페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

never been disposed to place too much power in the hands of the legislature. Such is the fact. But I am not now disposad to take from thon any power which properly belongs to them. My object now is, not to limit the legislative action, for I do not fear that that action would be wrong : but to prevent the time of that body from being frittered away in the discussion of unnecessary and uncalled-for arnendments. This is the whole aim and scope of my proposition.

The gentleman from the county of Philadelphia says, that this is a restriction which, if carried into the constitution, will prevent the right of the people from being protected. What an argument is this ! Do we believe-does our own experience teach us that the rights of the minority are more secured than the rights of the majority. I have been in a minority nearly all my life, and am as anxious as any man to protect their rights.

Mr. DICKEY here rose, and submitted to the Chair that the gentleman from Union (Mr. Merrill) had spoken more than twice on this subject; which, Mr. D. submitted, was in contravention of the tenth rule of this body.

Mr. Merrill said, he would not task the patience of the convention any further, and that he hoped the question might be taken without further debate.

And the question on the said amendment was then taken.
And on the question,
Will the convention agree to the amendment as modified ?

The yeas and nays were required by Mr. Merkill and Mr. BIDDLI, and are as follow, viz :

YEAS-Messrs. Agnew, Baldwin, Biddle, Brown, of Lancaster, Chambers, Chandler, of Philadelphia, Clapp, Clarke, of Beaver, Clark, of Dauphin, Clarke, of Indiana, Cleavinger, Cochran, Cope, Dickerson, Hayhurst, Hays, Henderson, of Dauphin, Hopkinson, Kennedy, Kerr, Krebs, Long, Magee, Mann, M’Sherry, Merrill, Merkel, Porter, of Lancaster, Russell, Saeger, Serrill, Smith, of Columbia, Smyth, of Centre, Snively, Porter, of Northampton, President pro tem–35.

Nars-Messrs. Ayres, Banks, Barclay, Barndollar, Barnitz, Bedford, Bigelow, Bonham, Brown, of Northampton, Brown, of Philadelphia, Coates, Cox, Crain, Crawford, Crum, Cummin, Curll, Darrah, Dickey, Dillinger, Donagan, Earle, Fleming, Foulkrod, Fry, Fuller, Gamble, Gearhart, Gilmore, Grenell

, Harris, Hastings, Helffenstein, Henderson, of Allegheny, Hiester, High, Houpt, Hyde, Ingersoll, Jenks, Keim, Konigma. cher, Lyons, Martin, M'Dowell, Miller, Montgomery, Myers, Nevin, Overfield, Payne, Purviance, Read, Riter, Ritter, Scheetz, Sellers, Seltzer, Shellito, Sterigere, Stickel, Stur. devant, Taggart, Todd, White, Woodward, Young_67.

So the amendment was rejected. "The question then recurring on the report of the committee ;A motion was made by Mr. FLEMING, To amend the said section as reported, by striking therefrom all after ihe word “and," where it occurs in the fifth line, and inserting in lieu thereof the words as follow, viz: “ Referred to the legislature iheu next to be chosen, and shall be published for three months previous to the cime of making such choice; and if in the legislature next chosen as aforesaid, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to by $wo-thirds of all the members elected to each House, then it shall be the

duty of the legislature to submit such proposed amendment or amendments to the people in such manner and at such time as the legislature shall prescribe; and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the legislature voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the constitution.”

And the said amendinent being under consideration,
A motion was made by Mr. BIDDLE,
That the convention do now aujourn.
Which was agreed to.
And the convention adjourned until half past three o'clock this after..

[ocr errors][merged small]

'The convention resumed the second reading of the report of the coni. mittee to whom was referred the resolution concerning tbe expediency of of providing a mode by which future amendments to the constitution may be made, at the desire and by the act of the people.

The amendment to the said report being again under consideration, in the words following, viz:

Strike out therefrom all after the word "and" where it occurs in the fifth line, and insert in lieu thereof the words following, viz:

" Referred to the legislature then next to be chosen, and shall be pub.. lished for three months previous to the time of making such choice: and. if in the legislature next chosen as aforesaid, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be agreed to by two-thirds of all the members elected to each house, then it shall be the duty of the legislature to submit such proposed amendment or amendments to the people, in such manner and at such time as the legislature shall prescibe: and if the people shall approve and ratify such amendment or amendments, by a majority of the electors qualified to vote for members of the legislature voting thereon, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the constitution."

