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that we look for chiefs and rulers, either for their superior virtue, or their supposed subserviency to the views of those in subordinate situations. It was against the evil of the latter principle, Mr. King desired to guard. The liberties of the people, repeated he, of which we speak much, and I hope we feel much, are more affected by the choice of president than by any other ordinary political act. In this point they are vulnerable: here ought the rights of the people and of the states to be guarded. Our existence and the passions of the present day are ephemeral: public liberty should be immortal. Considering that this body should be to the people and the states not only the safe guardians of their rights but the protectors of their liberty, he hoped they would adopt a provision he considered so nearly connected with the perpetuation of both.
Mr. BARBOUR, in reply to Mr. Mason, (who denied the force of the distinction in principle between the election of electors and representatives by a general ticket,) said, that in elections for representatives by general ticket, men were frequently elected to congress in that mode, who would not have been permitted by the people to represent the district for which they are elected.
Mr. Macon, of North-Carolina, said, there was nothing more certain to his mind, than that the mode of election of electors ought to be uniform throughout the United States; because if it were otherwise, it was possible that a minority might elect the great officers of the United States. A small state, unanimous for one candidate, might by general ticket counterbalance the weight of two large states voting by districts. There was no way but by uniform district election, he said, to obtain with certainty the sense of the people. The state which he represented had, until lately, been in the habit of forming two sets of districts the one for representatives, and the other for electors, and had not experienced much difficulty in it. Was it not better to surmount this small difficulty than to have different principles of election in different states. Although it were true, as had been stated, that congress could regulate the mode of choosing representatives, it was to put it out of the power of any party to change the mode of choosing representatives; it was to put it out of the power of any party to change the mode of election to answer any particular purpose, that he would make an amendment to the constitution in this respect, to prevent such changes as the states had made in the mode of electing their electors. The best interests of the country, in the opinion of Mr. Macon, required that both clauses of the proposed amendment to the constitution should be agreed to; which would, as much as possible, put it in the power of the people to elect the men whom they prefer. A fair canvass never had taken place, nor ever could take place, in voting by general
ticket, where the people, instead of having a personal knowledge of those for whom they vote, must take their characters on trust. Another reason for fixing an uniform mode of election by the constitution, was, that at present doubts are entertained of the constitutionality of both modes of election, in the quarters of the country where they respectively occur, &c.
Mr. Lacock, of Pennsylvania, moved to recommit the resolution with instructions to report an amendment to provide for the election of president and vice president by the electors of each state qualihed to vote for the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.
Gen. HARPER, of Maryland, said, as he might be called away by other business before this question was decided, he would take this opportunity of expressing his opinion, and his hope that the motion last made would not prevail, because it seemed to him that the principle it embraced was infinitely less expedient than that now on the table. It would have a tendency to produce more anomalies than now exist in the constitution; to refer the election of president to a less certain rule than we have at present. It would induce a great deal of unnecessary trouble and vexation, and would at last come to the same result, as in the more simple and less embarrassed mode by the choice of electors. As to the main proposition before the senate, Mr, Harper said he was decidedly in favour of it, for this general reason; that its adoption would tend to make the elections of president less a matter of juggle and intrigue than they now are. He would not say that it would have the effect of wholly excluding intrigue, of placing this great election on the footing on which the great men who framed the constitution vainly imagined they were placing it, of a free unbiassed expression of the public will; but he thought it would bring it nearer than at present. Party arrangements and bargains would not be so easy. Bargains could not be so readily struck with one státe for this great office, with another for that—he would not say as had been done, but certainly as may be done, according to the present mode of election. Districting the states for electors, Mr. Harper said, would in bis judgment have a tendency to render the presidential election more free and independent; to remove it more from the grasp of party arrange-ments; to prevent bargains between profligate agents, and the selling of the nation for offices to the highest bidder. He was therefore decidedly opposed to striking out that part of the proposition before the senate.
On suggestion of Mr. Dana, Mr. Lacock having so modified his motion as to divest it of its peremptory character, and make it a motion for enquiry merely
Mr. DANA, of Connecticut, said, as the views of the convention on this subject had been mentioned, he would state, that
he once had permission to examine the original journals of the convention in the office of state; and it appeared that, in regard to the election of president, almost every possible mode had been tried and rejected. It was proposed at first that the election should be made bydthe national legislature. This was agreed to, but afterwards reconsidered. It was then proposed that the president should be chosen by electors elected by the several states: this was rejected. It was then proposed, and rejected also, that he should be chosen by the people. The real fact was, the convention, in forming a government of which there was no model in history, had great difficulties to surmount. Projects of all kinds were tried, and none could succeed to their satisfaction, on this particular point. At length, after many fruitless votes on different propositions, a grand committee was appointed to consider the subject. They ultimately adopted the compound ratio which now exists, and added the feature of the vice presidency to the system. So far as regarded the most certain mode of guarding against cabal and intrigue, the very circumstance of districting a state for ten years at a time, is that which would enable men to intrigue with certainty to a particular point. To guard with certainty against intrigue; the mode of election should be left uncertain. The whole plan of districting the United States, he said, was more completely adapted to the purposes of intrigue, bribery, and corruption, than any that had ever been devised. Believing thus, he must vote against it, not taking it for granted himself that mere change will prove a remedy for existing difficulties. The distinction between the two parties which formerly existed, Mr. Dana took occasion to say, was now, or soon would be, merely nominal. Where was the difference between them now, he asked, except that those on one side had gone beyond the others, and the others had fallen a little back? There might be a nominal artificial distinction, but there was, in fact, but very little real difference. The general violence and error of party, he said, was purity itself, compared with the personal corruption that we have to guard against the difficulty of preventing which will be increased rather than diminished by electing wholly by districts.
