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equality, as constituent parts of the system. But this principle was now forcing the majority into the alternative of a partial confederacy, or of none at all, because it was insisted that the government must be exclusively founded on it. Neither party was ready to adopt the suggestion that the two ideas, instead of being opposed, ought to be combined, so that in one branch the people should be represented, and in the other the States. The consequence was that the proportionate rule of suffrage for the first branch was established by a majority of one State only; and the Convention passed on, with a fixed and formidable minority wholly dissatisfied, to consider what rule should be applied to the Senate.
The objects of a Senate were readily apprehended. They were, in the first place, that there might be a second chamber, with a concurrent authority in the enactment of laws; secondly, that a greater degree of stability and wisdom might reside in its deliberations, than would be likely to be found in the other branch of the legislative department; and, thirdly, that there might be some diversity of interest between the two bodies. These objects were to be attained by providing for the Senate a distinct and separate basis of its own. If such a basis is found among the individuals composing a political
1 It was made at this stage by Dr. Johnson.
2 The States opposed to an equality of suffrage in the first branch were Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Georgia, 6; those in favor of it were Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The vote of Maryland was divided.
society, it must consist of the distinctions among them either in respect to social rank or in respect to property. With regard to the first, the absence of all distinctions of rank rendered it impossible to assimilate the Senate of the United States to the aristocratic bodies which were found in other governments possessed of two legislative chambers. Property, as held by individuals, might have been assumed as the basis of a distinct representation, if the laws and customs of the different States had generally admitted of its possession in large masses through successive generations. But they did not admit of it. The general distribution and diffusion of property was the rule; its lineal transmission from the father to the eldest son was the exception. Had the Senate been founded upon property, it must have been upon the ratio of wealth as between the different States, in the same manner in which the senatorial representation of counties was arranged under the first constitution of Massachusetts.1 It was very soon settled and conceded, that the States, as political societies, must be preserved; and if they were to be represented as corporations, or as so many separate aggregates of individuals, they must be received into the representation on an equal footing, or according to their relative weight. An inquiry into their relative wealth must have involved the question, as to five of them at least, whether their slaves were to be counted as part of that wealth. No satisfactory decision of this naked question could have 1 Mr. Baldwin of Georgia suggested this model.
been had; and it is to be considered among the most fortunate of the circumstances attending the formation of the Constitution, that this question was not solved, with a view of founding the Senate upon the relative wealth of the States.
Two courses only remained. The basis of representation in the Senate must either be found in the numbers of people inhabiting the States, creating an unequal representation, or the people of each State, regarded as one, and as equal with the people of every other State, must be represented by the same number of voices and votes. The former was the plan insisted on by the friends and advocates of the "national" system; the latter was the great object on which the minority now rallied all their strength.
The debate was not long protracted; but it was marked with an energy, a firmness, and a warmth, on both sides, which reveal the nature of the peril then hanging over the unformed institutions, whose existence now blesses the people of America. As the delegations of the States approached the decision of this critical question, the result of a separation became apparent, and with it phantoms of coming dissension and strife, of foreign alliances and adverse combinations, loomed in the future. Reason and argument became powerless to persuade. Patriotism, for a moment, lost its sway over men who would at any time have died for their common country. Not mutterings only, but threats even were heard of an appeal to some foreign ally, by the smaller States, if the larger ones should dare to dis
CH. VI.] VOTE ON REPRESENTATION IN THE SENATE. 141
solve the confederacy by insisting on an unjust scheme of government.
Ellsworth, of Connecticut, in behalf of the minority, offered to accept the proportional representation for the first branch, if the equality of the States were admitted in the second, thus making the government partly national and partly federal. It would be vain, he said, to attempt any other than this middle ground. Massachusetts was the only Eastern State that would listen to a proposition for excluding the States, as equal political societies, from an equal voice in both branches. The others would risk every consequence, rather than part with so dear a right. An attempt to deprive them of it was at once cutting the body of America in two.
At this moment, foreseeing the probability of an equal division of the States represented in the Convention, one of the New Jersey members' proposed that the President should write to the executive of New Hampshire, to request the attendance of the deputies who had been chosen to represent that State, and who had not yet taken seats. Two States only voted for this motion, and the discussion proceeded. Madison, Wilson, and King, with great earnestness, resisted the compromise proposed by Ellsworth, and when the vote was finally taken, five States were found to be in favor of an equal representation in the Senate, five were opposed to it, and the vote of Georgia was divided.3
1 David Brearly.
2 New York and New Jersey.
3 The question was put upon Ellsworth's motion to allow the
Thus was this assembly of great and patriotic men brought finally to a stand, by the singular urgency with which opposite theories, springing from local interests and objects, were sought to be pressed into a constitution of government, that was to be accepted by communities widely differing in extent, in numbers, and in wealth, and in all that constitutes political power, and which were at the same time to remain distinct and separate States. As we look back to the possibility of a failure to create a constitution, and try to divest ourselves of the identity which the success of that experiment has given to our national life, the imagination wanders over a dreary waste of seventy years, which it can only fill with strange images of desolation. That the administration of Washington should never have existed; that Marshall should never have adjudicated, or Jackson conquered; that the arts, the commerce, the letters of America should not have
States an equal representation in the Senate. The vote stood, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, ay, 5; Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, no, 5; Georgia divided. The person who divided the vote of Georgia, and thus prevented a decision which must have resulted in a disruption of the Convention, was Abraham Baldwin. We have no account of the motives with which he cast this vote, except an obscure suggestion by Luther Martin, which
is not intelligible. (Elliot, I. 356.) Baldwin was a very wise and a very able man. He was not in favor of Ellsworth's proposition, but he probably saw the consequences of forcing the minority States to the alternatives of receiving what they regarded as an unjust and unsafe system, or of quitting the Union. By dividing the vote of his State he prevented this issue, although he also made it probable that the Convention must be dissolved without the adoption of any plan whatever.