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affirmed in the committee by a vote of six States, it is important to understand the sense in which it was understood by them.1
Most of the framers of the Constitution seem to have considered that a compact between sovereign States, which rested for its efficacy on the good faith of the parties, and had no other compulsory operation than a resort to arms against a delinquent member, was a "federal" government. This was the principle of the Confederation. At this early stage of their deliberations, the idea which was intended by those who favored a change of that principle, when they spoke of a "national" government, was one that would be a supreme power with respect to certain national objects committed to it, and that would have some kind of direct compulsory action upon individuals. This distinction was understood by all to be real and important. It led directly to the question of the powers of the Convention, and formed the early line of division between those who desired to adhere to the existing system, and those who aimed at a radical change. The former admitted the necessity for a more effective government, and supposed that the Confederation could be made so by distributing its powers into the three great departments of a legislative, executive, and judiciary; but they did not suggest any
1 Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, ay, 6; Connecticut, no, 1; New York divid
ed (Colonel Hamilton ay, Mr. Yates no). Madison, Elliot, V. 132, 134.
mode by which those powers could be made supreme over the authority of the separate States. The latter contended, that there could be no such thing as government unless it were a supreme power, and that there could be but one supreme power over the same subjects in the same community; that supreme power could not from the nature of things act on the States collectively, in the usual and peaceful mode in which the operations of government ought to be conducted, but that it must be able to reach individuals; and that, as the Confederation could not operate in this way, the distribution of its powers into distinct departments would be no improvement upon the present condition of things.
But when the distinction between a national and a federal government had been so far developed, the subject was still left in a great degree vague and indeterminate. What was to mark this distinction as real, and give it practical effect? By what means was the government, which was now, as all admitted, a mere federal league between sovereign States, to become, in any just sense, national? The idea of a nation implies the existence of a people united in their political rights, and possessed of the same political interests. A national government must be one that exercises the political rights, and protects the political interests, of such a people. But, hitherto, the people of the United States had been divided into distinct sovereignties; and although by the Articles of Confederation some portion of the sovereign power of each of the separate States had
been vested in a general government, that government had been found inefficient, and incapable of resisting the great power that had been reserved to the respective States, and was constantly exerted by them. The difficulty was, that the constituent parties to the federal union were themselves political governments and sovereigns; the people of the States had no direct representation, and no direct suffrage, in the general legislature; and as in a republican government the representation and the suffrage must determine its character, it became obvious that, in order to establish a national government that would embrace the political rights and interests of the people inhabiting the States, the basis of representation and the rule of suffrage must be changed.
It being assumed that the new government was to be divided into the three departments of the legislative, executive, and judiciary, several questions at once presented themselves with regard to the constitution of the national legislature. Was it to consist of one or of two houses? and if the latter, what was to be the representation and the rule of suffrage in each?
The resolutions of Governor Randolph raised the question as to the rule of suffrage, before the committee had determined on the division of the legislative power into two branches. One of his propositions was, "That the rights of suffrage in the national legislature ought to be proportioned to the quotas of contribution, or to the number of free inhabitants, as the one or the other rule may seem
best in different cases." This was no sooner propounded, than a difficulty was suggested by the deputies of the State of Delaware, which threatened to impede the whole action of the Convention. They declared that they felt restrained by their commissions from assenting to any change of the rule of suffrage, and announced their determination to retire from the Convention if such a change were adopted. The firmness and address of Madison and Gouverneur Morris surmounted this obstacle. They declared that the proposed change was absolutely essential to the formation of a national government; but they consented to postpone the question, having ascertained that it would finally be carried.1
The committee thereupon immediately determined that the national legislature should consist of two branches, and proceeded to consider the mode of representation and suffrage in both. As the discussions proceeded, the members became divided into two parties upon the general subject; the one was for a popular basis and a proportionate representation in both branches; the other was in favor of an equal representation by States in both. The first issue between them was made upon the House, or what was termed the first branch of the legislature. On the one side it was urged, that to give the election of this branch to the people of the States would make the new government too democratic;
1 Madison, Elliot, V. 134, 135. 2 Ibid. 135. The vote of Pennsylvania, in compliance with the
wishes of Dr. Franklin, was given for a single house.
that the people were unsafe depositaries of such a power, not because they wanted virtue, but because they were liable to be misled; and that the State legislatures would be more likely to appoint suitable persons. On the other hand, it was admitted that an election of the more numerous branch of the national legislature by the people would introduce a true democratic principle into the government, and this, it was said, was necessary. It was urged that this branch of the legislature ought to know and sympathize with every part of the community, and ought therefore to be taken, not only from different parts of the republic, but also from different districts of the larger members of it. The broadest possible basis, it was said, ought to be given to the new system; and as that system was to be republican, a direct representation of the people was indispensable. To increase the weight of the State legislatures, by making them electors of the national legislature, would only perpetuate some of the worst evils of the Confederation.
A decided majority of the States sustained the election of the first branch of the national legislature by the people.' Great efforts were, however, subsequently made to change this decision; and the discussion which ensued on a motion that this branch should be elected by the State legislatures, throws much light upon the nature of the govern
1 Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, ay, 6; New Jersey,
South Carolina, no, 2; Connecticut and Delaware divided.