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title:“Debate in the United States Senate”
date written:1803-12-2

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:04 a.m. UTC
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"Debate in the United States Senate." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Debate in the United States Senate (December 2, 1803)

December 2, 1803.
Mr. Dayton . . . Although, however, no arguments can avail to prevent the adoption of an amendment of the Constitution so fatal to the interests of a great portion of the community, yet, as a member of one of the small States, I claim a right to mourn over our fallen honors and dignity, and as a Representative from New Jersey, I deem it my duty to enter my solemn protest against the injury done to our interests and our sovereignty. But a few years ago we were equal in votes and influence, though inferior in size and population, to the largest States. We consented to give up a certain portion of that influence for the general good, expressly retaining the other portion for our own protection and security. This instrument, the Constitution, which we have sworn to support, and are now about to deface, is the new compact which that temper produced. It is the great plan of compromise between the jarring and contending interests of the great and small States. . . .
Through the whole course of this discussion great art has been used by some of the most zealous advocates of the measure, to divert us from the real ground of distinction upon which it rests, and to lull into a fatal repose the jealousies of the small States for their rights and sovereignty. A remark of the honorable gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Smith) tending to that object, ought not to escape animadversion. He averred that no law could be found in our statute book that was produced by a combination of States, and hence inferred that no such combination ought to be apprehended. The fact admitted, said Mr. D., and what does it prove? Not what the gentleman from Maryland would infer; not what he ought to prove, before the assertion and the argument can be worth anything to him on this occasion; not that such combination may not be feared if you alter the Constitution, but that it is impracticable as it now stands. The refined process established for electing a President was calculated to guard against that very danger, but if altered and destroyed, we shall soon be subject to that evil. Why is it, sir, that none of our laws are the result of any combination of States? The reason is to be found in the checks provided against it in the Constitution. Any project founded upon a coalition of the small states, originating as it must in the Senate, would be checked in the House of Representatives; and, on the other hand, any one resulting from any concert among the great States in the other branch, would and must be defeated in this. But if these wholesome checks could be done away, where could be found a security against so great a temptation? I thank God that the Convention were so enlightened as to place the equality of States in the Senate beyond the reach of amendment. . . .1
Mr. Pickering . . . believed that one of the most embarrassing questions before the General Convention, respected the choice of the chief Executive officer. He had been informed by a member of that convention, the gentleman from Georgia on his left, (Mr. Baldwin), that it had been proposed and concluded that the President of the United States should be elected by Congress for seven years, and be ever after ineligible to that office; but that late in their session the present complex mode of electing the President and Vice President was proposed; that the mode was perfectly novel, and therefore occasioned a pause; but when explained and fully considered was universally admired, and viewed as the most pleasing feature in the Constitution. . . .
Mr. Butler . . . Whatever may be the sentiments or wishes of the individuals who vote, he could take upon him to say what was the intention of the Constitution; the framers of that instrument were apprehensive of an elective Chief Magistrate; and their views were directed to prevent the putting up of any powerful man; that for this end the States should choose two, and that as public suffrage would be common to both, that either would be alike eligible, and as it was totally immaterial which — he feared that the election of a single individual might exhibit all the evils which afflicted Poland.
. . . He thought that after a contention of seven years, with a party who he had thought abused their power, the time was come when a better course would have been pursued; he had conceived that principles would have prevailed, and that men would not absorb every consideration; but, with a member of the Convention, he would say, I hoped after so long a course of pork that our diet would be changed, but I find it is pork still with only a change of sauce.

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