy spectacle: whilst the small easteru states gave each many votes, the weight of Pennsylvania, great as she is, dwindled down to a solitary vote. Pennsylvania, which should have loomed in the horizon as large as any state in the union, became invisible in consequence of the general ticket being resorted to. To regain her station in the union, she was compelled to follow the example. Virginia, also, obliged by inevitable necessity, arising from the principle of self-preservation requiring her to counterpoise that system which had made its appearance in another quarter of the union, reluctantly
resorted to it. After some further illustrative remarks, Mr. Barbour said, in every point of view, he was now opposed to districting the states for the election of electors; whilst he considered the remainder of the proposition before the senate as a recurrence to the true principles of the constitution, which required that representatives should be uniformly elected by districts. The representative body would then be that pure organ of the popular will in the national councils, which the spirit of the constitution intends it.
Mr. Mason, of New Hampshire.-As to the election of electors, and the observation that the voice of the whole congress, united in favour of any man, would be but as a feather in the scale, Mr. Mason said it was a feather which always had turncd, and always would turn, the balance. He spoke not with reference to any particular transaction; but, let the congress continue to make their nomination, the state legislatures their nominations of electors, and these two together would for ever give president to the United States. All the arguments of the gentleman in favour of electing representatives by districts apply, but with much greater force, to the election of electors: for here is the great pressure of danger; in this point, may it always be expected that an influence will be exerted over the people, which he said he knew no way of counteracting, but by putting each elector within the sphere of the personal knowledge of those who are to choose him. With this view only did Mr. Mason incline to favour this part of the proposition to amend the constitution, which, if adopted, would make it more difficult that any thing like dictation should be practised in the case of the election of electors. The election of electors by districts, would tend to take the power of appointing the head, out of hands in which the constitution endeavoured to prevent its ever being placed. He was, therefore, favourable to that part of the motion before the senate which related to the election of electors.
Mr. KING, of New-York, said that, so far as regarded the manner and time of choosing representatives and senators to congress, a majority of the congress may by law establish the very manner of choosing representatives, which was now proposed to be erected into a constitutional rule. It seemed to him, therefore, unnecessary to alter the constitution by imposing rule, when, according to the constitution, a competent power can now make the same regulation by law. Not so with that part of the amendment before the senate, which the gentleman from Virginia proposed to strike out. The states may now severally direct the manner of choosing their own electors: it is proposed that the manner shall be prescribed by the constitution. This, Mr. King thought would be an important change, VOL. II.
and the only change suggested in the constitution which he deemed an improvement. He thought he might venture to say, that if there was any part of the constitution deemed by its framers and advocates to be better secured than any other against the enterprizes which have since occurred, it was the very provision on the subject of elections to the presidency. The idea was that the action of that particular agency which has since controlled it, was as much displaced by the constitutional plan of election of president and vice president, as could possibly be devised. The opinion had been that all undue agency or influence was entirely guarded against; that the men selected by the people from their own body would give their votes in such a manner as that no opportunity would be afforded for a combination, to change the freedom and popular character which naturally belonged to the electoral bodies. Such had been the idea of the nation at the time of the adoption of the constitution. We all know, said he, the course which this thing has taken. The election of a president of the United States is no longer that process which the constitution contemplated. In conformity with the original view of the authors of that instrument, I would restore, as thoroughly as possible, the freedom of election to the people: I would make the mode of election uniform through the country, by throwing the whole nation into as many districts as there are electors, and let the people of each district choose one elector. One idea on this subject he thought worth more than all the arguments against this course: that then all the people in the country would stand precisely on the same footing; and no particular addresses could be made to the special interests and particular views of particular men or particular sections of the country. The course now pursued in this respect, Mr. King said, was not entitled to that high dis. tinction. On the contrary, those who reflected on it could not help seeing that our progress in government was not for the better; that it was not likely hereafter to be in favour of popular rights. It was with the people the constitution meant to place the election of the chief magistrate, that being the source least liable to be corrupt. But if, under the name of the liberty of the people, said Mr. King, we put this power into other hands, with different interests, we place it in a situation in which the rights of the people are violated. In this point of view, to him (he said) this particular clause of the proposed amendment to the constitution was of great value. Let the question of the mode of election of senators and representatives rest where it is: if congress choose to interpose, let them. The other part of the proposition was in favour of the rights of the people, of the freedom of the country; for with regard to these rights and freedom, no man could name a matter so important as the choice of the president of the nation. It is an infirmity in our natures