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resorted to it. After some further illustrative remarks, Mr. Barbour said, in every point of view, he was now opposed to districting the states for the election of electors; whilst he considered the remainder of the proposition before the senate as a recurrence to the true principles of the constitution, which required that representatives should be uniformly elected by districts. The representative body would then be that pure organ of the popular will in the national councils, which the spirit of the constitution intends it.
Mr. MASON, of New Hampshire.-As to the election of electors, and the observation that the voice of she whole congress, united in favour of any man, would be but as a feather in the scale, Mr. Mason said it was a feather which always had turned, and always would turn, the balance. He spoke not with reference to any particular transaction; but, let the congress continue to make their nomination, the state legislatures their nominations of electors, and these two together would for ever give a president to the United States. All the arguments of the gentleman in favour of electing representatives by districts apply, but with much greater force, to the election of electors: for here is the great pressure of danger; in this point, may it always be expected that an influence will be exerted over the people, which he said he knew no way of counteracting, but by putting each elector within the sphere of the personal knowledge of those who are to choose him. With this view only did Mr. Mason incline to favour this part of the proposition to amend the constitution, which, if adopted, would make it more difficult that any thing like dictation should be practised in the case of the election of electors. The election of electors by districts, would tend to take the power of appointing the head, out of hands in which the constitution endeavoured to prevent its ever being placed. He was, therefore, favourable to that part of the motion before the senate which related to the election of electors.
Mr. KING, of New York, said that, so far as regarded the manner and time of choosing representatives and senators to congress, a majority of the congress may by law establish the very manner of choosing representatives, which was now proposed to be erected into a constitutional rule. It seemed to him, therefore, unnecessary to alter the constitution by imposing a rule, when, according to the constitution, a competent power can now make the same regulation by law. Not so with that part of the amendment before the senate, which the gentleman from Virginia proposed to strike out. The states may now severally direct the manner of choosing their own electors: it is proposed that the manner shall be prescribed by the constitution. This, Mr. King thought would be an important change, VOL. II.
and the only change suggested in the constitution which he deemed an improvement. He thought he might venture to say, that if there was any part of the constitution deemed by its framers and advocates to be better secured than any other against the enterprizes which have since occurred, it was the very provision on the subject of elections to the presidency. The idea was that the action of that particular agency which has since controlled it, was as inuch displaced by the constitu. tional plan of election of president and vice president, as could possibly be devised. The opinion had been that all undue agency or influence was entirely guarded against; that the men selected by the people from their own body would give their votes in such a manner as that no opportunity would be afforded for a combination, to change the freedom and popular character which naturally belonged to the electoral bodies. Such had been the idea of the nation at the time of the adoption of the constitution. We all know, said he, the course which this thing has taken. The election of a president of the United States is no longer that process which the constitution contemplated. In conformity with the original view of the authors of that instrument, I would restore, as thoroughly as possible, the freedom of election to the people: I would make the mode of election uniform through the country, by throwing the whole nation into as many districts as there are electors, and let the people of each district choose one elector. One idea on this subject he thought worth more than all the arguments against this course: that then all the people in the country would stand precisely on the same footing; and no particular addresses could be made to the special interests and particular views of particular men or particular sections of the country. The course now pursued in this respect, Mr. King said, was not entitled to that high distinction. On the contrary, those who reflected on it could not help seeing that our progress in government was not for the bet. ter; that it was not likely hereafter to be in favour of popular rights. It was with the people the constitution meant to place the election of the chief magistrate, that being the source least liable to be corrupt. But if, under the name of the liberty of the people, said Mr. King, we put this power into other hands, with different interests, we place it in a situation in which the rights of the people are violated. In this point of view, to him (he said) this particular clause of the proposed amendment to the constitution was of great value. Let the question of the mode of election of senators and representatives rest where it is: if congress choose to interpose, let them. The other part of the proposition was in favour of the rights of the people, of the freedom of the country; for with regard to these rights and freedom, no man could name a matter so important as the choice of the president of the nation. It is an infirmity in our natures that we look for chiefs and rulers, either for their superior virtue, or their supposed subserviency to the views of those in subordinate situations. It was against the evil of the latter principle, Mr. King desired to guard. The liberties of the people, repeated he, of which we speak much, and I hope we feel much, are more affected by the choice of president than by any other ordinary political act. In this point they are vulnerable: here ought the rights of the people and of the states to be guarded. Our existence and the passions of the present day are ephemeral: public liberty should be immortal. Considering that this body should be to the people and the states not only the safe guardians of their rights but the protectors of their liberty, he hoped they would adopt a provision he considered so nearly connected with the perpetuation of both.
Mr. BARBOUR, in reply to Mr. Mason, (who denied the force of the distinction in principle between the election of electors and representatives by a general ticket,) said, that in elections for representatives by general ticket, men were frequently elected to congress in that mode, who would not have been permitted by the people to represent the district for which they are elected.
