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ures and all the defects of the Confederation, in proof of the reasoning which they employed. In addition to this, they could adduce the same general tendency in all former confederacies of the same nature. But no experiment had been made by the people of the American States, of a government founded expressly on the national character and relations of their inhabitants; and if the merits of such a government were now only to be maintained by theoretical reasoning, on the other hand it had not suffered the injury of acknowledged defeat.
The difficulty in the way of its adoption was its supposed tendency to absorb, and perhaps to annihilate, the sovereignties of the States. The advocates of the Virginia plan were called upon to show how the general sovereignty and jurisdiction which they proposed to give to their system could consist with a considerable, though subordinate, jurisdiction in the States. One of its moderate and candid opponents1 declared that, if this could be shown, the objections to it ought to be surrendered; but if not, he thought that those objections must have their full force. But, from the 'very nature of the case, that which had not been demonstrated by experience could rest only upon opinion; and while the Virginia system made no other provision for State defence against encroachments of the general government than such as might be found in the election by the State legislatures of the national Senate, the apprehensions of the smaller States could not be
1 Dr. Johnson of Connecticut.
satisfied, however admirable the theory, and however able might be the reasoning by which it was supported.
Let the reader, then, as he pursues the history of this conflict between the opposing interests of the two classes of States, and observes how strenuously the different theories were maintained, until victory became impossible on either side, note the danger of adhering too firmly to mere theoretical principles, in matters of government. He will see the impressive spectacle of States assembled for the formation of some system capable of answering the exigencies of their situation; he will see how rapidly a difference of local interests developed the most opposite theories, and how profoundly those theories were discussed; and he will see this conflict carried on for days, and even for weeks, with all the sincerity that interest lends to conviction, and all the tenacity that conviction can produce, until at last the whole discussion leads to the probable failure of the purpose for which the assembly had been instituted. He will then see an amalgamation of the two systems, which in their integrity were irreconcilable, and will witness the first introduction of that mode of adjusting opposite interests and conflicting theories of government which lies at the basis of the Constitution of the United States, and which alone can furnish a safe foundation on which to unite the destinies and wants of separate communities possessed of distinct political organizations and rights.
The Convention had received the report of the
committee of the whole on the 19th of June. that day until the 5th of July the struggle was continued, commencing with the proposition which affirmed the division of the legislative department of the government into two branches. Although such an arrangement did not necessarily involve the principle of national and popular representation, it was opposed as unnecessary by those who desired to retain the system of representation by States, and who therefore intended to preserve the existing organization of the Congress. Still, the needful harmony and completeness of the scheme, according to the genius of the Anglo-American liberty, required this division of the legislature.
Doubtless a single council or chamber can promulgate decrees and enact laws; but it had never been the habit of the people of America, as it never had been the habit of their ancestors for at least a period of somewhat more than five centuries, to regard a single chamber as favorable to liberty, or to wise legislation.1 The separation into two chambers of the lords spiritual and temporal, and the commons, in the English constitution, does not seem to have originated in a difference of personal rank, so much as in their position as separate estates of the realm. All the orders might have voted promiscuously in one house, and just as effectually signified
1 Mr. Hallam has traced the present constitution of Parliament to the sanction of a statute in the 15th of Edward II. (1322), which
he says recognizes it as already standing upon a custom of some length of time. Const. History,
the assent or dissent of Parliament to any measure proposed. But the practice of making the assent of Parliament to consist in the concurrent and separate action of the two estates, though difficult to be traced to its origin in any distinct purpose or cause, became confirmed by the growing importance of the commons, by their jealousy and vigilance, and by the controlling position which they finally assumed. As Parliament gradually proceeded to its present constitution, and the separate rights and privileges of the two houses became established, it was found that the practice of discussing a measure in two assemblies, composed of different persons, holding their seats by a different tenure and representing different orders of the state, was in the highest degree conducive to the security of the subject, and to sound legislation.2
So fully was the conviction of the practical con
1 Mr. Hallam does not concur in what he says has been a prevailing opinion, that Parliament was not divided into two houses at the first admission of the commons. That they did not sit in separate chambers proves nothing; for one body may have sat at one end of Westminster Hall, and the other at the opposite end. But he thinks that they were never intermingled in voting; and, in proof of this, he adduces the fact that their early grants to the King were separate, and imply distinct grantors, who did not intermeddle with each others' proceedings. He further
shows, that in the 11th Edward I. the commons sat in one place and the lords in another; and that in the 8th Edward II. the commons presented a separate petition or complaint to the King, and the same thing occurred in 1 Edward III. He infers from the rolls of Parliament, that the houses were divided as they are at present in the 8th, 9th, and 19th Edward II. (See the very valuable Chapter VIII., on the English Constitution, in Hallam's Middle Ages, III. 342.)
2 See on this subject Lieber on Civil Liberty, I. 209, edit. 1853.
venience and utility of two chambers established in the Anglican mind, that, when representative government came to be established in the British North American Colonies, although the original reason for the division ceased to be applicable, it was retained for its incidental advantages. In none of these Colonies was there any difference of social condition, or of political privilege or power, recognized in the system of representation; and as there were, therefore, no separate estates or orders among the people, requiring to be protected against each other's encroachments, or holding different relations to the crown, we cannot attribute the adherence to the system of two chambers, on the part of those who solicited and received the privilege of establishing these colonial governments, to anything but their belief in its practical advantages for the purposes of legislation. Still less can we suppose, that after the Revolution, and when there no longer existed any such motive as might have influenced the crown in modelling the colonial after the imperial institutions, to a certain extent, the people of these States should have perpetuated in their constitutions the principle of a division of the legislature into two chambers, for any other purpose than to secure the practical benefits which they and their ancestors had always found to flow from it.
Only three exceptions to this practice existed in America, at the time of the formation of the Constitution. They were the legislatures of the States of Pennsylvania and Georgia, and the Congress of the Confederation.