Mr. Mason, of New Hampshire, conceived the idea of Mr. Lacock to be wholly impracticable. The qualifications of voters in the different states were so entirely different, that the whole election would be unequal in its bearing on the different states. One state has not, in some instances, according to its population, one-fourth of the votes which another state may give, &c. If there were no other objection to this new proposition, this would be of itself conclusive.
Mr. King. All experience, he said, had shown that the people of
any country were most competent to a correct desig
nation of their first magistrate. So far as history affords us light, it leads us to this point: that, in times of difficulty and peril to a nation, when it is in the utmost need of superior talent for its high stations, no tribunal is more competent to discern and select it than the people. Intrigue, turbulence, and corruption, may have some sway in quiet times, when all is tranquillity in regard to the general situation of the country; but when the ship of state is in peril and danger, turbulence ceases, and the best men are by an instinctive power fixed on by the people for their governors. That has been wonderfully illustrated by history; and the best designations of magistrates have been produced in this way. My sober view is, said Mr. King, that as to the election of chief magistrate of this nation, no body is so competent as the great body of the freemen to make a proper selection. Whether, on this question, their first impression should be taken, was, Mr. King said, a question of great importance. There would be great difficulty in making the returns of the votes; those who collected and compared the votes might defeat the choice of the people, &c. Not, he said, that these objections were insuperable. He was persuaded that the course of things under the present mode of choosing a president was in its nature pernicious; and that it had a tendency to prevent the object intended by the constitution, of a pure clective magistracy. Men now live, said he, who will probably see the end of our system of government as we now go on: terminate when it will, that termination will not be favourable to public liberty. For five years past, Mr. King said, he had seen a character developing itself, the predominance of which he feared. Not a people on earth, he said, were more capable of high excitement than this people. During the excitement of the passion to which he referred, if a contested election occurs, the gownsmen must stand aside; another character supersedes them;-and there can be little difficulty in judging what will be the result. The march from military rule to despotism is certain, invariable. Those who think they see the probable tendency of our present system should interpose something remedial. The people in this particular are the best keepers of their own rights; and any device to remove that power from them weakens the security of it. Mr. K. said, he was anxious that the senate should come to this question without the feelings of party: it was one involving all their interests, and those of their families and descendants. He knew, he said, that this proposition, if agreed to, would break down the power of the great states. He had no objection, if in curtailing their power, the same measure regulated the rights of the whole nation equally. He was willing to let the election for the presidency rest wholly on the people.
MR. FROMENTIN, of Louisiana, said, that although in favour
of the principle of the original proposition for an uniform mode of election, there was such a disposition to run away with the question, he could not but regret it had been proposed at all. It was now proposed to refer the election of chief magistrate of the United States to the people at large. He could not conceive how, in the spirit of the government in which we live, it would be possible to ascertain the result of such an election. The honourable gentleman from New York had hinted at some of the possible consequences and difficulties of it. I am, said Mr. F. as fully persuaded as the gentleman from New York, that the people are the source of all power; that, as long as they are uncorrupted, their liberties are in no danger. In reference to the cases of ancient republics, it had been said, that the people had never been mistaken in their choice, in the hour of danger, of a proper character for their chief magistrate. But, is our situation to be compared to that of those republics? What were Greece and Rome to the United States? Although the choice there nominally fell on the people, it was on those of a few adjacent cities, who exercised the whole authority, and pointed out some man on the spot qualified for the exigency of the moment. Look at the vast expanse of our country, from Maine to Louisiana--no such election could here be made in case of emergency: before it could be consummated we should be devoured by the monster which threatened us. It is not possible to suppose such a state of things in this country, as that from which the gentleman has drawn his analogy. However the practice of electing electors by state legislatures might have prevailed, Mr. F. said, he could find nothing in the constitution which sanctioned what he should, with due deference, call this usurpation of power by the state legislatures. There was but a single step from one usurpation to another, and it was time a just construction should be given to the constitution. If no other good results from this discussion but the establishment of an uniform mode of election by all the states, the senate would be abundantly compensated thereby for all the time they had consumed in the discussion of this subject. The officer to be elected was the officer of the whole community, as much of Massachusetts as of Georgia, of Connecticut as of Kentucky. Why then should a different mode of election prevail in different states? Mr. F. examined the progress of elections under the present system. The legislatures of some states may keep back their election until the day before the election of president is to take place, and may appoint electors out of their own body too; and those electors, having ascertained the opinion of other electors, (which the constitution, by fixing the same day for the election in every state, meant to guard against) decide which ever way they can make the best bargain, or their interest inclines. It was with a view to remedy this and similar evils