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But the Congress being in fact only an assembly of deputies from confederated States, the means scarcely existed for the application of the principle so familiar in the legislatures of most of the States themselves. As a new government was now to be formed, whose theoretical and actual powers were to be essentially different, an opportunity was afforded for the ancient and favorite construction of the legislative department. The proposal was resisted, not because it was doubted that, in a government of direct legislative authority, in which the people are themselves to be represented, the system of two chambers is practically the best, but because those who opposed its introduction denied the propriety of attempting to establish a government of that kind. The States of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, therefore, recorded their votes against such a division of the legislature, and the vote of Maryland was divided upon the question.'
The reader will observe, however, that, in its present aspect, there was a chasm in the Virginia plan, which to some extent justifies the opposition of the minority to the system of two legislative chambers. According to that plan, the people of the States were to be represented in both chambers in proportion to their numbers. But as there were no distinct orders among the people to furnish a different basis for the two houses, the system must either be a mere duplicate representation of the whole people, as it is in the State constitutions generally, or some arti
1 Connecticut upon this question voted with the majority.
ficial basis must be provided for one house, to distinguish it from the other, and to furnish a check as between the two. In a republican government, and in a state of society where property is not entailed and distinctions of personal rank cannot exist, such a basis is not easily found; and if found, is not likely to be stable and effectual. The happy expedient of selecting the States as the basis of representation in the Senate, which had not yet been agreed upon, and which was resorted to as an adjustment of a serious conflict between two opposite principles of government, has furnished a really different foundation for the two branches, as distinct as the separate representation of the different orders in the British .constitution. It has thus secured the incidental advantages of two chambers, without resorting to those fluctuating or arbitrary distinctions among the people, which can alone afford, in such a country as ours, even an ostensible difference of origin for legislative bodies.
The same struggle which had been maintained upon this question was continued through all the votes taken upon the mode of electing the members of the two branches, and upon their tenure of office. It is not necessary here to rehearse the details of these proceedings; the result was, that the members of the first branch of the legislature were to be chosen by the people of the States for a period of two years, and to be twenty-five years of age, while the members of the second or senatorial branch were to be chosen by the State legislatures for a period of
six years, and to be thirty years of age. The States of Pennsylvania and Virginia voted against the election of senators by the legislatures of the States, because it was still uncertain whether an equality or a ratio of representation would finally prevail in that branch, and the election by the legislatures was considered to have a tendency to the adoption of an equality.1
At length, the sixth resolution, which defined the powers of Congress, and the seventh and eighth, which involved the fundamental point of the suffrage in the two branches, were reached. The subject of the powers of Congress was postponed, and the question was stated on the rule of suffrage for the first branch, which the resolution declared ought to be according to an equitable ratio. In the great debate which ensued, Madison, Hamilton, Gorham, Reed, and Williamson combated the objections of the smaller States, while Luther Martin, with his accustomed warmth, resisted the introduction of the new principle. The discussion involved on both sides a repetition of the arguments previously employed; but some of the views presented are of great importance, especially those taken by Madison and Hamilton, of the situation in which the smaller States must be placed, if a constitution should not be formed and adopted containing a just distribution of political power among the whole people of the country, creating thereby a government of sufficient energy to protect each and all of the States against
1 Madison, Elliot, V. 240.
2 June 28.
foreign powers, against the influence of the larger members of the confederacy, and against the dangers to be apprehended from their own governments.
Let each State, said Mr. Madison, depend on itself for its security, in a position of independence of the Union, and let apprehensions arise of dangers from distant powers, or from neighboring States, and from their present languishing condition, all the States, large as well as small, would be transformed into vigorous and high-toned governments, with an energy fatal to liberty and peace. The weakness and jealousy of the smaller States would quickly introduce some regular military force, against sudden danger from their powerful neighbors; the example would be followed, would soon become universal, and the means of defence against external danger would become the instruments of tyranny at home. These consequences were to be apprehended, whether the States should run into a total separation from each other, or into partial confederacies. Either event would be truly deplorable, and those who might be accessory to either could never be forgiven by their country, or by themselves.'
To these consequences of a dissolution of the Union, Hamilton added another, equally serious. Alliances, he declared, must be formed with different rival and hostile nations of Europe, who would seek to make us parties to their own quarrels. The representatives of foreign nations having American dominions betrayed the utmost anxiety about the 1 Madison, Elliot, V. 256.
result of that meeting of the States. It had been said that respectability in the eyes of Europe was not the object at which we were to aim; that the proper design of republican government was domestic tranquillity and happiness. This was an ideal distinction. No government could give us tranquillity and happiness at home, which did not possess sufficient stability and strength to make us respectable abroad. This was the critical moment for forming such a government. We should run every risk in trusting to future amendments. As yet, we retain the habits of union. We are weak, and sensible of our weakness. Henceforward the motives would become feeble and the difficulties greater. It was a miracle that they were here, exercising their tranquil and free deliberations on the subject. It would be madness to trust to future miracles.1
But these warnings were of no avail against the settled determination of those who saw greater dangers in the establishment of a government which was in their view to approximate the condition of the States to that of counties in a single State. The principle of a proportionate representation of the populations of the State, was just and necessary; but it was now leading to the extreme of an entire separation, because it was carried to the extreme of a full application to every part of the government. In like manner, there was an equally urgent necessity for some provision which should receive the States in their political capacity, and on a footing of
1 Madison, Elliot, V. 258.