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It may be asked, why then could not a time have been fixed in the constitution ? As the most zealous adversaries ci the plan of the convention in this state, are in general not less zealous admirers of the constitution of the state, the question may be rotorted, and it may be asked, why was not a time for the like purpose fixed in the constitution of this state ? No better answer can be given, than that it was a matter which might safely be intrusted to legislative discretion; and that, if a time had been appointed, it might, upon experiment, have been found less convenient than some other time. The same answer may be given to the question put on the other side. And it may be added, that the supposed danger of a gradual change being merely speculative, it would have been hardly advisable upon that speculation to establish, as a fundamental point, what would deprive several states of the convenience of having the elections for their own governments, and for the national government, at the same epoch.
NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 29, 1788.
CONCERNING THE CONSTITUTION OF THE SENATE, WITH REGARD
TO THE QUALIFICATIONS OF THE MEMBERS; THE MANNER OF APPOINTING THEM; THE EQUALITY OF REPRESENTATION; THE NUMBER OF THE SENATORS, AND THE DURATION OF THEIR APPOINTMENTS.
HAVING examined the constitution of the house of representatives, and answered such of the objections against it as seemed to merit notice, I enter next on the examination of the senate.
The heads under which this member of the government may be considered, are—I. The qualifications of senators—II. The appointmont of thom by the stato logislaturos —III. The equality of representation in the senate--IV. The number of senators, and the term for which they are to be elected -V. The powers vested in the senate.
I. The qualifications proposed for senators, as distinguished from those of representatives, consist in a more advanced age, and a longer period of citizenship. A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years' are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions, is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust; which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same timo, that the senator should
have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advan. tages; and which, participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none, who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits, incident to foreign birth and education. The term of nine years appears to be a prudent mediocrity between a total exclusion of adopted citizens, whose merit and talents may claim a share in the public confidence; and an indiscriminate and hasty admission of them, which might create a_channel for foreign influence on the national councils.
II. It is equally unnecessary to dilate on the appointment of senators by the state legislatures. Among the various modes which might have been devised for constituting this branch of the government, that which has been proposed by the convention is probably the most congenial with the public opinion. It is recommended by the double advantage of favouring a select appointment, and of giving to the state governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government, as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems.
III. The equality of representation in the senate is another point, which, being evidently the result of compromise between the opposite pretensions of the large and the small states, does not call for much discussion. If indeed it be right, that among a people thoroughly incorporated into ono nation, every district ought to have a proportional share in the government: and that among independent and sovereign states bound together by a simple league, the partios, however unequal in size, ought to have an equal share in the common councils, it does not appear to be without some reason, that in a compound republic, partaking both of the national and federal character, the government ought to be founded on a mixture of the principles of proportional and equal representation. But it is superfluous to try, by the standard of theory, a part of the constitution which 18 allowed on all hands to be the result, not of theory, but“ of a spirit of' amity, and that mutual deference and concession
which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensalılo.” A common government, with powers equal to its objects, is called for by the voice, and still more loudly by the political situation, of America. A government founded on principles more consonant to the wishes of the larger states, is not likely to be obtained from the smaller states. The only option then for the former, lies between the proposed government, and a government still more objectionable. Under this alternativo, the advice of prudence must be, to embrace the lesser evil; and, instead of indulging a fruitless anticipation of the possible mischiofs which may ensue, to contemplate rather the advantageous consequences which may qualify the sacrifice.
In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each state, is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in tho individual states,
and un instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small states; since they are not less solicitous to guard by every possible expedient against an improper consolidation of the states into one simple republic.
Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the sonate is, the additional impediment it must. prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the states. It must be acknowledged that this complicated check on legislation may, in some instances, be injurious as well as beneficial; and that the peculiar defence which it involves in favour of the smaller states, would be more rational, if any interests common to them, and distinct from those of the other states, would otherwise be exposed to peculiar dangor. But as the larger states will always be able, by their power over the supplies, to defeat unreasonable exertions of this prerogative of the lesser states; and as the facility and excess of law-making seem to be the diseases to which our governments are most liable, it is not
impossible, that this part of the constitution may be more convenient in practice, than it appears to many in contemplation.
IV. The number of senators, and the duration of their appointment, come next to be considerod. In order to form an accurate judgment on both these points, it will be proper ro inquire into the purposes which are to be answered by the senate; and, in order to ascertain these, it will be necessary to review the inconveniences which a republic must suffer from the want of such an institution.
First. It is a misfortune incident to republican government, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those who administer it, may forget their obligations to their sonstituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust. (In this point of view, a senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the power with, a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government.) It doubles the security to the people, by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies in schemes of usurpation or perfidy, whero the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. ))This is a procaution founded on such clear principles, and 'now so well understood in the United States, that it would be more than superfluous to enlarge on it. I will barely remark, that, as the improbability of sinister combinations will be in proportion to the dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to distinguish them from each other by every circumstance which will consist with a due harmony in all proper measures, and with the genuine principles of republican government.
Second. The nocessity of a sonate is not less indicated by the propensity of all (singloyand numerous assemblies, to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions. Examples on this subject might be cited without number; and from proceedings within the United States, as well as from the history of other nations. But a position that will not be contradicted, need not be proved. All that need be remarked, is,