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with the freeman, — whatever principles were maintained upon the question whether numbers constitute a proper measure of the wealth of a community, and one that will work out the same result in communities where slavery exists, as well as where it is absent, absolute truth, or what the whole country would receive as such, was unattainable. But an adjustment of the problem, founded on mutual conciliation and a desire to be just, was not impossible.
The two objects to be accomplished were to avoid the offence that might be given to the Northern States by making the slaves in direct terms an ingredient in the rule of representation, and, on the other hand, to concede to the Southern States the right to have their representation enhanced by the same enumeration of their slaves that might be adopted for the purpose of apportioning direct taxation. These objects were effected by an arrangement proposed by Wilson. It consisted, first, in affirming the maxim that representation ought to be proportioned to direct taxation; and then, by directing a periodical census of the free inhabitants, and three fifths of all other persons, to be taken by the authority of the United States, and that the direct taxation should be apportioned among the States according to this census of persons. The principle was thus established, that, for the purpose of direct taxation, the number of inhabitants in each State should be assumed as the measure of its relative wealth; and that its right of representation should be regulated by the same measure; and as the slaves were to be
admitted into the rule for taxation in the proportion of three fifths of their number only, apparently upon the supposition that the labor of a slave is less valuable to the State than the labor of a freeman, so they were in the same proportion only to enhance the representation, This expedient was adopted by the votes of a large majority of the States; but since it had been moved as an amendment to the proposition previously accepted, which affirmed that the representation ought to be regulated by the combined rule of numbers and wealth, it appeared, when brought into that connection, to rest the representation of the slaveholding States in respect to the slaves, in part at least, upon the idea of property. To avoid all discrepancy in the application of the rule to the two subjects of representation and taxation, Governor Randolph proposed to strike the word "wealth" from the resolution; and this, having been done by a vote nearly unanimous,2 left the enumeration of the slaves for both purposes an enumeration of persons, in less than their whole numbers; placing them in the rule for taxation, not as property and subjects of taxation, but as constituting part of an assumed measure of the wealth of a State, just as the free inhabitants constituted another part of the same measure, and placing them in the same ratio and in the same capacity in the rule for representation.3
1 Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, ay, 6; New Jersey, Delaware, no, 2; Massachusetts, South Carolina, divided.
2 The only opposition was from Delaware, the vote of which was divided.
3 See the note at the end of this chapter.
The basis of the House of Representatives having been thus agreed to, the remaining part of the report, which involved the basis of the Senate, was then taken up for consideration. Wilson, King, Madison, and Randolph still opposed the equality of votes in the Senate, upon the ground that the government was to act upon the people and not upon the States, and therefore the people, not the States, should be represented in every branch of it. But the whole plan of representation embraced in the amended report, including the equality of votes in the Senate, was adopted, by a bare majority, however, of the States present.1
When this result was announced, Governor Randolph complained of its embarrassing effect on that part of the plan of a constitution which concerned the powers to be vested in the general government; all of which, he said, were predicated upon the idea of a proportionate representation of the States in both branches of the legislature. He desired an opportunity to modify the plan, by providing for certain cases to which the equality of votes should be confined; and in order to enable both parties to
1 Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina (Mr. Spaight, no), ay, 5; Pennsylvania, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, no, 4; Massachusetts divided (Mr. Gerry, Mr. Strong, ay, Mr. King, Mr. Gorham, no). The delegates of New York were all absent; Messrs. Yates and Lansing left the Convention on the 5th of
July, after the principle of popular representation had been adopted. Colonel Hamilton was absent on private business. If the two former had been present, the vote of the State would doubtless have been given in favor of the report, on account of the basis which it gave to the Senate.
consult informally upon some expedient that would bring about a unanimity, he proposed an adjournment. On the following morning, we are told by Mr. Madison, the members opposed to an equality of votes in the Senate became convinced of the impolicy of risking an agreement of the States upon any plan of government by an inflexible opposition to this feature of the scheme proposed, and it was tacitly allowed to stand.1
Great praise is due to the moderation of those who made this concession to the fears and jealousies of the smaller States. That it was felt by them to be a great concession, no one can doubt, who considers that the chief cause which had brought about this convention of the States was the inefficiency of the “federal” principle on which the former Union had been established. Looking back to all that had happened since the Confederation was formed, -to the repeated failures of the States to comply with the constitutional demands of the Congress, and to the entire impracticability of a system that had no true legislative basis, and could therefore exert no true legislative power, we ought not to be surprised that the retention of the principle of an equal State representation in any part of the new government should have been resisted so strenuously and so long.
That the final concession of this point was also a wise and fortunate determination, there can be no doubt. Those who made it probably did not fore
1 Elliot, V. 319.
see all its advantages, or comprehend all its manifold relations. They looked to it, in the first instance, as the means of securing the acceptance of the Constitution by all the States, and thus of preventing the evils of a partial confederacy. They probably did not at once anticipate the benefits to be derived from giving to a majority of the States a check upon the legislative power of a majority of the whole people of the United States. Complicated as this check is, it both recognizes and preserves the residuary sovereignty of the States; it enables them to hold the general government within its constitutional sphere of action; and it is in fact the only expedient that could have been successfully adopted, to preserve the State governments, and to avoid the otherwise inevitable alternative of conferring on the general government plenary legislative power upon all subjects. It is a part of the Constitution which it is vain to try by any standard of theory; for it was the result of a mere compromise of opposite theories and conflicting interests. Its best eulogium is to be found in its practical working, and in what it did to produce the acceptance of a constitution believed, at the time of its adoption, to have given an undue share of influence and power to the larger members of the confederacy.1
1 Mr. Madison, who was to the last a strenuous opponent of the equality of votes in the Senate, candidly and truly stated its merits
in the 62d number of the Federalist, as they had been disclosed to him by subsequent reflection.