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self, in a letter to Col. Pickering in 1803, when the extreme unpopularity of such a proposition was most manifest, and after the overthrow of the political party of which those gentlemen were the chiefs, owing, as it unquestionably was, to their high toned notions of government, availed himself of some such ingenious distinction. He avows making the proposition, which it was well-known to him was on record, and would one day be published. “The highest toned propositions which I made in the convention were for a President, Senate and judges, during good behaviour'; but he leaves the reader to infer that his mind had not settled down definitely in approbation of his own proposals.”
In our time Albert Stickney has written a book, "The Political Problem," in developing the theory that gain would come from having all those who may be elected to office, legislators as well as officials, serve during good behavior. As he puts it (p. 113), "that means the abolition of tenure by election for the members of the popular assembly, as well as for the chief executive, and the substituting in its place tenure at the will of the people; in other words, each member of the popular assembly, though originally chosen by the citizens of his electoral district, would be responsible, after he was chosen, not to his single district or to its citizens, but only to the whole people, that is, to the popular assembly itself." Stating it more concretely, a Representative would hold his place until ousted from it by his fellow Representatives. Mr. Stickney thinks that under such a system first-class men would be chosen, safe men, of good repute, with experience in affairs. Ordinarily they would be men somewhat advanced in years, who had led laborious lives; successful men, and therefore generally men of some means. “Membership in these popular assemblies, if men did their work faithfully, would be very laborious. Members who were honest would get small remuneration in money; and all that they could gain in reputation, they would get in a comparatively short time. Many of them, after a reasonable term of service, would ask to retire.” If there were no resignations or removals, death would make a practically complete change once in about fifteen years. This change, though steady, would be gradual. “The machinery would not be deranged. Work would not be interrupted. The membership would have stability and mobility combined. New blood and brain would be continually coming in, and at the same time the body would at all times have a large proportion of members of experience.”
Nothing so revolutionary as this would to-day be considered with patience by the people. They would reject it instantly as "undemocratic.” Some of its purposes, however, serious and respectable purposes at that, can be achieved by a step that would not be revolutionary nor even unfamiliar. The arrangements for continuity found in most of our Senates could be extended to the rest and also to the lower branches. This has of late been under discussion in Vermont, where the evils produced by the biennial system and by the demand for rotation in office have been especially conspicuous and detrimental. The suggestion is that members of both branches be elected for four-year terms, one half retiring with each two years. This would insure some degree of experience in at least half of the membership.
SENATORIAL SERVICE The election of members of the upper House for terms longer than those of the lower House appears at least once in colonial times. Penn's Charter of Liberties (1682) provided that members of the Provincial Council should be chosen for three-year terms, one third going out each year. This was embodied in the Frame of Government of that year, but Markham's Frame of Government of 1796 dropped the provision.
In some of the early State Constitutions the idea was revived. Virginia took the lead with a four-year term for Senators and has continued the policy without change. Delaware made it three years, changing to four in 1831. Maryland made it five years, changed to six in 1837, and then to four in 1851. New York began with four years. In the Convention of 1846 the proposal to continue that term had only 17 votes; 42 voted for three years; and by 80 to 23 it was in the end put at two years. The Commission of 1872-73 proposed a return to the four-year term, but the Legislature did not approve and so it was not submitted to the people. In 1894 the term was changed to three years.
The provision of six years as the senatorial term made by the Federal Constitution gave the idea of a longer term for the upper branch such approval that it has been embodied in much the greater part of the State Constitutions since adopted. In but one of the newer States, however, has the duration been made six years. Texas went to that figure in 1868, but returned to four in 1876. Four was the figure Pennsylvania chose when in 1790 she created her first Senate; in 1838 it was changed to three, but in 1873 the State went back to four. In 1790, also, South Carolina made it four years. Georgia has tried four methods. Her first Senators, provided for in 1789, were to be elected every third year. Annual election was substituted in 1795; this was changed to biennial in 1840 with the adoption of the biennial system; in 1868 the four-year term was substituted; and in 1877 return was made to the two-year term. Most of the newer States started with four years. Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, however, all began with three years and later changed to four. New Jersey, beginning with the annual election of Senators, changed it to triennial in 1844. Nevada is one of the few States that have ever shortened the term; it began with four years and changed to two. At present thirty-one States have four-year terms; one State makes it three years; and sixteen prefer two years.
