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taken the place which they hold in the affairs of the world; that instead of this great Union of prosperous and powerful republics, made one prosperous and powerful nation, history should have had nothing to show and nothing to record but border warfare and the conflicts of worn-out communities, the sport of the old clashing policies of Europe; that self-government should have become one of the exploded delusions with which mankind have successively deceived themselves, and republican institutions have been made only another name for anarchy and social disorder; -all these things seem at once inconceivable and yet probable, at once the fearful conjurings of fancy, and the inevitable deductions of
We know not what combinations, what efforts, might have followed the separation of that convention of American statesmen, without having accomplished the work for which they had been assembled. We do know, that, if they could not have succeeded in framing and agreeing upon a system of government capable of commending itself to the free choice of the people of their respective States, no other body of men in this country could have done it. We know that the Confederation was virtually at an end; that its power was exhausted, although it still held the nominal seat of authority. The Union must therefore have been dissolved into its component parts, but for the wisdom and conciliation of those who, in their original earnestness to secure a perfect theory, had thus encountered an insuperable
obstacle and brought about a great hazard. I have elsewhere said that these men were capable of the highest of the moral virtues, that their magnanimity was as great as their intellectual acuteness and strength. Let us turn to the proof on which rests their title to this distinction.
FIRST GRAND COMPROMISES OF THE CONSTITUTION. POPULATION OF THE STATES ADOPTED AS THE BASIS OF REPRESENTATION IN THE HOUSE. RULE FOR COMPUTING THE SLAVES. EQUALITY OF REPRESENTATION OF THE STATES ADOPTED FOR THE SENATE.
As the States were now exactly divided on the question whether there should be an equality of votes in the second branch of the legislature, some compromise seemed to be necessary, or the effort to make a constitution must be abandoned. A conversation as to what was expedient to be done, resulted in the appointment of a committee of one member from each State, to devise and report some mode of adjusting the whole system of representation.1
1 The committee consisted of Gerry, Ellsworth, Yates, Patterson,
According to the Virginia plan, as it then stood before the Convention, the right of suffrage in both branches was to be upon some equitable ratio, in proportion to the whole number of free inhabitants in each State, to which three fifths of all other persons, except Indians not paying taxes, were to be added. Nothing had been done, to fix the ratio of representation; and although the principle of popular repre
Franklin, Bedford, Martin, Mason,
sentation had been affirmed by a majority of the Convention as to the first branch, it had been rejected as to the second by an equally divided vote of the States. The whole subject, therefore, was now sent to a committee of compromise, who held it under consideration for three days.1
The same struggle which had been carried on in the Convention was renewed in the committee; the one side contending for an inequality of suffrage in both branches, the other for an equality in both. Dr. Franklin at length gave way, and proposed that the representation in the first branch should be according to a fixed ratio of the inhabitants of each State, computed according to the rule already agreed upon, and that in the second branch each State should have an equal vote. The members of the larger States reluctantly acquiesced in this arrangement; the members of the smaller States, with one or two exceptions, considered their point gained. When the report came to be made, it was found that the committee had not only agreed upon this as a compromise, but that they had made a distinction of some importance between the powers of the two branches, by confining to the first branch the power of originating all bills for raising or appropriating money and for fixing the salaries of officers of the government, and by providing that such bills should not be altered or amended in the second
1 The committee was appointed on the 2d of July, and made their report on the 5th. The Conven
tion in the interval transacted no business.
branch. This was intended for a concession by the smaller States to the larger. The ratio of representation in the House was fixed by the committee at one member for every forty thousand inhabitants, in which three fifths of the slaves were to be computed; each State not possessing that number of inhabitants to be allowed one member. The number of senators was not designated.
This arrangement was, upon the whole, reasonable and equitable. It balanced the equal representation of the States in the Senate against the popular representation in the House, and it gave to the larger States an important influence over the appropriations of money and the levying of taxes. Nor can the admission of the slaves, in some proportion, into the rule of representation, be justly considered as an improper concession, in a system in which the separate organizations of the States were to be retained, and in which the States were to be represented in proportion to their respective populations.
The report of the committee had recommended that this plan should be taken as a whole; but as its several features were distasteful to different sections of the Convention, and almost all parties were disappointed in the result arrived at by the committee, the several parts of the plan became at once separate subjects of discussion. In the first place, the friends of a pure system of popular representation in both branches objected to the provision concerning money and appropriation bills, as being no concession
1 See further as to this exclusive power of the House, post.