Debate on Method of Electing Senators (June 7)
- MR. SHERMAN
- seconded the motion; observing that the particular States would thus become interested in supporting the
national goverument and that a due harmony between the two governments would be maintained. He admitted that the two
ought to have separate and distinct jurisdictions, but that they ought to have a mutual interest in supporting each other.
- MR. PINCKNEY.
- If the small States should be allowed one Senator only, the number will he too great, there will he 80 at
- MR. DICKINSON
- had two reasons for his motion.
- because the sense of the States would be better collected through their Governments; than immediately from the people at
- because he wished the Senate to consist of the most distinguished characters, distinguished for their rank in life and their
weight of property, and bearing as strong a likeness to the British House of Lords as possihle; and he thought such characters
more likely to be selected by the State Legislatures, than in any other mode. The greatess of the number was no objection with
him. He hoped there would be 80 and twice 80 of them. If their number should be small, the popular branch could not be
balanced by them. The legislature of a numerous people ought to be a numerous body.
- because the sense of the States would be better collected through their Governments; than immediately from the people at large;
- MR. WILLIAMSON,
- preferred a small number of Senators, but wished that each State should have at least one. He
suggested 25 as a convenient number. The different modes of representation in the different branches, will serve as a mutual
- MR. BUTLER
- was anxious to know the ratio of representation before he gave any opinion.
- MR. WILSON.
- If We are to establish a national Government, that Government ought to flow from the people at large. If one
branch of it should be chosen by the Legislatures, and the other by the people, the two branches will rest on different
foundation:, and dissensions will naturally arise between them. He wished the Senate to be elected by the people as well as
the other branch, and the people might be divided into proper districts for the purpose and moved to postpone the motion of
Mr. Dickinson, in order to make up one of that import.
Mr. Morris seconded him.
- Mr. READ
- proposed "that the Senate should be appointed by the Executive Magistrate out of a proper number of persons
to be nominated by the individnal legislate:." He said he thought it his duty, to speak his mind frankly. Gentlemen he hoped
would not be alarmed at the idea. Nothing short of this approach towards a proper model of Government would answer the
purpose, and he thought it best to come directly to the point at once. His proposition was not seconded nor supported.
- MR. MADISON,
- if the motion (of Mr. Dickinson) should be agreed to, we must either depart from the doctrine of
proportional representation; or admit into the Senate a very large number of members. The first is inadmissible, being
evidently unjust. The second is inexpedient. The use of the Senate is to consist in its proceedings With more coolness, with
more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch. Enlarge their number and you communicate to them the vices
which they are meant to correct. He differed from Mr. D. who thought that the additional number Would give additional
weight to the body. On the contrary it appeared to him that their weight would be in an inverse ratio to their number. The
example of the Roman Tribunes was applicable. They lost their influence and power, in proportion as their number was
augmented. The reason seemed to be obvious: They were appointed to take care of the popular interests and pretensions at
Rome, because the people by reason of their numbers could not act in concert; were liable to fall into factions among
thenselves, and to become a prey to their aristocratic adversaries. The more the representatives of the people therefore Were
multiplied, the more they partook of the infirmities of their constituents, the more liable they became to be divided among
themselves either from their own indiscretions or the artifices of the opposite faction, and of course the less capable of
fulfilling their trust. When the weight of a set of men depends merely on their personal characters; the greater the number the
greater the web. When it depends on the degree of political authority lodged in them the smaller the number the greater the
weight. These considerations might perhaps be combined in the intended Senate but the latter was the material one.
- MR. GERRY.
- Four modes of appointing the Senate have been mentioned.
- By the first branch of the National Legislature.
This would create a dependence contrary to the end proposed.
- By the National Executive.
This is a stride towards monarchy that few will think of.
- By the people.
The people have two great interests, the landed interest, and the commercial including the stockholders. To draw both branches from the people will leave no security to the latter interest; the people being chiefly composed of the landed interest, and erroneously supposing, that the other interest are adverse to it.
- By the Individnal Legislatures.
The elections being carried through this refinement, will he most likely to provide some check in favor of the commercial interest against the landed; without which oppression will take place, and no free Government can last long where that is the case. He was therefore in favor of this last.
- By the first branch of the National Legislature.
- MR. DICKINSON.
