« AnteriorContinuar »
is the fund out of which the means for protecting life and liberty are usually furnished. We have no experience that teaches us that any other rights are safe, where property is not safe. Confiscation and plunder are generally, in revolutionary commotions, not far from banishment, imprisonment, and death. It would be monstrous to give even the name government to any association in which the rights of property should not be competently secured. The disastrous revolutions which the world has witnessed; those political thunderstorms and earthquakes which have overthrown the pillars of society from their very deepest foundations, have been revolutions against property.
To this terrific onslaught by the champions of property, the untrained spokesmen of the people could make no adequate defense. The Convention had previously voted, 236 to 145, to change the basis of senatorial representation. General Dearborn had consented to reconsideration. After the battle was over, he found himself defeated by close to an exact reversal of the vote, for it now stood 164 to 247. Massachusetts was to wait twenty years longer before her Senators should be chosen by population and with no regard to property.
One of the great contests in the New York Convention of the following year (1821) was on the proposal to make the qualifications of electors for Senators and Governor the same as for electors of Assemblymen. The landed interests fought stoutly to save their preponderating influence in the upper branch, Chancellor Kent and Judge Spencer being their champions, while Erastus Root, Martin Van Buren, and others espoused the cause of equal rights, and won. In the course of his argument Chancellor Kent said: "By the report before us, we propose to annihilate, at one stroke, all those property distinctions, and to bow before the idol of universal suffrage. That extreme democratic principle, when applied to the legislative and executive departments of government, has been regarded with terror by the wise men of every age, because in every European republic, ancient and modern, in which it has been tried, it has terminated disastrously, and been productive of corruption, injustice, violence, and tyranny. And dare we flatter ourselves that we are a peculiar people, who can run the career of history, exempted from the passions which have disturbed and corrupted the rest of mankind? If we are like other races of men, with similar follies and vices, then I greatly fear that our posterity will have reason to deplore, in sackcloth and ashes, the delusion of the day. I shall feel grateful if we may be permitted to retain the stability and security of a Senate, bottomed on the freehold property of the State. Such a body, so constituted, may prove a sheet anchor amidst the future factions and storms of the Republic."
Without it, he said, the agricultural interest is committed to the winds. “It should be the representative of the landed interest and its security against the caprice of the motley assemblage of paupers, emigrants, journeymen, manufacturers, and those undefinable classes of inhabitants which a State and city like ours is calculated to invite."
Martin Van Buren saw the other side of the shield. “When the people of this State shall have so far degenerated, when the principles of good order and good government which now happily characterize our people and afford security to our institutions shall have so far given way to anarchy and violence as to lead to an attack on private property, either by an agrarian law or by an attempt to throw all public burdens on any particular class of men, then all constitutional provisions will be idle and unavailing, because they will have lost all their force and influence.”
From 1777 the New York apportionment for Senators had been made by four great districts, according to the number of freeholders of a hundred pounds or more, with a census and reapportionment every seven years. Now this was changed to eight districts based on population, with four Senators to each. In 1846 came the single district system.
New Hampshire since 1784 has allotted Senators to counties in proportion to taxes. North Carolina, beginning with one Senator for each county, changed in 1835 to the property basis, apportionment being “in proportion to the public taxes," and this was the system until 1868. Elsewhere apportionment has generally been by counties, with no direct recognition of property, although in a few cases where allotments were specifically set forth in the Constitution, comparative wealth may have been taken into account. To-day, except in New Hampshire, property as a basis for senatorial apportionment has disappeared.
The Bryce Conference rejected the proposal that a reconstituted House of Lords should be elected on the basis of a property qualification possessed by a privileged class of voters, and also the proposal of a property qualification for persons to be elected, both being deemed unsuitable to modern conditions.
In Cuba one half of the electorate for Senators “shall consist of citizens paying the greatest amount of taxes.”
