Electing Representatives (June 6)

Elbridge Gerry Much depends on the mode of election. In England, the people will probably lose their liberty from the smallness of the proportion having a right of suffrage. Our danger arises from the opposite extreme; hence in Massachusetts the worst men get into the Legislature. Several members of that Body had lately been convicted of infamous crimes. Men of indigcnce, ignorance and baseness, spare no pains, however dirty to carry their point against men who are superior to the artifices practised. He was not disposed to run into extremes. He Was as much principled as ever against aristocacy and monarchy. It was neccesary on the one hand that the people should appoint one branch of the govermnent in order to inspire them with the necessAry confidence. But he wished the election on the other to be so modified as to secure more effectually a just preference of merit. His idea was that the people should nominate certain persons in certain districts, out of whom the State legisilatures should make the appointment.

He wished for vigor in the government but he wished that vigorons authority to flow immediately fiom the legitimate source of all authority. The government ought to possess not only first the force, but secondly the mind or sense of the people at large. The LegisIature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society. Representation is made necessary only because it is impossible for the people to act collectively. The opposition was to be expected he said from the Governments, not from the Citizens of the States. The latter had parted as was observed (by Mr. King) with all the necessary powers, and it was immaterial to them, by whom they were exercised, if well exercised. The State officers were to be the losers of power. The people he supposed would he rather more attached to the national Government than to the State governments as being more important in itself, and more flattering to their pride. There is no danger of improper elections if made by large districts. Bad elections proceed from the smallness of the districts which give an opportunity to bad men to intrigue themselves into office.

If it were in view to abolish the State governrnents, the elections ought to be by the people. If the State governments are to be continued, it is necessary in order to preserve haomony between the National and State governments that the elections to the former should he made by the latter. The right of participating in the National Government would he sufficiently secured to the people by their election of the State Legislatures. The objects of the Union, he thought were few.

  • l. Defence against foreign danger.
  • 2 against internal disputes and a resort to Iorce.
  • 3. Treaties with foreign nations.
  • 4. Regulating foreign commerce, and drawing revenue from it.

These and perhaps a few lesser objects alone rendered a Confederation of the States necessary. All other matters civil and criminal would be much better in the hands of the States. The people are more happy in small than large States. States may indeed he too small as Rhode Island, and thereby be too subject to faction. Some others were perhaps too large, the powers of government not heing able to pervade them. He was for giving the General government power to legislate and execute within a defined province.

George Mason Under the existing Confederacy, congress represents the States not the people of the States: their acts operate on the States, not on the individuals. The case will be changed in the new plan of government. The people will be represented; they ought therefore to choose the Representatives. The requisites in actual representation are that the Representatives should sympathize with their constituents; should think as they think, and feel as they feel; and that for these purposes should even be residents among them. Much he said had been alleged against democratic elections. He admitted that much might be said; but it was to be considered that no Government was free from imperfections and evils; and that improper elections in many instances, were inseparable from Republican Governments. But compare these with the advantage of this Form in favor of the rights of the people, in favor of human nature. He was persuaded there was a better chance for proper elections by the people, if divided into large districts, than by the State Legislatures. Paper money had been issued by the latter when the former Were against it. Was it to be supposed that the State Legislatures then would not send to the National Legislature patrons of such projects if the choice depended on them.

considered an election of one branch at least of the Legislaure by the people immediately, as a clear principle of free government and that this mode under proper regulations had the additional advantage of securing better representatives, as well as of avoiding too great an agency of the State Governments in the General one.He differed from the member from Connecticut [Mr. Sherman] in thinking the objects mentioned to be all the principal ones that required a National government. Those were certainly important and necessary obiects; but he combined with them the necessity of providing more effectually for the eecurity of private rights, and the steady dispensation of Justice. Interference: With these were evils which had more perhaps than any thing else, produced this convention. Was it to be supposed that republican liberty could long exist under the abuses of it practised in some of the States. The gentleman (Mr. Sherman] had admitted that in a very small State, faction and oppression would prevail. It was to be inferred then that wherever these prevailed the State was too small. Had they not prevailed in the largest as well as the smallest though less than in the smallest; and were we not thence admonished to enlarge the sphere as far as the nature of the govcrnment would admit. This was the only defence against the inconveniences of democracy consistent with the democratic form of government. All civilized Societes would be divided into different Sects, Factions, and interests, as they happened to consist of rich and poor, debtors and creditors, the landed, the manufacturing, the commercia1 interests, the inhabitants of this district or that district, the followers of this political leader or that political leader, the disciples of this religious Sect or that religious Sect. In all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion, the rights of the minority are in danger. What motives are to restrain them? A prudent regard to the maxim that honesty is the best policy is found by experience to be as little regarded by bodies of men as by individnals. Respect for character is always diminished in proportion to the number among whom the blame or praise is to be divided. Conscience, the only remaining tie, is known to he inadequate in individuals: In large numbers, little is to be expected from it. Besides, Religion itself may become a motive to persecution and oppression.These observations are verified by the Histories of every Country ancient and modern. In Greece and Rome the rich and poor, the creditors and debtors, as well as the patricians and plebeians alternately oppressed each other with eqnal unmercifu1ness. What a source of oppression was the relation between the parent cities of Rome, Athens and Carthage, and their respective provinces: the former possessing the power, and the latter being sufficiently distinguished to be separate objects of it? Why was America so justly apprehensive of Parliamentary injustice? Because Great Britain had a separate interest real or supposed, and if her authority had been admitted, could have pursued that interest at our expense. We have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man. What has been the source of those unjust laws complained of among ourselves? Has it not been the real or supposed interest of the major number? Debtors have defrauded their creditors. The landed interest has borne hard on the mercantile interest The Holders of one species of property have thrown a disproportion of taxes on the holders of another species. The lesson We are to draw from the whole is that where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure. In a republican government the Majority if united have always an opportunity. The only remedy is to enlarge the sphere, and thereby divide the community into so great a number of interests and parties, that in the first place a majority will not be likely at the same moment to have a common interest separate from that of the whole or of the minority; and in the second place, that in case they should have such an imerest, they may not be apt to unite in the pursuit of it. It was incumbent on us then to try this remedy, and with that view to frame a republican system on such a scale and in such a form as will control all the evils which have been experienced.

John Dickinson considered it as essential that one branch of the Legislature should be drawn immediately from the people; and as expedient that the other should be chosen by the Legislatures of the States. This combination of the State governments with the national government was as politic as it was unavoidable. In the formation of the Senate we ought to carry it through such a refining process as will assimilate it as near as may be to the House of Lords in England. He repeated his warm eulogiums on the British Constitution. He was for a strong National government but for leaving the States a considerable agency in the System. The objection against making the former dependent on the Iater might be obviated by giving to the Senate an authority permanent and irrevocable for three, five or seven years. Being thus independent they will speak and decide with becoming freedom.

Too much attachment is betrayed to the State government:. We must look beyond their continuance. A national government must soon of necessity swallow all of them up. They wlll soon be reduced to the mere office of electing the National senate. He was against patching up the old federal system: he hoped the idea would be dismissed. It would be like putting new cloth on an old garment. The confederation was found on temporary principles. It cannot last: it cannot be amended. If we do not establish a good government on new prineiples, we must either go to ruin, or have the work to do over again. The people at large are wrongly suspected of being averse to a general government. The aversion lies among interested men Who posess their confidence.

was for an election by the people as to the first branch and by the States as to the second branch; by which means the Citizens of the States would be represened both individually and collectively.