A motion was made by Mr. Hiester,

To amend the amendment by adding thereto a provision that the amendments which may be agreed to by the people under the said clause, shall become a part of the constitution, and take effect as such, within the space of two inonths after the annunciation of the ratification thereof shall be made in such manner as shall be directed law.

Mr. HIESTER, in explanation of his amendment, said that the amend.. ment proposed by the gentleman from Lycoming, (Mr. Fleming) did not,

in the form in which it now stood, specify when the amendments, if agreed to by the people, should take effect;- whether immediately after the day of the election-or in one month thereform-or at what other time. It seems to me also, said Mr. H., to be a matter of some doubt whether it will be in the power of the legislature to regulate the time when the amendments shall go into effect, unless something is said by this convention in relation to it.

There is also another matter which is left indefinite in the amendment. It is this; it is not specified in what manner it shall be ascertained whether the people have ratified or rejected the amendments. Some provision onght to be made for this. We should establish some tribunal or oiher; and this object is embraced in my amendment. It supplies the defect in this way ; namely, it provides that within two months after the result shall have been promulgated, in such manner as the legislature may direct, the amendments shall take effect. I am not lenacious as to the exact time, but it appears to me that there ought to be a definite period fixed before we finally adjourn. If the members of the convention would prefer that the period should be fixed at three months, or one month, or any other time, I am willing to modify my proposition so as to meet their views. All I wish is that a definite time should be agreed on. These are the objects of my amendment.

Mr. HAYHURST, of Columbia, said he did not know that he had any objections to raise against the amendment to the amendment, as proposed by the gentleman from Lancaster, (Mr. Hiester.)

It certainly does appear to me, continued Mr. H., that there should be some definite rule of this kind prescribed by the convention, either in the shape of a proviso at the end of the section, or in some such way as the gentleman from Lancaster proposes to introduce it. I think it is neces. sary. I have my doubts, however, whether two months is a sufficient length of time.

In reference to the amendment itself, I have many objections. The proposition which was before us this morning, and which was rejected by the convention, met my approbation, because it went simply to prevent unnecessary excitement, where it was not probable that it would result in effecting any amendments to the constitution. But I think that the reverse state of things presents itself, in the amendment before you. If you adopt it-as I hope you will not what will be the consequence ? After all the excitement here created, after the time of the legislature has been consumed, after the public money has been expended in discussing the subject and printing the necessary information for the use of the public—you then forsooth, put it in the power of some ten men in the senate to prevent the action of the people upon the proposition, whatever that may be. I took occasion this morning to say that, as it is in the corporeal so it is in the physical world--all ferment tends to dissolution. And, after you have put the commonwealth to all this excitement and expense, you shut out the people from giving the expression of their opinion on the subject. And how? By the action of twelve men in the senate.

Suppose that any proposition for amendments should have received the sanction of one legislature, probably by a unanimous vote, or nearly 80; and suppose that the same amendment should have received the approba

ment.'

tion of the lower house at the second session, and probably also by a unanimous vote, or nearly so it is then sent to the senate, and there twelve men, voting in the negative, may reject it. Does this tend to allay excitement? Does this tend to pacify the public mind ?

think not. You put it in the power of twelve men to say to the people of the commonwealth, "you shall live under your old constitution, however defective it may be--you shall live under your old constitution, simply because we have the power to control your action, by virtue of this minority principle, which your representatives, in convention assembled, engrafted on that instru

No, sir, I can not sanction such a measure. After you have gone through all the excitement attending such movements, after you have spent your money upon them, it will be better to submit your proposed amendments to the people, and let them amend the constitution accordingly, or refuse to amend it, as may seem to them most proper and most conducive to their interests. This, I believe, to be the true and correct principle. But let not the action of the people be arrested in the senate by the votes of twelve or thirteen men. If you do so, depend upon it that you will be doomed to witness such scenes of excitement, such ebullitions of popular passion as will shake the institutions of your commonwealth to their deepest foundations. You had better, therefore, leave your constitution without giving this power to your senators; or you had better leave the matter so as to require that the proposed amendment after receiving the sanction of the legislature, shall receive the action of the people; thus inaking it imperative to subinit the amendment to them. Sir, it is the prerogative at all times, and under ail circumstances, to adopt such a form of government as will please them best. It is a provision in your bill of rights illats all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness : For the advancement of those ends, they have, at all times, an unalienable and indefeasible right to alter, reform, or abolish their gov. ernment, in such manner as they may think proper.'