In seventeen States the terms of Senators and Representatives are of the same length; in thirty-one the terms of Senators are longer — twice as long in all save New Jersey, where they are three times as long.
Of countries with terms of members of the upper branch longer than those of the United States Senate, in Ireland the term is twelve years; Egypt, ten; France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Argentina, and Brazil, nine; Czecho-Slovakia, eight. It is not without significance that Belgium, which up to 1921 had an eight-year term for Senators, changed it to four when in that year revising the Constitution.
One argument in behalf of long terms for Senators was well put by Governor Hoffman of New York, in his message of 1872, recommending a Constitutional Commission : "The chief object of a Senate should be to review the action of the other House, to check and restrain improvident, hasty, or unwise legislation; and, for the best discharge of this duty, it should be composed of men well versed in public affairs. Its name imports that it is to be a council of men of long experience. Every inducement should be held out to attract the right men to service in this body. The public cannot expect, any more than a private person, to command valuable services unless it offers an adequate reward. This reward need not be wholly pecuniary; the dignity of an office is often a more powerful inducement to the class of men we need in the public service. A long term and a large constituency would greatly enhance the dignity of the office of Senator, and make it attractive to our most distinguished citizens. If the senatorial term were made four or five years and the State were divided into a small number of senatorial districts, so as to throw the choice of Senator upon a large constituency, and the compensation made a fair one, I do not doubt that the ablest and most experienced of our public men would be found ready to apply themselves in the Senate to the important duty of securing good laws for the people."
Much of this was sound, but the Governor drew the long bow when he said this programme would attract the most distinguished citizens of a State. All that can reasonably be hoped is that it would attract better men than would otherwise listen.
Opinions differ as to whether there is gain from long senatorial terms through their effect in delaying response to change in public opinion. Conservatives say it is well to prevent quick answer to every veering gust. Radicals say the popular will ought to prevail, forthwith. Experience has shown that party control of the National Senate follows much more speedily the shifts in the attitude of the voters than would be expected in view of the six-year term. Yet it lags far enough behind to give reasonable protection against whim and impulse.
FREQUENCY AND LENGTH OF SESSIONS
FREQUENCY of election and frequency of session are in theory quite distinct problems, but in practice they are often confounded. Common usage, converting an adjective into a noun, has applied the word "biennials” indiscriminately to elections and sessions. Much clearer thinking would result if the two things could be kept separate. Really all that relates them is the fact that the interval between the first day of one session and the first day of the next session cannot be longer than the interval between elections. These two intervals may be of the same length, or that between the first days of sessions may be as much shorter than that between elections as judgment dictates, even to the point of having no interval at all, as in the case of continuous session. The determination is wholly arbitrary.
Regularity of sessions developed as a matter of convenience. At first the King summoned a Parliament when he wanted the nation to give him money. Inasmuch as a Parliament meant a contribution, complaint of frequent assembling was natural. On one occasion the grant to the King was made upon condition that "no other Parliament should be holden from the Calends of March till Michaelmas.” In the course of time, when evils of an opposite nature developed, the nation decided not to appropriate money for more than a year. Hence an annual session became a necessity. It is to-day the rule for all the English Dominions that their Parliaments shall sit annually and that in the event of dissolution twelve months shall not intervene between the last session of one Parliament and the first of another. In 1867 Bismarck wanted triennial sessions for Germany, and in 1888, when the term of the Reichstag was changed to five years, he wanted the sessions held only every other year, but it kept on meeting annually. The Constitution adopted in 1919 stipulated a meeting each year. Such is the requirement in Belgium, France, Portugal, and indeed most of the other countries of the world.