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tiousness, was the real cause for the persistency in that fatal policy which severed these Colonies from his crown.
That long struggle had been over for several years, and its result was certainly not to be regretted by the people of America. But it had left them, as it naturally must have left them, with as strong prejudices and jealousies against every aristocratic, as against every monarchical institution. Public liberty in England they knew might consist with an hereditary throne, and with a privileged and powerful aristocracy. But public liberty in America could consist with neither. The people of the United States could submit to restraints; they could recognize the necessity for checks and balances in the distribution of authority; and they understood as much of the science of government as any people then alive. But an institution, however originating and however apparently necessary its peculiar construction might be, embracing but a small number of persons, with power to elect the chief magistrate, with power to revise every appointment from a chief justice down to a tidewaiter, with power to control the President through his subordinate agents, with power to reject every treaty that he might negotiate, and with power to sit in judgment on his impeachment, they would not endure. "We have, in some revolutions of this plan of government," said Randolph," made a bold stroke for monarchy. We are now doing the same for an aristocracy."
How to attain the true intermediate ground, to
avoid the substance of a monarchy and the substance of an aristocracy, and yet not to found the system on a mere democracy, was a problem not easy of solution. All could see, that a government extended over a country so large, which was to have the regulation of its commerce, the collection of great revenues, the care of a vast public domain, the superintendence of intercourse with hordes of savage tribes, the control of relations with all the nations of the world, the administration of a peculiar jurisprudence, and the protection of the local constitutions from violence, must have an army and a navy, and great fiscal, administrative, and judicial establishments, embracing a very numerous body of public officers. To give the appointment of such a multitude of public servants, invested with such functions, to the unchecked authority of the President, would be to create an executive with power not less formidable and real than that of some monarchs, and far greater than that of others. No one desired that a sole power of appointment should be vested in the President alone; it was universally conceded that there must be a revisionary control lodged somewhere, and the only question was where it should be placed. That it ought to be in a body independent of the executive, and not in any council of ministers that might be assigned to him, was apparent; and there was no such body, excepting the Senate, which united the necessary independence with the other qualities needful for a right exercise of this power.
The negotiation of treaties was obviously a function that should be committed to the executive alone. But a treaty might undertake to dismember a State of part of its territory, or might otherwise affect its individual interests; and even where it concerned only the general interests of all the States, there was a great unwillingness to intrust the treatymaking power exclusively to the President. Here, the States, as equal political sovereignties, were unwilling to relax their hold upon the general government; and the result was that provision of the Constitution which makes the consent of two thirds of the Senators present necessary to the ratification of a treaty.
But if it was to have these great overruling powers, the Senate must have no voice in the appointment of the executive. There were two modes in which the election might be arranged, so as to prevent a mutual connection and influence between the Senate and the President. The one was, to allow the highest number of electoral votes to appoint the President; the other was, to place the eventual election - no person having received a majority of all the electoral votes in the House of Representatives. The latter plan was finally adopted, and the Senate was thus effectually severed from a dangerous connection with the executive.
This separation having been effected, the objections which had been urged against the length of the senatorial term became of little consequence.
1 This suggestion was made by Hamilton. Elliot, V. 517.
In the preparation of the plan marked out in the resolutions sent to the committee of detail, the Senate had been considered chiefly with reference to its legislative function; and the purpose of those who advocated a long term of office was to establish a body in the government of sufficient wisdom and firmness to interpose against the impetuous counsels and levelling tendencies of the democratic branch.' Six years was adopted as an intermediate period between the longest and the shortest of the terms proposed; and in order that there might be an infusion of different views and tendencies from time to time, it was provided that one third of the members should go out of office biennially. Still, in the case of each individual senator, the period of six years was the longest of the limited terms of office created by the Constitution. Under the Confederation, the members of the Congress had been chosen annually, and were always liable to recall. The people of the United States were in general strongly disposed to a frequency of elections. A term of office for six years would be that feature of the proposed Senate most likely, in the popular mind, to be regarded as of an aristocratic tendency. If united with the powers that have just passed under our review, and if to those powers it could be said that an improper influence over the executive had been added, the system would in all probability be rejected by the people. But if the Senate were deprived of all agency
1 Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Read. Elliot, V. 241 – 245. June 26. 2 Ibid.
in the appointment of the President, it would be mere declamation to complain of their term of office; for undoubtedly the peculiar duties assigned to the Senate could be best discharged by those who had had the longest experience in them The solid objection to such a term being removed, the complaint of aristocratic tendencies would be confined to those who might wish to find plausible reasons for opposition, and might not wish to be satisfied with the true reasons for the provision.
Having now described the formation and the special powers of the two branches of the legislature, I proceed to inquire into the origin and history of the disqualifications to which the members were subjected.
The Constitution of the United States was framed and established by a generation of men, who had observed the operation upon the English legislature of that species of influence, by the crown or its servants, which, from the mode of its exercise, not seldom amounting to actual bribery, has received the appropriate name of parliamentary corruption. That generation of the American people knew but little
- they cared less-about the origin of a method of governing the legislative body, which implies an open or a secret venality on the part of its members, and a willingness on the part of the administration to purchase their consent to its measures. What they did know and what they did regard was, that for a long succession of years the votes of members of Parliament had been bought, with money or office,