This is your fundamental law. Let us, then, act up to it, and after these propositions have been acted upon by the legislature, let them be submitted to the approval or rejection of the people; for it is upon the people that they are to operate for good or for evil. But if you should outrage the people by the action of the minority, the excitement attending any given proposition will be renewed again and again ; until at length that proposition will be submitted to them, probably only to be rejected. I should desire that the action of a majority—and noi two-thirds--of two successive legislatures, shall be required to subnit annendients to the peo. ple; and they may then be passed upon, and settled definitely beyond tho power of faction to change or agitate them more.

In preference to the amendment of the gentleman from Lycoming (Mr. Fleming) let us atopt the report of the conmiitee; and let us follow it up with a precise provision, fixing a definite period at which the amendments which we may have made shall go into effect.

Mr. DICKEY, of Beaver, said:--On looking at the amendment to the amendment as proposed by the gentieman from Lancaster, (Mr. Hiester) it will be perceived that after the people shall have ratitied any amendments which may have heen submitted to them under this clause, it leaves only two months for the action of the legislature. Now, if the amend

[ocr errors]

ments are submitted to the people at the general election, the legislature will not meet until two months have elapsed; and if they are to be submitted at a special election, the inconvenience will be still greater. I think therefore, that the gentleman from Lancaster should modify his proposition, so as to insert three months instead of iwo. And if he will do this, I shall vote in its favor.

I come now to the amendment of the gentleman from Lycoming, (Mr. Fleming) and I will do that gentleman the justice to say, that I think this is precisely such a proposition as ought to be adopted by this convention. I do not think that ihe people desire to place it in the power of one, two, or three counties to keep up a continual agitation in relation to amendments to the constitution, when those amendments may be in opposition to the wishes of a majority of the people of the commonwealth. Sir, we have decided questions in this convention which will hereafter be agitated by the legislature, and if you leave this power of amendment too easy of access, those questions will continue to be agitated until the objects which may be had in view shall finally be accomplished. Take, for instance, the question as to the right of trial by jury. Do gentlemen suppose that there are not ten, or fifteen, or twenty thousand men in the conmonwealth of Pennsylvania, that will espouse the right of trial by jury in all cases ?

If they do entertain such a supposition, I believe that they deceive themselves grosely. Now, if a majority of the first legislature should act upon any amendments which might be proposed, I would require the assent of a majority of two-thirds of the next succeeding legislature; and before submitting any question of the kind to the people, I would have such a manifestation of popular opinion, as to leave no doubt what the wish of people really is. The majority of the people, we all know, have the right at all time, to revise the constitution under which they live; and they could do so, as they have done in the present instance, without any provision being inserted in the constitution. Such was the fact with reference to the constitution of 1790. There was no provision on the subject of future amendments inserted there, and yet here we are, a convention called together by the people of the state to prepare and submit amendments to them. Ai one time, the call for the convention was rejected, at another time it was agreed to. For my own part, I am not aware that the people of Pennsylvania have asked us to indulge the demagogues of the land, by granting them the power of perpetual agitation which must result from any provision which we may insert

, by which the constitution may be made too easily accessible. It would be well. therefore, that a large portion of the people should petition for such amendments before they are agreed to by the legislature—although, by a vote of the convention iaken this morning, we have refused to fix upon any definite number. event, before the legislature should finally act, it should be made manifest to them that there is something like a general feeling among the people, which calls for amendment. And this fact can be satisfactorily ascertained by requiring a majority of the first legislature, and a majority of two-thirds of the second legislature to act upon any propositions before they are submitted to the people.

For these reasons, I am in favor of the amendment of the gentleman from Lycoming, (Mr. Fleming) and shall vote for its adoption.

Mr. Fuller, of Fayette, said he was opposed to the amendment of the

In any

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »