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benevolent efforts to eradicate human evils, are well-nigh universal.” That could be said of any American Commonwealth. Our differences are for the most part superficial. In the great essentials of habit and thought we are one. So our lawmaking bodies, ever changing in elements, change in spirit only as the community itself changes. Like a river they are never, yet always, the same. Like the surface of that ever-flowing river, they truthfully reflect the scene. If that scene be ugly or beautiful, so will be its reflection.
ROTATION IN OFFICE
OUR lawmaking bodies may be representative, their members may be as well qualified for the work as the conditions of a broad suffrage permit, and yet they may fall short in efficiency. If this be the case in the matter of American Legislatures, one reason is to be found in the practice whereunder utilizing the benefits of experience is discouraged. It is not a new practice nor American in its origin. Aristotle gave it as among the characteristics of democracy that all should rule each, and each in his turn over all; that no one should hold the same office twice, or not often except in the case of military offices; that the tenure of all offices, or of as many as possible, should be brief. One of the French Constitutions of the period of the Revolution permitted Deputies, chosen for three-year terms, to serve not more than six years.
The principle has been applied, at least to some degree, in the purest of modern democracies, Switzerland. There the lawmaking body, known as the Federal Assembly, has two Houses, each of which chooses its own President and VicePresident, with the proviso that they shall not be eligible to these offices in the next regular session. The same insistence on rotation in office is found in the executive body, the Federal Council, chosen for three years, which elects one of its members President of the Confederation to serve for one year only, and not to be eligible for reëlection. Nevertheless, the Swiss habit is to reëlect the members of the federal legislative branch, and the same is true in the case of the cantons. Winchester found rejection of a sitting member to be a rare exception. Death or voluntary retirement accounted for nineteen out of twentyone new members of the Assembly chosen at the preceding general election. Referring to this sure tenure of officials generally, the President of the Confederation said in a public address : “Facts and not persons are what interest us. If you were to take ten Swiss, every one of them would know whether the country was well governed or not; but I venture to say that nine of them would not be able to tell the name of the President, and the tenth, who might think he knew it, would be mistaken.” i Bryce thinks the existence of the Referendum facilitates retention in office by the Swiss.
1 The Politics, bk. VI.
The New England colonies are commonly supposed to have more nearly approached pure democracy than any other governments from ancient times to their day. As a matter of fact, they were in one aspect theocracies, in another aristocracies, but democratic impulses now and then successfully revolted. Massachusetts Bay saw that happen once, by reason of this matter of rotation in office. Winthrop's Journal tells of it with humor all the more delicious, because doubtless wholly unintentional. His entry for May 14, 1634, says: “At the general court Mr. Cotton preached, and delivered this doctrine, that a magistrate ought not to be turned into the condition of a private man without just cause, and to be publicly convict, no more than the magistrates may not turn a private man out of his freehold, etc. This falling in question in the court, and the opinion of the rest of the ministers being asked, it was referred to further consideration.” The next paragraph reads: “The court chose a new governor, viz. Thomas Dudley, Esq., the former deputy.” Winthrop did not deem it necessary to specify that the Governor who failed of reëlection was John Winthrop. Thus abruptly did the electors disown Cotton's doctrine.
Neither Winthrop nor Cotton was a democrat at heart. Later Winthrop wrote: “The best part of a community is always the least, and of that best part the wiser is always the lesser." Cotton wrote to Lord Say in 1636 : “Democracy, I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governor, who shall be governed?” He preached his opinions with more effective result five years later. Winthrop tells of it in his Journal, under date of November 12, 1641: "At this session Mr. Hathorn, one of the deputies, and usually one of their speakers, made a motion to some other of the deputies of leaving out two of their ancientest magistrates, because they were grown poor, and spake reproachfully of them under that motion. This coming to Mr. Cotton his knowledge, he took occasion from his text, the next lecture day, to confute, and sharply (in his mild manner) to reprove such miscarriage, which he termed a slighting or dishonoring of parents, and told the country, that such as were decayed in their estates by attending the service of the country ought to be maintained by the country, and not set aside for their poverty, being otherwise so well gifted, and approved by long experience to be faithful. This public reproof gave such a check to the former motion that it was never revived after."
1 The Swiss Republic, 80.
Information as to the colonial habit in the matter of representatives is meager, but lack of uniformity may be inferred from the fact that though in the first years of Maryland less than a quarter of the Delegates would be reëlected, in the halfcentury before the Revolution from fifty to seventy per cent would be sent back. In the early days of Rhode Island the Deputies were always changing more or less. The office was deemed a burden, which but few would assume for more than one or two sessions, as required by law. Pennsylvania was the first colony to have the rotation idea put into its frame of government. William Penn's Charter of Liberties provided that (after seven years) when a member of the Provincial Council (the upper branch) ended his three years' term, he should be “uncapable of being Chosen again for one whole year following that so all may be fittest for the Government and have Experience of the Care and burthen of it.” The provision disappeared in 1696, but it was not forgotten. When the Convention of 1776, over which Benjamin Franklin presided, and which he no doubt inspired, created but one legislative body, it said: “No person shall be capable of being elected a member to serve in the House of Representatives of the freemen of this Commonwealth more than four years in seven.” It was also provided that a delegate of the State in Congress should serve no longer than two years successively and be incapable of reëlection for three years afterward; that any person having served as a member of the Supreme Executive Council of the State for three successive years, should be incapable of holding that office for four years afterward; and that one third of the Council should be replaced each year. "By this mode of election and continual rotation," it was explained, "more men will be trained to public business, there will in every subsequent year be found in the Council a number of persons acquainted with the proceedings of the foregoing years, whereby the business will be more consistently conducted, and moreover the danger of establishing an inconvenient aristocracy will be effectually prevented.”
1S. G. Arnold, Hist. of R.I., 1, 368.
Franklin persisted to the end in his admiration of the idea. Madison reports him as saying in the Federal Convention: "It seems to have been imagined by some, that the returning to the mass of the people was degrading the magistrate. This, he thought, was contrary to republican principles. In free governments, the rulers are the servants, and the people their superiors and sovereigns. For the former, therefore, to return among the latter, was not to degrade, but to promote, them. And it would be imposing an unreasonable burden on them, to keep them always in a state of servitude, and not allow them to become again one of the masters.” 1
Not all Pennsylvanians were of the same opinion. “A Citizen of Philadelphia," namely, Pelatiah Webster, writing in 1783 the pamphlet that Hannis Taylor thinks furnished the scheme of our Federal Constitution — “A Dissertation on the Political Union and Constitution of the Thirteen United States of North America" – said: “This doctrine of rotation was first proposed by some sprightly geniuses of brilliant politics with this cogent reason: that by introducing a rotation in the public offices we should have a great number of men trained up to public service, but it appears to me that it will be more likely to produce many jacks at all trades, but good at none. I think that frequent elections are a sufficient security against the continuance of men in public office whose conduct is not approved, and there can be no reason for excluding those whose conduct is approved, and who are allowed to be better qualified than any men who can be found to supply their places. Such became the conviction of the people of the State, and in the very year when Franklin died, 1790, they adopted a new Constitution in which this favorite theory of his found no place.
Another of the great men of the time who believed in rotation was Thomas Jefferson. His State had put into the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of 1776: “The legislative and executive powers of the State should be separate and distinct from the judiciary; and that the members of the two first
1 Elliot's Debates, v, 369.