Abbildungen der Seite

tive principle. This claim, we find was made at the formation of the constitution. The great states naturally wished for a popular choice of first magistrate: this mode was sanctioned by the example of many of the states, in the choice of governor. The small states claimed a choice on the federative principle, by the legislatures, and to vote by states: analogies and examples were not wanting to sanction this mode of election. A consideration of the weight and influence of a President of this union, must have multiplied the difficulties of agreeing upon the mode of choice. But, as I have before said, by mutual concession, they agreed upon the present mode, combining both principles and dividing between the two parties, thus mutually jealous, as they could, this important privilege of electing a chief magistrate. This mode then became established, and the right of the small states to elect upon the federative principle, or by states, in case of contingency of electoral failure of choice, cannot with reason and fairness be taken from them, without their consent, and on a full understanding of its operation; since it was meant to be secured to them by the constitution, and was one of the terms, upon which they became members of the present confederacy; and for which privilege they gave an equivalent to the great states, in sacrificing so much of the federative principle, or state equality.

The constitution is nicely balanced, with the federative and popular principles; the senate are the guardians of the former, and the House of Representatives of the latter; and any attempts to destroy this balance, under whatever specious names or pretences they may be presented, should be watched with a jealous eye. Perhaps a fair definition of the constitutional power of amending is, that you may, upon experiment, so modify the constitution, in its practice and operation, as to give it, upon its own principles, a more complete effect. But this is an attack upon a fundamental principle established after a long deliberation, and by mutual concession—a principle of essential importance to the instrument itself, and an attempt to arrest from the small states, a vested right, and, by it, to increase the power and influence of the large states. I shall not pretend, sir, that the parties to this constitutional compact, cannot alter its original, essential principles; and that such alterations may not be effected under the name of amendment; but, let a proposal of that kind come forward in its own proper and undisguised shape; let it be fairly stated to Congress, to the state legislatures, to the people at large, that the intention is to change an important federative feature in the constitution, which change, in itself and all its consequences, will tend to a consolidation of this union into a simple republic; let it be fairly stated, that the small states have too much agency in the important article of electing a chief magistrate, and that the great states claim the choice, and we shall then have a fair decision. If the senators of the small states, and if their state legislatures will then quietly part with the right they have, no person can reasonably complain.

Nothing can be more obvious, than the intention of the plan, adopted by our constitution, for choosing a President. The electors are to nominate two persons, of whom they cannot know which will be President; this circumstance not only induces them to select both from the best men, but gives a direct advantage into the hands of the small states, even in the electoral choice. For they can always select from the two candidates, set up by the electors of large states, by throwing their votes upon their favorite, and of course giving him a majority; or, if the electors of the large states should, to prevent this effect, scatter their votes for one candidate, then the electors of the small states would have it in their power to elect a Vice President. So that, in any event, the small states will have a considerable agency in the election. But if the discriminating or designating principle is carried,

as contained in this resolution, the whole, or nearly the whole right and agency of the small states in the electoral choice of chief magistrate, is destroyed, and their chance of obtaining a federative choice by states, if not destroyed, is very much diminished. For this identical purpose is the principle of electoral discrimination and designation, introduced into the resolution before you; for the same purpose is the number of candidates reduced from five to three, from whom the House of Representatives may elect, in case of electoral failure of choice; that is, to destroy, or diminish the agency of the small states, in the choice of President. For what purpose else, are we perpetually told, and from all parts of the senate, that the public will is opposed by the present mode, and the public will cannot be gratified without the introduction of the discriminating principle. By the public will thus mentioned, the gentlemen mean the will of a popular majority, or the will of the great states, which, in this case, I repeat it, are the same. How is it possible for the gentleman to increase the chances of gratifying this description of the public will without decreasing the agency of the small states?

The whole power of election is now vested in the two parties~numbers and states, or great and small states; and it is demonstration itself, that if


increase the power of the one, in just such proportion you diminish that of the other. Do the gentlemen suppose, that the public will, when constitutionally ex. pressed, by a majority of states, in pursuance of the federative principle of our government, is of less validity, or less binding upon the community at large, than the public will expressed by a popular majority ? The framers of your constitution, the people who adopted it, meant, that the public will, in the choice of a President, should be expressed by electors, if they could agree, and if not, that the public will should be expressed by a majority of the states, acting in their federative capacity, and that, in both cases, the ex

pression of the public will should be equally binding. Is it pretended that the public will can never, properly or constitutionally, be expressed, but by a majority of numbers, of the people or of the House of Representatives?' This may be a pleasing doctrine enough to great states; but it is certainly incorrect. Our constitution has given the expression of the public will, in á variety of instances, other than that of the choice of President, into very different hands from either the House of Representatives or the people at large. The President and senate, and in many cases the President alone, can express the public will, in appointments of high trust and responsibility, and it cannot be forgotten that the President sometimes expresses the public will, by removals. Treaties, highly important expressions of the public will, are made by the President and senate; and they are the supreme law of the land. In the several states, many great offices are filled, and even the chief magistracy by various modes of election. The public will is sometimes expressed by pluralities, instead of majorities; sometimes by both branches of the legislatures, and sometimes by one; and in certain contingencies, elections are settled by lot. The people have adopted constitutions containing such regulations, and experience has proved that they are well calculated to preserve their liberties and promote their happiness. From what good, or even pardonable motive, then, can it be urged, that the present mode of electing our President, has a tendency to counteract the public will ? Do gentlemen intend to destroy every federal feature in this constitution ? And is this resolution a precursor to a complete consolidation of the union, and to the establishment of a simple republic? Or will it suffice to break down every federative feature, which secures to one portion of the union, to the small states, their rights? I am not without my fears, Mr. President, that this is but the beginning of evils, and that this constitution, the bulwark of the feeble members of the confederacy; the protection of the weak against the strong; the security of the small against the great; the last, best hope of man, with a view to stability in a free government, and to the preservation of liberty in a republic ; is destined to undergo changes, and suffer innovations, till there be no residue worth preserving, and nothing left, which ambition will condescend to overturn.

Time will not permit me to dwell any longer on this part of my argument.

my argument. But I am deceived, sir, if the view I have now taken of the constitution, does not show most obviously, that in its formation there was a struggle between the great and small states, with respect to many of its principles and leading features: and that the participation in the election of a chief magistrate, clearly secured to them by the constitution, will receive a deadly blow by the adoption of the proposed amendment.

It can be no contradiction to my ideas upon the subject, if we have heard nothing of state conflicts, in the administration of this government. The great states have never, till now, directly attempted to violate the sanctuary of the small, and despoil them of their rights; had this been earlier attempted, we should have heard and seen the same jealousy awakened, and the same opposition exerted. The conflict could happen in no other way, than by an attack from the large states. We had neither the desire nor ability to injure them, and we now ask no favors, but their permission to enjoy, in peace and safety, the rights conceded to us by themselves, and secured by a solemn constitutional compact.

We have been told by a gentleman from Virginia, that it would be impolitic in us to rouse the great states. I shall, at present, take no further notice of this warning, given to us, no doubt, in the full exercise of benevolence, but to request the small states to preserve it in constant recolleetion. It may induce them not hastily to part with constitutional security. There

« ZurückWeiter »