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other? Thoso quostions will create no difficulty with thuso. who reflect, that in all cases, the smaller the number, and the . more permanent and conspicuous the station of men in power, the stronger must be the interest which they will individually feel in whatever concerns the government. Those who represent the dignity-of-their-country-in-the eyes of other-nations, will be particularly-sensible to every prospect of public danger
means or of a dishonorable.stagnation--in-publio_affairs. To those causes we are to ascribe the continual triumph of the British house of commons over the other branches of the government, whenever the engine of a money bill has been employed. An absolute inflexibility on the side of the latter, although it could not have failed to involve every department of the state in the genoral confusion, has neither been apprehended nor exporienced. The utmost degree of firmness that can be displayed by the federal senate or president, will not be more than equal to a resistance, in which they will be supported by constitutional and patriotic principles.
In this review of the constitution of the house of representatives, I have passed over the circumstance of economy, which, in the present state of affairs, might have had some effect in lessening the temporary number of representatives; and a disregard of which would probably have been as rich a theme of declamation against the constitution, as has been furnished by the smallness of the number proposed. I omit also any remarks on the difficulty which might be found, under present circumstances, in engaging in the federal service a large number of such characters as the people will probably elect. One observation, however, I must be permitted to add on this subject, as claiming, in my judgment, a very serious attention. It is, that in all legislative assemblies, the greater the number composing them may be, the fewer will be the men who will in fact direct their proceedings. In the first place, the more numerous any assembly may be, of whatever characters com. posed, the greater is known to be the ascendancy of passion
In the next place, the larger the number, the
greater will be the proportion of members of limited informatior and of weak capacities. Now it is precisely on characters of this description, that the eloquence and address of the few are known to act with all their force. In the ancient republics, where the whole body of the people assembled in person, a single orator, or an artful statesman, was generally seen to rule with as complete a sway, as if a sceptre had been placed in his single hands. On the same principle, the more multitudinous a representative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partake of the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people. Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning; and passion the slave of sophistry and declamation. The people can never err more than in supposing, that by multiplying their representatives beyond a certain limit, they strengthen the barrier against the government of a few. Experience will for ever admonish them, that, on the contrary, after securing a sufficient number for the purposes of safety, of local information, and of diffusive sympathy with the whole society, they will counteract their own views, by every addition to their representatives. The countenance of the government may become more democratic; but the soul that animates it, will be more oligarchic. The machine will be enlarged, but the fewer, and often the more secret, will be the springs by which its motions are directed.
As connected with the objection against the number of representatives, may properly be here noticed, that which has been suggested against the number made competent for legislative business. It has been said that more than a majority ought to have been required for a quorum, and in particular cases, if not in all, more than a majority of a quorum for a decision.
That some advantages might have resulted from such a precaution, cannot be denied. It might have been an additional shield to some particular interests, and another obstacle generally to hasty and partial measures. But these considerations are outweighed by the inconveniences in the opposite scale. In all cases where justice, or the general good, might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the funda:
mental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transforred_to_the_minority Woro- the
defensive privilege limited to particular cases, an interested -- minority. "might take advantage of it to skreen-themselves-from-equitable Batrifices to the general weal, or in particular emergencies to extort unreasonable indulgences. Lastly, it would facilitato and foster the baneful practice of secossions ; a practico which has shown itself, even in states where a majority only is required; a practice subversive of all the principles of order and regular government; a practice which leads more directly to public convulsions, and the ruin of popular governments, than any other which has yet been displayed among us.
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 22, 1788.
CONCERNING THE REGULATION OF ELECTIONS.
The natural order of the subject leads us to consider, in this place, that provision of the constitution which authorizes the national legislature to regulate, in the last resort, the election of its own members.
It is in these words: “The times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the congress may, at any timo, by law, make or altor such regulations, except as to places of choosing senators.”* This provision has not only been declaimed against by those who condemn the constitution in the gross; but it has been censured by those who have objected with less latitude, and greater moderation; and, in one instance, it has been thought exceptionable by a gentleman who has declared himself the advocate of overy other part of the system.
I am greatly mistaken, notwithstanding, if there be any article in the whole plan more completely defensible than this. Its propriety rests upon the evidence of this plain proposition, that every government ought to contain in itself the means of its own preservation. Every just reasoner will, at first sight, approve an
* 1st Clause, 4th Section of the 1st Article.
adherence to this rule in the work of the convention; and will disapprove every deviation from it, which may not appear to have been dictated by the necessity of incorporating into the work some particular ingredient, with which a rigid conformity to the rulo was incompatible. Even in this case, though ho may acquiesce in the necessity, yet he will not cease to regard a departure from so fundamental a principle, as a portion of imperfoction in the system which may prove the seed of future weakness, and perhaps anarchy.
It will not be alleged, that an election law could have been framed and inserted in the constitution, which would have been applicable to every probable change in the situation of the country; and it will, therefore, not be denied, that a discretionary power over elections ought to exist somewhere. It will, I presume, be as readily conceded, that there were only . three ways in which this power could have been reasonably organized; that it must either have been lodged wholly in the national legislature, or wholly in the state legislatures, or primarily in the latter, and ultimately in the former. The last mode has with reason been preferred by the convention. They havo submitted the regulation of elections for the federal government, in the first instanco, to tho local administrations ; which, in ordinary cases, and when no improper views prevail, may be both more convenient and more satisfactory; but they have reserved to the national authority a right to interpose, whenever extraordinary circumstances might render that inter, position necessary to its safety.
Nothing can be more evident, than that an exclusive power of regulating elections for the national government, in the bands of the state legislatures, would leave the existence of the union entirely at their mercy. They could at any moment annihilate it, by neglecting to provide for the choice of persons to administer its affairs. It is to little purposo to say, that a neglect or omission of this kind would not be likely to take place. The constitutional possibility of the thing, without an egninnlent for the risk, is an unanswerable objection. Nor has