Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

to obtain a liquidation of their claims? Are they to be excluded ?

Mr. Gorham was for leaving to the Legislature the providing against such abuses as had been mentioned.

Col. Mason mentioned the parliamentary qualifications adopted in the reign of Queen Anne, which he said had met with universal approbation.

Mr. Madison had witnessed the zeal of men having accounts with the public, to get into the Legislatures for sinister purposes. He thought, however, that if any precaution were taken for excluding them, the one proposed by Col. Mason ought to be re-modelled. It might be well to limit the exclusion to persons who had received money from the public, and had not accounted for it.

Mr. Gouverneur Morris. It was a precept of great antiquity, as well as of high authority, that we should not be righteous overmuch. He thought we ought to be equally on our guard against being wise overmuch. The proposed regulation would enable the Government to exclude particular persons from office as long as they pleased. He mentioned the case of the Commander-in-Chief's presenting his account for secret services, which, he said, was so moderate that every one was astonished at it; and so simple that no doubt could arise on it. Yet, had the Auditor been disposed to delay the settlement, how easily he might have effected it, and how cruel would it be in such a case to keep a distinguished and meritorious citizen under a temporary disability and disfranchisement. He mentioned this case, merely to illustrate the objectionable nature of the proposition. He was opposed to

such minutious regulations in a Constitution. The parliamentary qualifications quoted by Col. MASON had been disregarded in practice; and were but a scheme of the landed against the moniel interest.

Mr. PINCKNEY and General PINCKNEY moved to insert, by way of amendment, the words, “ Judiciary and Executive,” so as to extend the qualifications to those Departments; which was agreed to, nem. con.

Mr. Gerry thought the inconvenience of excluding a few worthy individuals, who might be public debtors, or have unsettled accounts, ought not to be put in the scale against the public advantages of the regulation, and that the motion did not go far enough.

Mr. King observed, that there might be great danger in requiring landed property as a qualification; since it might exclude the moneyed interest, whose aids may be essential in particular emergencies to the public safety.

Mr. DICKINSON was against any recital of qualifications in the Constitution. It was impossible to make a complete one; and a partial one would, by implication, tie up the hands of the Legislature from supplying the omissions. The best defence lay in the freeholders who were to elect the Legislature. Whilst this resource should remain pure, the public interest would be safe. If it ever should be corrupt, no little expedients would repel the danger. He doubted the policy of interweaving into a republican Constitution a veneration for wealth. He had always understood that a veneration for poverty and virtue were the objects of republican encouragement. It seemed improper that any man of merit should be subjected to disabilities in a republic, where merit was understood to form the great title to public trust, honors, and rewards.

Mr. Gerry. If property be one object of government, provisions to secure it cannot be improper.

Mr. Madison moved to strike out the word "landed," before the word “ qualifications.” If the

If the proposition should be agreed to, he wished the Committee to be at liberty to report the best criterion they could devise. Landed possessions were no certain evidence of real wealth. Many enjoyed them to a great extent who were more in debt than they were worth. The unjust laws of the States had proceeded more from this class of men, than any others. It had often happened that men who had acquired landed property on credit got into the Legislatures with a view of promoting an unjust protection against their creditors. In the next place, if a small quantity of land should be made the standard, it would be no security; if a large one, it would exclude the proper representatives of those classes of citizens, who were not landholders. It was politic as well as just, that the interests and rights of every class should be duly represented and understood in the public councils. It was a provision every where established, that the country should be divided into districts, and representatives taken from each, in order that the Legislative assembly might equally understand and sympathize with the rights of the people in every part of the community. It was not less proper, that every class of citizens should have an opportunity of making their rights

be felt and understood in the public councils. The three principal classes into which our citizens were divisible, were the landed, the commercial, and the manufacturing. The second and third class bear, as yet, a small proportion to the first. The proportion, however, will daily increase. We see in the populous countries of Europe now, what we shall be hereafter. These classes understand much less of each other's interests and affairs, than men of the same class inhabiting different districts. It is

particularly requisite, therefore, that the interests of one or two of them, should not be left entirely to the care or impartiality of the third. This must be the case, if landed qualifications should be required; few of the mercantile, and scarcely any of the manufacturing, class, choosing, whilst they continue in business, to turn any part of their stock into landed property. For these reasons he wished, if it were possible, that some other criterion than the mere possession of land should be devised. He concurred with Mr. GOUVERNEUR Morris in thinking that qualifications in the electors would be much more effectual than in the elected. The former would discriminate between real and ostensible property in the latter; but he was aware of the difficulty of forming any uniform standard that would suit the different circumstances and opinions prevailing in the different States.

Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS seconded the motion.

On the question for striking out “landed,”—New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-10; Maryland, no. 1. On the question on the first part of Colonel Mason's proposition, as to “ qualification of property and citizenship,” as so amended, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, aye-8; Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, no—3.

The second part, for disqualifying debtors, and persons having unsettled accounts, being under consideration,

Mr. CARROLL moved to strike out, “having unsettled accounts."

Mr. GORHAM seconded the motion; observing, that it would put the commercial and manufacturing part of the people on a worse footing than others, as they would be most likely to have dealings with the public.

Mr. L. MARTIN. If these words should be struck ont, and the remaining words concerning debtors retained, it will be the interest of the latter class to keep their accounts unsettled as long as possible.

Mr. Wilson was for striking them out. They put too much power in the hands of the auditors, who might combine with rivals in delaying settlements, in order to prolong the disqualifications of particular

We should consider that we are providing a Constitution for future generations, and not merely for the peculiar circumstances of the moment. The time has been, and will again be, when the public safety may depend on the voluntary aids of individuals, which will necessarily open accounts with the public; and when such accounts will be a characteristic of patriotism. Besides, a partial enumera


« ZurückWeiter »