Mr. Macon, of North-Carolina, said, there was nothing more certain to his mind, than that the mode of election of electors ought to be uniform throughout the United States; because if it were otherwise, it was possible that a minority might elect the great officers of the United States. A small state, unanimous for one candidate, might by general ticket counterbalance the weight of two large states Foting by districts. There was no way but by uniform district election, he said, to obtain with certainty the sense of the people. The state which he represented had, until lately, been in the habit of forming two sets of districts—the one for representatives, and the other for electors, and had not experienced much difficulty in it. Was it not better to surmount this small difficulty than to have different principles of election in different states. Although it were true, as had been stated, that congress could regulate the mode of choosing representatives, it was to put it out of the power of any party to change the mode of choosing representatives; it was to put it out of the power of any party to change the mode of election to answer any particular purpose, that he would make an amendment to the constitution in this respect, to prevent such changes as the states had made in the mode of electing their electors. The best interests of the country, in the opinion of Mr. Macon, required that both clauses of the proposed amendment to the constitution should be agreed to; which would, as much as possible, put it in the power of the people to elect the men whom they prefer. A fair canvass never had taken place, nor ever could take place, in voting by general ticket, where the people, instead of having a personal knowledge of those for whom they vote, must take their characters on trust. Another reason for fixing an, uniform mode of election by the constitution, was, that at present doubts are entertained of the constitutionality of both modes of election, in the quarters of the country where they respectively occur, &c.
Mr. Lacock, of Pennsylvania, moved to recommit the resolution with instructions to report an amendment to provide for the election of president and vice president by the electors of each state qualified to vote for the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.
Gen. HARPER, of Maryland, said, as he might be called away by other business before this question was decided, he would take this opportunity of expressing his opinion, and his hope that the motion last made would not prevail, because it seemed to him that the principle it embraced was infinitely less expedient than that now on the table. It would have a tendency to produce more anomalies than now exist in the constitution; to refer the election of president to a less certain rule than we have at present. It would induce a great deal of unnecessary trouble and vexation, and would at last come to the same result, as in the more simple and less embarrassed mode by the choice of electors. As to the main proposition before the senate, Mr. Harper said he was decidedly in favour of it, for this general reason; that its adoption would tend to make the elections of president less a matter of juggle and intrigue than they now are. He would not say that it would have the effect of wholly excluding intrigue, of placing this great election on the footing on which the great men who framed the constitution vainly imagined they were placing it, of a free unbiassed expression of the public will; but he thought it would bring it nearer than at present. Party arrangements and bargains would not be so easy. Bargains could not be so readily struck with one state for this great office, with another for that he would not say as had been done, but certainly as may be done, according to the present mode of election. Districting the states for electors, Mr. Harper said, would in his judgment have a tendency to render the presidential election more free and independent; to remove it more from the grasp of party arrangements; to prevent bargains between profligate agents, and the selling of the nation for offices to the highest bidder. He was therefore decidedly opposed to striking out that part of the proposition before the senate.
On suggestion of Mr. Dana, Mr. Lacock having so modified his motion as to divest it of its peremptory character, and make it a motion for enquiry merely
Mr. Dana, of Connecticut, said, as the views of the convention on this subject had been mentioned, he would state, that
he once had permission to examine the original journals of the convention in the office of state; and it appeared that, in regard to the election of president, almost every possible mode had been tried and rejected. It was proposed at first that the election should be made by the national legislature. This was agreed to, but afterwards reconsidered. It was then proposed that the president should be chosen by electors elected by the several states: this was rejected. It was then proposed, and rejected also, that he should be chosen by the people. The real fact was, the convention, in forming a government of which there was no model in history, had great difficulties to surmount. Projects of all kinds were tried, and none could succeed to their satisfaction, on this particular point. At length, after many fruitless votes on different propositions, a grand committee was appointed to consider the subject. They ultimately adopted the compound ratio which now exists, and added the feature of the vice presidency to the system. So far as regarded the most certain mode of guarding against cabal and intrigue, the very circumstance of districting a state for ten years at a time, is that which would enable men to intrigue with certainty to a particular point. To guard with certainty against intrigue, the mode of election should be left uncertain. The whole plan of districting the United States, he said, was more completely adapted to the purposes of intrigue, bribery, and corruption, than any that had ever been devised. Believing thus, he must vote against it, not taking it for granted himself that mere change will prove a remedy for existing difficulties. The distinction between the two parties which formerly existed, Mr. Dana took occasion to say, was now, or soon would be, merely nominal. Where was the difference between them now,
he asked, except that those on one side had gone beyond the others, and the others had fallen a little back? There might be a nominal artificial distinction, but there was, in fact, but very little real difference. The general violence and error of party, he said, was purity itself, compared with the personal corruption that we have to guard against-the difficulty of preventing which will be increased rather than diminished by electing wholly by districts.
Mr. Mason, of New-Hampshire, conceived the idea of Mr. Lacock to be wholly impracticable. The qualifications of voters in the different states were so entirely different, that the whole election would be unequal in its bearing on the different states. One state has not, in some instances, according to its population, one-fourth of the votes which another state may give, &c. If there were no other objection to this new proposition, this would be of itself conclusive.
Mr. King. All experience, he said, had shown that the people of any country were most competent to a correct desig