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THE nature of the plan of government thus proposed called generally in the proceedings of the Convention the Virginia plan may be perceived from the descriptions that have now been given of the design and scope of its principal features, and of the circumstances out of which they arose. It purported to be a supreme and a national government; and we are now to inquire in what sense and to what extent it was so.

Its powers, as we have seen, were to be distributed among the three departments of a legislative, an executive, and a judiciary. Its legislative body was to consist of two branches, one of which was to be chosen directly by the people of the States, the other by the State legislatures; but in both, the people of the States were to be represented in proportion to their numbers.

Its legislative powers were to embrace certain objects, to which the legislative powers of the separate States might be incompetent, or where their exercise might be injurious to the national inter

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ests; and it was moreover to have a certain restraining authority over the legislation of the States. This plan necessarily supposed that the residue of the sovereignty and legislative power of the States would remain in them after these objects had been provided for; and it therefore contemplated a system of government, in which the individual citizen might be acted upon by two separate and distinct legislative authorities. But by providing that the legislative power of the national government should be derived from the people inhabiting the several States, and by creating an executive and a judiciary with an authority commensurate with that of the legislature, it sought to make, and did theoretically make, the national government, in its proper sphere, supreme over the governments of the States.

With 'respect to the element of stability, as depending on the length of the tenure of office, this system was far in advance of any of the republican governments then existing in America; for it contemplated that the members of one branch of the legislature should be elected for three, and those of the other branch, and the executive, for seven years.

If we compare it with the Confederation, which it was designed to supersede, we find greatly enlarged powers, somewhat vaguely defined; the addition of distinct and regular departments, accurately traced; and a totally different basis for the authority and origin of the government itself.

1 The regulation of commerce was not, any more than other spe

cific powers, otherwise provided for than by these general descriptions.

Such was the nature of the plan of government proposed by a majority of the States in Convention, for the consideration of all. It had to encounter, in the first place, the want of an express authority in the Convention to propose any change in the fundamental principle of the government. The long existence of the distinctions between the different States, the settled habit of the people of the States to act only in their separate capacities, their adherence to State interests, and their strong prejudices against all external power, had prevented them from contemplating a government founded on the principle of a national unity among the populations of their different communities. Hence, it is not surprising that men, who came to the Convention without express powers which they could consider as authority for the introduction of so novel a principle, should have been unwilling to agree to the formation of a government, that was to involve the surrender of a large portion of the sovereignty of each State. They felt a real apprehension lest their separate States should be lost in the comprehensive national power which seemed to be foreshadowed by the plans at which others were aiming. It seemed to them that the consequence, the power, and even the existence, of their separate political corporations, were about to be absorbed into the nation.

In the second place, the mode of reconciling the co-ordinate existence of a national and a State sovereignty had undergone no public discussion. At the same time, almost all the evils, the inconveniences, and the dangers which the country had en

countered since the peace of 1783, had sprung from the impossibility of uniting the action of the States upon measures of general concern. For this reason,

there were men in the Convention who at one time doubted the utility of preserving the States, and who naturally considered that the only mode in which a durable and sufficient government could be established, was to fuse all the elements of political power into a single mass. To those who had this feeling, the Virginia plan was as little acceptable as it was, for the opposite reason, to others.

It was, however, from the party opposed to any departure from the principle of the Confederation, that the first and the chief opposition came. The delegations of Connecticut, New York (with the exception of Hamilton), New Jersey, and Delaware, and one prominent member from Maryland, - Luther Martin, preferred to add a few new powers to the existing system, rather than to substitute a national government. They were determined not to surrender the present equality of suffrage in Congress; and accordingly the members from the State of New Jersey brought forward a plan of a purely "federal" character.1

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This plan proposed that the Articles of Confederation should be so revised and enlarged as to give to Congress certain additional powers, including a power to levy duties for purposes of revenue and the regulation of commerce.

1 This, together with the Virginia plan, which was recommitted along with it, was referred to a

But it left the con

second committee of the whole, June 15th.

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