« ZurückWeiter »
The merits have never, until now, been before us, for although considerable time has been consumed in debate, it has chiefly been directed to the subordinate amendments, and not to the main resolution. But since the senate have refused to adjourn, I will now offer some observations on the merits, in doing which, I will study brevity, as much as the importance of the subject will permit.
I shall attempt to prove, sir, that the resolution, before us, contains principles which have a manifest tendency to deprive the small states of an important right, secured to them by a solemn and constitutional compact, and to vest an overwhelming power in the 'great states. And, further, I shall attempt to show, that in many other points the resolution is objectionable, and for a variety of causes, ought not to be adopted.
As I shall be obliged, in delineating the main features of this resolution, to mention the great states in the union as objects of jealousy, I wish it to be understood, that no special stigma is intended. 6 Man is man," was the maxim expressed, in an early part of this debate, by the gentleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Butler,) and, in application to the subject of government, the maxim is worthy to be written in letters
whole number of electors appointed ; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers, not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states must be necessary to a choice. The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice President,
shall be the Vice President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the senate shall choose the Vice President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two thirds of the whole number of senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President, shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States.
of gold. Yes, sir, “ man is man,” and the melancholy truth, that he is always imperfect and frequently wicked, induces us to fear his power, and guard against his rapacity, by the establishment and preservation of laws, and well regulated constitutions of government. Man, when connected with very many of his fellowmen, in a great state, derives power from the circumstance of this numerous combination; and from every circumstance, which clothes him with additional power, he will generally derive some additional force to his passions.
Having premised this, I shall not deem it requisite to make any apology, when I attempt to excite the attention, the vigilance, and even the jealousy of the small, in reference to the conduct of the great states. The caution is meant to apply against the imperfections and passions of man, generally, and not against any state, or description of men, particularly.
[Mr. Tracy here made some observations explanatory of his meaning, when he used the words small and great, as applicable to states.)
It will be recollected, that, in the various turns which this debate has taken, gentlemen have repeatedly said, that the constitution was formed for the people, that the good of the whole was its object, that nothing was discernible in it like a contest of states, nothing like jealousy of small states against the great; and although such distinctions and jealousies might have existed under the first confederation; yet they could have no existence under the last. And one gentleman, (Mr. Smith, of Maryland,) has said, that he has been a member of this government ten years, and has heard nothing of great and small states, as in the least affecting the operations of government, or the feelings of those who administer it. Propriety, therefore, requires, that we attentively examine the constitution itself, not only to obtain correct ideas upon these observations, so repeatedly urged; but to place, in the proper light, the operations and effects of the resolution in debate.
If we attend to the constitution, we shall immediately find evident marks of concession and compromise ; and that the parties to these concessions were the great and small states. And the members of the convention, who formed the instrument, have, in private information and public communications, united in the declaration, that the constitution was the result of concession and compromise between the great and small states. In this examination of the constitution, it will, be impossible to keep out of view our political relations under the first confederation. We primarily united upon the footing of complete state equality; each state had one, and no state had more than one vote in the federal council or Congress. With such a confederation we successfully waged war, and became an independent nation. When we were relieved from the
pressure of war, that confederation, both in structure and power, was found inadequate to the purposes for which it was established. Under these circumstances, the states, by their convention, entered into a new agreement upon principles better adapted to promote their mutual security and happiness. But this last agreement or constitution, under which we are now united, was manifestly carved out of the first confederation. The small states adhered tenaciously to the principles of state equality; and gave up only a part of this federative principle, complete state equality, and that, with evident caution and reluctance. To this federative principle they were attached by habit; and their attachment was sanctioned and corroborated by the example of most, if not all the ancient and the modern confederacies. And when the great states claimed a weight in the councils of the nation proportionate to their numbers and wealth, the novelty of the claim, as well as its obvious tendency to reduce the sovereignty of the small states, must have produced serious obstacles to its admission. Hence it is, that we find in the constitution but one entire departure from the federal principle. The House of Representatives is established upon the popular principle and given to numbers and wealth, or to the great states, which, in this view of the subject, are synonymous. It was thought by the convention, that a consolidation of the states into one simple republic, would be improper: and the local feelings and jealousies of all, but more especially of the small states, rendered a consolidation impracticable. The senate, who have the power of a legislative check upon the House of Representatives, and many other extensive and important powers, is preserved as an entire federative feature of government, as it was enjoyed, by the small states, under the first confederacy.
In the article, which obliges the electors of President to vote for one person not an inhabitant of the same state with themselves, is discovered state jealousy. In the majorities, required for many purposes by the constitution, although there were other motives for the regulations, yet the jealousy of the small states is clearly discernible. Indeed, sir, if we peruse the constitution with attention, we shall find the small states are perpetually guarding the federative principle, that is, state equality: and this, in every part of it, except in the choice of the House of Representatives, and in their ordinary legislative proceedings. They go so far as to prohibit any amendment which may affect the equality of states in the senate. This is guarding against almost an impossibility; because the senators of small states must be criminally remiss in their attendance, and the legislatures extremely off their guard, if they permit such alterations, which aim at their own existence. But lest some accident, some unaccountable blindness or perfidy should put in jeopardy the federative principle in the senate, they totally and forever prohibit all attempts at such a measure.
In the choice of President, the mutual caution and concession of the great and small states, is, if possible, more conspicuous than in any other part of the constitution. He is to be chosen by electors appointed as the state legislatures shall direct, not according to
numbers entirely, but adding two electors in each state as representatives of state sovereignty. Thus Delaware obtains three votes for President, whereas she could have but one in right of numbers. Yet, mixed as this mode of choice is with both popular and federative principles, we see the small states watching its motions and circumscribing it to one attempt only; and on failure of an electoral choice, they instantly seize upon the right of a federal election, and select from the candidates a President, by states, and not by numbers. In confirmation of my assertion, that this part of the constitution was peculiarly the effect of compromise between the great and small states, permit me to quote an authority, which will certainly have great weight, not only in the senate, but through the union, I mean that of the present secretary of state, (Mr. Madison,) who was a leading member of the federal convention who formed, and of the Virginia convention who adopted the constitution. In the debates of the Virginia convention, volume 3, page 77, he says, (speaking of the mode of electing the President,) “ As to the eventual voting by states it has my approbation. The lesser states and some larger states will be generally pleased by that mode. The deputies from the small states argued, and there is some force in their reasoning, that when the people voted, the large states evidently had the advantage over the rest, and without varying the mode, the interests of the little states might be neglected or sacrificed. Here is a compromise. For, in the eventual election, the small states will have the advantage.”
After this view of the constitution, let us inquire, what is the direct object of the proposed alteration in the choice of President ? To render more practicable and certain the choice by electors: and for this reason; that the people at large, or, in other words, that the great states, ought to have more weight and influence in the choice; that it should be brought nearer to the popular, and carried further from the federa