- The preservation of the States is a certain degree of agency is indispensable. It will produce that collision
between the different authorities which should he wished for in order to cbeck each other. To attempt to abolish the States
altogether, would degrade the Councils of our Country, would he impracticable, Would he ruinous. He compared the proposed
National System to the Solar System, in which the States were the planets, and ought to he left to move freely in their proper
orbits. The Gentleman from Pennsylvania [Mr. Wilson] wished he said to extinguish these planets. If the State Governments
were excluded from all agency in the national one, and all power drawn from the people at large, the consequence would he
that the national government would move in the same direction as the State governments now do, and would run into all the
same mischiefs. The reform would only unite the 13 small streams into one great current pursuing the same course without
any opposition whatever He adhered to the opinion that the Senate ought to be composed of a large number, and that their
influence from family weight and other.causes would he increased thereby. He did not admit that the Tribunes lost their
weight in proportion as their number was augmented and gave a historical sketch of this institution. If the reasoning of [Mr.
Madison] was good it would prove that the number of the Senate ought to he reduced below ten, the highest number of the
- MR. WILSON.
- The subject it must he owned is surrounded with doubts and difficulties. But we must surmount them. The
British government cannot he our model. We have no materials for a similar one. our manners, our laws, the abolition of entails
and of primo-geniture, the whole genius of the people, are opposed to it. He did not see the danger of the States being
devoured by the national government. On the contrary, he wished to keep them from devouring the national government. He
was not however for extinguishing these planets as was supposed by Mr. D.Neither did he on the other hand, believe that
they would warm or enlighten the Sun. Within their proper orbits they must still be sulfered to act for suborinate purposes
for which their existence is made essential by the great extent of our Country. He could not comprehend in what manner the
landed interest would be rendered less predominant in the Senate, by an election through the modium of the Legislatures than
by the people themselves. If the Legisiatures, as was now complained, sacrificed the commercial to the landed interest, what
reason was there to expect such a choice from them as would defeat their own views. He was for an election by the people in
large districts which would be most likely to obtain men of intelligence and uprightness subdividing the districts ouly for the
accommodation of voters.
- MR. MADISON
- could as little comprehend in what manner family weight, as desired by Mr. D. would be more certainly
conveyed into the Senate through elections by the State Legislatuies, than in some other modes. The true question was in what
mode the best choice would be made? If an election by the people, or through any other channel than the State Legislatures
promised as uncorrupt and impartial a preference of merit, there could surely be no necessity for an appointment by those
Legislatures. Nor was it apparent that a more useful check would be derived through that channel than from the people
through some other. The great evils complained of were that the State Legislatures run into schemes of paper money etc., etc.,
whenever solicited by the people, and sometimes without even the sanction of the people. Their influence then, instead of
checking a like propensity in the National Legislature, may be expected to promote it. Nothing can be more contradictory than
to say that the National Legislature without a proper check, will follow the example of the State Legislatures, and in the same
breath, that the State Legislatures are the ouly proper check.
- MR. SHERMAN
- opposed elections by the people in districts, as not likely to produce such fit men as elections by the State
- MR. GERRY
- insisted that the commercial and monied interest would be more secure in the hands of the State Legislatures,
than of the people at large. The former have more sense of character, and will be restrained by that from injustice. The people
are for paper money when the Legislatures are against it. In Massachusetts the County Conventions had declared a wish for a
depreciating paper that would sink itself. Besides, in some States there are two Branches in the Legislature, one of which is
somewhat aristocratic. There would therefore be so far a better chance of refinement in the choice. There seemed, he thought
to be three powerful objections against elections by districts.
- It is impracticable; the people cannot be brought to one place for the purpose; and whether brought to the same place or
not, numberless frauds would be unavoidable.
- Small States forming part of the same district with a large one, or large part of a large one, would have no chance of gaining
an appointment for its citieens of merit.
- A new source of discord would be opened between diIferent parts of the same district.
- It is impracticable; the people cannot be brought to one place for the purpose; and whether brought to the same place or not, numberless frauds would be unavoidable.
- MR. PICKNEY
- thought the second branch ought to be permanent and independent, and that the members of it would be
rendered more so by receiving their appointment from the State Legislatures. This mode would avoid the [rivalries] and
discontents incident to the election by districts. He was for dividing the States into three classes according to their respective
sizes, and for allowing to the first class three members to the second two, and to the third one.