By the first article the house representatives shall consist of members, chosen every second year by the people of the several states, who are qualified to vote for members of their several state assemblies; it can therefore readily be believed, that the different state legislatures, provided such can exist after the adoption of this government, will continue those easy and convenient modes for the election of representatives for the national legislature, that are in use, for the election of members of assembly for their own states;2
but the congress have, by the constitution, a power to make other regulations, or alter those in practice, prescribed by your own state legislatures; hence, instead of having the places of elections in the precincts, and brought home almost to your own doors, Congress may establish a place, or places, at either the extremes, center, or outer parts of the states; at a time and season too, when it may be very inconvenient to attend; and by these means destroy the rights of election; but in opposition to this reasoning, it is asserted, that it is a necessary power because the states might omit making rules for the purpose, and thereby defeat the existence of that branch of the government; this is what logicians call argumentum absurdum, for the different states, if they will have any security at all in this government, will find it in the house of representatives, and they, therefore, would not be very ready to eradicate a principle in which it dwells, or involve their country in an instantaneous revolution. Besides, if this was the apprehension of the framers, and the ground of that provision, why did not they extend this controuling power to the other duties of the several state legislatures.
To exemplify this the states are to appoint senators, and electors for choosing of a president; but the time is to be under the direction of congress.3
Now, suppose they were to omit the appointment of senators and electors, though congress was to appoint the time, which might well be apprehended the omission of regulations for the election of members of the house of representatives, provided they had that power; or suppose they were not to meet at all: of course, the government cannot proceed in its exercise. And from this motive, or apprehension, congress ought to have taken these duties entirely in their own hands, and, by a decisive declaration, annihilated them, which they in fact have done by leaving them without the means of support, or at least resting on their bounty. To this, the advocates for this system oppose the common, empty declamation, that there is no danger that congress will abuse this power; but such language, as relative to so important a subject, is mere vapour and sound without sense. Is it not in their power, however, to make such regulations as may be inconvenient to you? It must be admitted, because the words are unlimited in their sense. It is a good rule, in the construction of a contract, to suppose, that what may be done will be; therefore, in considering this subject, you are to suppose, that in the exercise of this government, a regulation of congress will be made, for holding an election for the whole state at Poughkeepsie, at New-York, or, perhaps, at Fort-Stanwix: who will then be the actual electors for the house of representatives? Very few more than those who may live in the vicinity of these places. Could any others afford the expence and time of attending? And would not the government by this means have it in their power to put whom they pleased in the house of representatives? You ought certainly to have as much or more distrust with respect to the exercise of these powers by congress, than congress ought to have with respect to the exercise of those duties which ought to be entrusted to the several states, because over them congress can have a legislative controuling power.4