Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

preservation of the Constitution. The extent of the country will supply business. And if it should not, the Legislature, besides legislative, is to have inquisitorial powers, which cannot safely be long kept in a state of suspension.

Mr. SHERMAN was decided for fixing the time, as well as for frequent meetings of the legislative body. Disputes and difficulties will arise between the two Houses, and between both and the States, if the time be changeable. Frequent meetings of parliament were required at the Revolution in England, as an essential safeguard of liberty. So also are annual meetings in most of the American charters and constitutions. There will be business enough to require it. The western country, and the great extent and varying state of our affairs in general, will supply objects.

Mr. RANDOLPH was against fixing any day irrevocably; but as there was no provision made any where in the Constitution for regulating the periods of meeting, and some precise time must be fixed, until the Legislature shall make provision, he could not agree to strike out the words altogether. Instead of which he moved to add the words following: “unless a different day shall be appointed by law.”

Mr. MADISON seconded the motion; and on the question,-Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye_8; New Hampshire, Connecticut, no-2.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to strike out “December," and insert "May.” It might frequently happen that our measures ought to be influenced by those in Europe, which were generally planned

during the winter, and of which intelligence would arrive in the spring.

Mr. Madison seconded the motion. He preferred May to December, because the latter would require the travelling to and from the seat of government in the most inconvenient seasons of the year.

Mr. Wilson. The winter is the most convenient season for business.

Mr. ELLSWORTH. The summer will interfere too much with private business, that of almost all the probable members of the Legislature being more or less connected with agriculture.

Mr. RANDOLPH. The time is of no great moment now, as the Legislature can vary it. On looking into the Constitutions of the States, he found that the times of their elections, with which the elections of the National Representatives would no doubt be made to coincide, would suit better with December than May, and it was advisable to render our innovations as little incommodjous as possible.

On the question for “May” instead of “December,"--South Carolina, Georgia, aye-2; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, no—8.

Mr. Reed moved to insert after the word, “Senate,” the words, “subject to the negative to be hereafter provided.” His object was to give an absolute negative to the Executive. He considered this as so essential to the Constitution, to the preservation of liberty, and to the public welfare, that his duty compelled him to make the motion.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS seconded him; and on the question,

Delaware, aye—1; New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, no-9.

Mr. RUTLEDGE. Although it is agreed on all hands that an annual meeting of the Legislature should be made necessary, yet that point seems not to be free from doubt as the clause stands. On this suggestion, “once at least in every year,” were inserted, nem. con.

Article 3, with the foregoing alterations, was agreed to nem. con., and is as follows: “The Legislative power shall be vested in a Congress to consist of two separate and distinct bodies of men, a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Legislature shall meet at least once in every year; and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless a different day shall be appointed by

law. 293

Article 4, Sect. 1, was taken up.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS moved to strike out the last member of the section, beginning with the words, “qualifications of Electors,” in order that some other provision might be substituted which would restrain the right of suffrage to freeholders.

Mr. FITZSIMONS seconded the motion.
Mr. WILLIAMSON was opposed to it.

Mr. Wilson. This part of the Report was well considered by the Committee, and he did not think it could be changed for the better. It was difficult to form any uniform rule of qualifications, for all the States. Unnecessary innovations, he thought, too, should be avoided. It would be very hard and disa

VOL. I.--79

greeable for the same persons, at the same time, to vote for representatives in the State Legislature, and to be excluded from a vote for those in the National Legislature.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR Morris. Such a hardship would be neither great nor novel. The people are accustomed to it, and not dissatisfied with it, in several of the States. In some, the qualifications are different for the choice of the Governor and of the Representatives; in others, for different houses of the Legislature. Another objection against the clause, as it stands, is, that it makes the qualifications of the National Legislature depend on the will of the States, which he thought not proper.

Mr. Ellsworth thought the qualifications of the electors stood on the most proper footing. The right of suffrage was a tender point, and strongly guarded by most of the State Constitutions. The people will not readily subscribe to the National Constitution, if it should subject them to be disfranchised. The States are the best judges of the circumstances and temper of their own people.

Colonel Mason. The force of habit is certainly not attended to by those gentlemen who wish for innovations on this point. Eight or nine States have extended the right of suffrage beyond the freehold

What will the people there say, if they should be disfranchised ? A power to alter the qualifications, would be a dangerous power in the hands of the Legislature.

Mr. BUTLER. There is no right of which the people are more jealous than that of suffrage. Abridgments of it tend to the same revolution as in

ers.

Holland, where they have at length thrown all power into the hands of the Senates, who fill up vacancies themselves, and form a rank aristocracy.

Mr. DICKINSON had a very different idea of the tendency of vesting the right of suffrage in the freeholders of the country. He considered them as the best guardians of liberty; and the restriction of the right to them as a necessary defence against the dangerous influence of those multitudes without property and without principle, with which our country, like all others, will in time abound. As to the unpopularity of the innovation, it was, in his opinion, chimerical. The great mass of our citizens is composed at this time of freeholders, and will be pleased with it.

Mr. ELLSWORTH. How shall the freehold be defined ? Ought not every man who pays a tax, to vote for the representative who is to levy and dispose of his money? Shall the wealthy merchants and manufacturers, who will bear a full share of the public burthens, be not allowed a voice in the imposition of them? Taxation and representation ought to go together.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. He had long learned not to be the dupe of words. The sound of aristocracy, therefore, had no effect upon him. It was the thing, not the name, to which he was opposed; and one of his principal objections to the Constitution, as it is now before us, is, that it threatens the country with an aristocracy. The aristocracy will grow out of the House of Representatives. Give the votes to people who have no property, and they will sell them to the rich, who will be able to buy

« ZurückWeiter »