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The qualifications of the Senators had been made superior in some respects to those of the members of the House of Representatives, on account of the peculiar duties which it was intended they should discharge, and the length of their term of office. They were to be of the age of thirty years; to be inhabitants of the States for which they might be chosen; and in the report of the committee of detail the period of four years' citizenship was made one of the requirements. But so great was the jealousy of foreign influence, and so important was the position of a senator likely to become, that, when this particular qualification came to be considered, it was found to be altogether impossible to make so short a period of citizenship acceptable to a majority. According to the plan then contemplated, the Senate was to be a body of great power. Its legislative duties were to form but a part of its functions. It was to have the making of treaties, and the appointment of ambassadors and judges of the Supreme Court, without the concurrent action of any other department of the government. In addition to these special powers, it was to have a concurrent vote with the House of Representatives in the election of the executive. It was also to exercise the judicial function of hearing and determining questions of boundary between the States.
This formidable array of powers, which were subsequently much modified or entirely taken away, but which no one could then be sure would not be retained as they had been proposed, rendered it
necessary to guard the Senate with peculiar care. A very animated discussion, in which the same reasons were urged on both sides which had entered into the debate on the qualifications of the representatives, enforced by the peculiar dangers to which the Senate might be exposed, at length resulted in a vote establishing the period of nine years' citizenship as a qualification for the office of a senator.1
The origin of the number of senators and of the method of voting forms an interesting and important topic, to which our inquiries should now be directed. We have already seen that, in the formation of the Virginia plan of government, as it was digested in the committee of the whole, the purpose was entertained, and was once sanctioned by a bare majority of the States, of giving to both branches of the legislature a proportional representation of the respective populations of the States; and that the sole difference between the two chambers then contemplated was to be in the mode of election. But in the actual situation of the different members of the confederacy, it was a necessary consequence of such a representation, that the Senate would be made by it inconveniently large, whether the members were to be elected by the legislatures, the executives, or the people of the States. It would, in fact, have made the first Senate to consist of eighty or a hundred persons, in order to have entitled the State of
1 August 9. Elliot, V. 398-401. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland voted in
the negative, and the vote of North Carolina was divided.
Delaware to a single member. This inconvenience was pointed out at an early period, by Rufus King;1 but it did not prevent the adoption of this mode of representation. On the one side of that long contested question were those who desired to found the whole system of representation, as between the States, upon their relative numbers of inhabitants. On the other side were those who insisted upon an absolute equality between the States. But among the former there was a great difference of opinion as to the best mode of choosing the senators, whether they should be elected by the people in districts, by the legislatures or the executives of the States, or by the other branch of the national legislature. So strongly, however, were some of the members even from the most populous States impressed with the necessity of preserving the State governments in some connection with the national system, that, while they insisted on a proportional representation in the Senate, they were ready to concede to the State legislatures the choice of its members, leaving the difficulty arising from the magnitude of the body to be encountered as it might be." The delegates of the smaller States accepted this concession, in the belief that the impracticability of constructing a convenient Senate in this mode would compel an abandonment of the principle of unequal representation, and would require the substitution of the equality for which they contended.
In this expectation they were not disappointed; 2 Dickinson, Gerry, Mason.
1 May 31. Elliot, V. 133.
for when the system framed in the committee came under revision in the Convention, and the severe and protracted contest ended at last in the compromise described in a previous chapter, the States were not only permitted to choose the members of the Senate, but they were admitted to an equality of representation in that branch, and the subject was freed from the embarrassment arising from the numbers that must have been introduced into it by the opposite plan. From this point, the sole questions that required to be determined related to the number of members to be assigned to each State, and the method of voting. The first was a question of expediency only; the last was a question both of expediency and of principle.
The constant aim of the States, which had from the first opposed a radical change in the structure of the government, was to frame the legislature as nearly as possible upon the model of the Congress of the Confederation. In that assembly, each State was allowed not more than seven, and not less than two members; but in practice, the delegations of the States perpetually varied between these two numbers, or fell below the lowest, and in the latter case the State was not considered as represented. The method of voting, however, rendered it unimportant how many members were present from a State, provided they were enough to cast the vote of the State at all; for all questions were decided by the votes of a majority of the States, and not of a majority of the members voting. I have already had occasion more
than once to notice the fact, and it is one of no inconsiderable importance, that the first Continental Congress, assembled in 1774, adopted the plan of giving to each Colony one vote, because it was impossible to ascertain the relative importance of the different Colonies. The record that was then made of this reason for a method of voting that would have been otherwise essentially unjust, shows quite clearly that a purpose was then entertained of adopting some other method at a future time. But when the Articles of Confederation were framed, in 1781, it appears as clearly from the discussions in Congress, not only that the same difficulty of obtaining the information necessary for a different system continued, but that some of the States were absolutely unwilling to enter the Confederation upon any other terms than a full federal equality. In this way the practice of voting by States in Congress was perpetuated down to the year 1787. It had come to be regarded by some of the smaller States, notwithstanding the injustice and inconvenience which it constantly produced, as a kind of birthright; and when the Senate of the United States came to be framed, and an equality of representation in it was conceded, some of the members of those States still considered it necessary to preserve this method of voting, in order to complete the idea of State representation, and to enable the States to protect their individual rights. But it is obvious that, for this purpose, the
1 Sherman, Luther Martin, Ellsworth. On the naked proposition,
moved by Ellsworth, July 2, to allow each State one vote in the