페이지 이미지

tial rights of the community, and with the means of gratifying that disposition, is it presumable that the persons who were actuated by it would amuse themselves in the ridiculous task of fabricating election laws for securing a preference to a favourite class of men ? Would they not be likely to prefer a conduct better adapted to their own immediate aggrandizement? Would they not rather boldly resolve to perpetuate themselves in office by one decisive act of usurpation, than to trust to precarious expedients, which, in spite of all the precautions that might accompany them, might terminate in the dismission, disgrace, and ruin of their authors ? Would they not fear that citizens not less tenacious than conscious of their rights, would flock from the remotest extremes of their respective states to the places of election, to overthrow their tyrants, and to substitute men who would be disposed to avenge the violated majesty of the people ?







The more candid opposers of the provision, contained in the plan of the convention, respecting elections, when pressed in argument, will sometimes concede the propriety of it; with this qualification, however, that it ought to bave been accompanied with a declaration, that all elections should be held in the counties where the electors reside. This, say they, was a necessary precaution against an abuse of the power. A declaration of this nature, would certainly have been harmless: So far as it would have had the effect of quieting apprehensions, it might not have been undesirable. But it would, in fact, have afforded little or no additional security against the danger apprehended; and the want of it will never be considered, by an impartial and judicious examiner, as a serious, still less as an insuporable, objection to the plan. The different views taken of the subject in the two preceding papers, must be sufficient to satisfy all dispassionate and discerning men, that if the public liberty should ever be the victim of the ambition of the national rulers, the power under examination, at least, will bo guiltless of the sacrifico.

If those who are inclined to consult their jealousy only, would exercise it in a careful inspection of the several state

constitutions, they would find little less room for disquietude and alarm, from the latitude which most of them allow in respect to elections, than from that which is proposed to be allowed to the national government in the same respect. A review of their situation, in this particular, would tend greatly to remove any ill impressions which may remain in regard to this matter. But, as that review would lead into long and tedious details, I shall content myself with the single example of the state in which I write. The constitution of New York makes no other provision for locality of elections, than that the members of the assembly shall be elected in the counties; thoso of the senate, in the great districts into which the state is, or may be divided : these at present are four in number, and comprehend each from two to six counties. It may readily be perceivod, that it would not be more difficult for the legislature of New-York to defeat the suffrages of the citizens of New York, by confining elections to particular places, than for the legislature of the United States to defeat the suffrages of the citizens of the union, by the like expedient. Suppose, for instance, the city of Albany was to be appointed the sole place of election for the county and district of which it is a part, would not the inhabitants of that city speedily become the only electors of the members both of the senate and assembly for that county and district? Can we imagine, that the electors who reside in the remote subdivisions of the counties of Albany, Saratoga, Cambridge, &c. or in any part of the county of Montgomery, would take the trouble to come to the city of Albany, to give their votes for members of the assembly or sonate, sooner than they would repair to the city of New York, to participate in the choice of the members of the foderal house of representatives? The alarming indifference discoverable in the exercise of so invaluable a privilege under the existing laws, which afford every facility to it, furnishes a ready answer to this question. And, abstracted from any experience on the subject, we can be at no loss to determine, that when the place of election is at an inconvenient distance from the elector, the effect

upon his conduct will be the same, whether that distance bo twenty miles, or twenty thousand miles. Hence it must appear, that objections to the particular modification of the federal power of regulating elections, will, in substance, apply with equal force to the modification of the like power in the constitution of this state; and for this reason it will be impossible to acquit the ono, and to condemn the other. A similar comparison would lead to the same conclusion, in respect to the constitutions of most of the other states.

If it should be said, that defects in the state constitutions furnish no apology for those which are to be found in the plan proposed; I answer, that, as the former have never been thought chargeable with inattention to the security of liberty, where the imputations thrown on the latter can be shown to be applicable to them also, the presumption is, that they are rather the cavilling refinements of a predetermined opposition, than the well founded inferences of a candid research after truth. To those who are disposed to consider, as innocent omissions in the state constitutions, what they regard as unpardonable blemishes in the plan of the convention, nothing can be said; or, at most, they can only be asked to assign somo substantial reason why the representatives of the people, in a single state, should be more impregnable to the lust of power, or other sinister motives, than the representatives of the peoplo of the United States? If they cannot do this, they ought, at least, to prove to us, that it is easier to subvert the liberties of three millions of people, with the advantage of local governments to head their opposition, than of two hundred thousand people who are destitute of that advantage. And in relation to the point immediately under consideration, they ought to convince us that it is less probable that a predominant faction, in a single state, should, in order to maintain its superiority, incline to a preference of a particular class of electors, than that a similar spirit should take possession of the representatives of thirteen states, spread over a vast region, and in several

respects distinguishable from each other by a diversity of local circumstances, prejudices, and interests.

Hitherto my observations have only aimed at a vindication of the provision in question, on the ground of theoretic propriety, on that of the danger of placing the power elsewhere, and on that of the safety of placing it in the manner proposed. But there remains to be mentioned a positive advantage, which will accrue from this disposition, and which could not as well have been obtained from any other: I allude to the circumstance of uniformity, in the time of elections for the federal house of represontatives. It is moro than possible, that this uniformity may be found by experience to be of great importance to the public welfare; both as a security against the perpetuation of the same spirit in the body, and as a cure for the diseases of faction. If each state may choose its own time of election, it is possible there may be at least as many different periods as there are months in the year. The times of election in the several states, as they are now established for local purposes, vary between extremes as wide as March and November. The consequence of this diversity would be, that there could never bappen a total dissolution or renovation of the body at one time. If an improper spirit of any kind should happen to prevail in it, that spirit would be apt to infuse itself into the new members, as they come forward in succession. The mass would be likely to remain nearly the same; assimilating constantly to itself its gradual accretions. There is a contagion in example, which few men have sufficient force of mind to resist. [ am inclined to think, that treble the duration in office, with the condition of a total dissolution of the body at the same time, might be less formidable to liberty, than one third of that duration subject to gradual and successive alterations.

Uniformity, in the time of elections, seems not less requisite for executing the idea of a regular rotation in the senate; and for conveniently assembling the legislature at a stated period

in each year.

« 이전계속 »