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confederacy, and against the central authority. In order, therefore, to establish a general and national government, with any hope of its duration, they must avail themselves of these principles. They must interest the wants of men in its support; they must make it useful and necessary; and they must give it the means of coercion. For these purposes, it would be necessary to make it completely sovereign.
The New Jersey plan certainly would not produce this effect. It merely granted the regulation of trade and a more effectual collection of the revenue, and some partial duties, which, at five or ten per cent, would perhaps only amount to a fund to discharge the debt of the corporation. But there were a variety of objects which must necessarily engage the attention of a national government. It would have to protect our rights against Canada on the north, against Spain on the south, and the western frontier against the savages. It would have to adopt necessary plans for the settlement of the frontiers, and to institute the mode in which settlements and good governments were to be made. According to the New Jersey plan, the expense of supporting and regulating these important matters could only be defrayed by requisitions. This mode had already proved, and would always be found, ineffectual. The national revenue must be drawn from commerce,—from imposts, taxes on specific articles, and even from exports, which, notwithstanding the common opinion, he held to be fit objects of moderate taxation.
The radical objections to the New Jersey plan he held to be its equality of suffrage as between the States; its incapacity to raise forces or to levy taxes; and the organization of Congress, which it proposed to leave unchanged. On the other hand, the great extent of the country to be governed, and the difficulty of drawing a suitable representation from such distances, led him to regard the Virginia plan with doubt and hesitation. At the same time, he declared that the system must be a representative and republican government. But representation alone, without the element of a permanent tenure of office in some part of the system, would not, as he believed, answer the purpose. For, as society naturally falls into the political divisions of the few and the many, or the majority and the minority, some part of every good representative government must be so constituted as to furnish a check to the mere democratic element. The Virginia plan, which proposed that both branches of the national legislature should be chosen by the
eople of the States, and that the executive should be appointed by the legislature, presented a democratic Assembly to be checked by a democratic Senate, and both of them by a democratic chief magistrate. To give a Senate or an executive thus chosen an official term a few years longer than that of the members of the Assembly, would not be sufficient to remove them from the violence and turbulence of the popular passions.
For these reasons, they must go as far, in order to
attain stability and permanency, as republican prin-
His conclusions were, first, that it was impossible to secure the Union by any modification of a federal government; secondly, that a league, offensive and defensive, was full of certain evils and greater dangers; thirdly, that to establish a general government would be very difficult, if not impracticable, and liable to various objections. What then was to
1 See the note at the end of this chapter.
be done? He answered, that they must balance the inconveniences and the dangers, and choose that system which seemed to have the fewest objections.
The plan which Hamilton then read to the Convention, the principal features of which have thus been stated, was designed to explain his views, but was not intended to be offered as a substitute for either of the two others then under consideration. The issue accordingly remained unchanged; and that issue lay between the Virginia and the New Jersey plans, or between a system of equal representation by States, and a system of proportionate representation of the people of the States. Besides this radical difference, the Virginia plan contemplated two houses, while the New Jersey plan proposed to retain the existing system of a single body.
But in order that a sound judgment may be formed of the correctness of Hamilton's opinions, and of the useful influence which they exerted, it must be remembered that there was an inconsistency in the Virginia plan, which he was then aiming to exhibit. That plan was a purely national system; it drew both branches of the national legislature from the people of the States, in proportion to their numbers, and merely interposed the legislatures of the States as the electors of so many senators as the State might be entitled to have according to the ratio of representation. Its inconsistency lay in the fact, that, while it would have created a government in which the proportionate principle of representation would have obtained in both houses, making a
purely national government, in which the States, as equal political corporations, could have exercised no direct control over its legislation, it left the separate political sovereignties of the States almost wholly unimpaired, taking from them jurisdiction over such subjects only as seemed to require national legislation. The operation of such a system must necessarily have involved perpetual conflicts between national and State power; for the States, possessed of a large part of their original sovereignties, and yet unable to exert an equal control in either branch of Congress, would have been constantly tempted and obliged to exert the indirect power of their separate legislation against the direct and democratic force of a majority of the people of the United States. To such a system, the objection urged by Hamilton, that it presented a democratic House checked by a democratic Senate, was strikingly applicable. This objection, it is true, was not presented by him as a reason for admitting the States to a direct and equal representation in the government; he employed it to enforce the expediency of giving to the Senate a different basis from that of the House, and one farther removed from popular influences. But when, at a subsequent period, the first great compromise of the Constitution - that between a purely national and a purely federal system -took place by the admission of the States to an equal representation in the Senate, the force of Hamilton's reasoning was felt, and the necessity for a check as between the two houses, founded on a difference of origin, which he