The argument that an upper House shall represent property as property arrogates to it a privilege denied to any other focus or field of human activity, such as religion, science, literature, art. That a man should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labors with security may or may not be the most important thing in life, but it is certainly not the only important thing. Furthermore, the theory that property should be represented as such is incapable of logical application in government. Corporations meet the main difficulty by giving each stockholder as many votes as he has shares, but this would be out of the question in government, save in the roughest sort of way.
THE QUESTION OF SIZE
AMERICAN lawmaking bodies were instituted and have developed without any approach to uniformity in the matter of size. No theory, no principle, no rule, can be deduced from the figures. Haphazard at the start, they have since shown nothing more than tendencies.
It would be useless to rehearse in detail the accidents of colonial assemblies. Suffice it to say that in New England, where the town was the social and political unit, the practice of giving representation to each town led to proportionate growth of the lower Houses as the number of towns increased. Elsewhere the county or parish was the more familiar unit, and once a colony had become fairly well settled, the number of counties and parishes remained without much change, and as a rule their representation was not much enlarged.
South Carolina was the only State outside New England to begin with a large House; it had 202 members, out of whom 13 were taken for the upper House. Georgia began with a House large for its population, having 90 members, but a dozen years afterward reduced the number and at the end of the century it had only 62. North Carolina gave two members to each county, Virginia likewise, with some extra ; Maryland, four to a county; Pennsylvania six (with Philadelphia treated as a county); and Delaware seven, but as it had only three counties the result was the smallest House in the land, as befitted the smallest State. New Jersey made it three to a county. New York said "at least 70," in all, setting a definite figure of 100 in 1801, enlarged to 128 in 1821. Pennsylvania in 1790 devised a new kind of constitutional provision, a maximum and a minimum figure, respectively 100 and 60. As new States came in, they copied this. Kentucky (1792) said the lower House should have not less than 40 nor more than 100 members. Tennessee made the limits 22 and 26 until there should be 40,000 taxable inhabitants, after which the maximum was to be 40. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois all took up with the idea, Ohio starting with a range of 24 to 36, Indiana 25 to 36, Illinois 27 to 36, and provision for enlargement with growth of population beyond a specified point. Louisiana made the range 25 to 50.
Pennsylvania, too, was the first to provide for some sort of ratio between the upper and lower Houses. When in 1790 it created a Senate, it directed that the number of Senators should not be more than one third nor less than one quarter of the number of Representatives. Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois copied the plan, but made the limits one half and one third. Connecticut's first Constitution, that of 1818, made the Senate small, only 12, but ten years later the maximum and minimum method was substituted with the limits 24 and 18, changed in 1901 to 36 and 24. Maryland had but 15 members of the upper House at the start; Louisiana, 14; South Carolina, 13, which in 1790 had grown to 37; Virginia, 24, increased to 32 in 1830.
Maine, in 1819, devised a singular scheme. The House was to be of not less than 100 members, nor, at the start, more than 150. As population grew, it might be enlarged to a maximum of 200, and after that, every ten years, the people were to give in their votes as to whether the number should be increased or diminished. This intricate device survived until 1841, when by amendment the number was set at 151. The Senate was to start with 20 members, and to grow not to exceed 31, a provision it has not been found necessary to change. Missouri began (1820) by permitting the Senate to have anywhere from 14 to 33 members, but in 1865 fixed the number at 34. The House at first was to have not exceeding 100; in 1849 the number was fixed at 140; and this was raised to 200 in 1865. Michigan (1835) said the members of the House should not be less than 48 nor more than 100; and changed the 48 in 1850 to 64. At the start the Senate was to be as nearly equal as might be, to one third of the House. In 1850 its number was fixed at 32.
It would serve little good to detail the variations in the newer States. They tell much the same story, without important novelties. The outcome of it all is that our Legislatures average to have 37 Senators and 117 Representatives. Omitting New England, the average membership of the lower House is 100. In 1919 there were 1760 members of upper Houses, 5643 of lower Houses. In New England alone there were 1399 Repre