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title:“Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates”
authors:Melancton Smith
date written:1788-6-25

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:28 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Aug. 19, 2022, 11:39 p.m. UTC

Smith, Melancton. "Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 22. Ed. John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2008. 1886-87. Print.
Melancton Smith, Notes for Speech, New York State Library, Albany, New York

Melancton Smith's Notes of the New York Ratification Convention Debates (June 25, 1788)

SMITH. The Senate will be a small Body, distant from the people in a situation not to be observed by them— Men are apt in this condn. to forget their dependance—to lose their sympathy—to contract selfish habits—factions are apt to be formed & if the Body continues unchanged to continue & become heredy[itar]y—the present Congress eligible only 3 years out of 6, and recallable—It has been beneficial—had it not been the case, factions might have proved ruinous—A Senator will be most of his time from home will associate with none but his own class—will become a stranger to the cond. of the people— He should return and be obliged to live with the people To revive his Sympaty & sense of dependence— To give oppy. to gain knowledge & information of the State of his Cons[tituents] It will give oppurty of bringing forward the best informed Men—of promoting knowledge in govt. among more in[dividual]s—of diffusing more generally the information of the administrn.
By means of those, who are sent? By this means the people will have more confidence— When they see those who have been in high office, [then return?] among them, as privt. Citizens They will feel more sensible that the governt is of their own choice—More necessary to have this check, from the smallness of the Representation, and the impracticability of having it large—
* * * * *
On the Senate SMITH. The Senate are to consist of two members from each State chosen by the legislatures for six years &c— I shall not object to the equality of representation in the Senate, I think it a prudent establishment, as it will have a tendency to preserve the State governments—it is indeed almost the only thing in the system, that affords any security on that head— The time of service for the Senate is in my judgment too long—I confess the particular period proper for the Senate to serve is in some measure matter of opinion—By the present conf[ederation] members of Congress are chosen annually their business requires as much knowledge experience & stability as will be required in the Senate and more—perhaps however the nature of the business which the Senate will have to transact renders it proper that they should be chosen for a longer term, but a medium ought to be observed, Six years is a long time to be in an elective office—Men who are a long time in office are apt to lose a sense of their dependence on the people, to become insensible to the condition of their constituents and to contract callous habits—Besides the people of this Country have not been accustomed to appointments for such long terms—And will therefore probably not have confidence in persons who hold them—four years would be a time sufficient to check popular erroneous opinions, which are generally transient and of short duration—It is sufficient to give permanency and stability to measures, and to give oppurtunity to acquire political information—But I have a more weighty objection to this part of the system, and that is that the members may serve perpetually—It is not improbable that [—] some men may be repeatedly elected to Seats in the Senate, and that in process of time the place of Senator may be held for Life— I think there are many reasons in favour of the provis[ion] in the present articles of confed., which declares that no member of Congress shall be eligible for more than three years out of six— The Senate will be a small body, they will be distant from the people, and in a situation, not to be observed by them—placed in this situation men are extremely apt to become insensible to their dependance on the people, to lose a just sense of their Interest, to contract selfish habits and to pursue private Interests—To recall the Ideas of their dependence and to rekindle a sense of the Interests of their constituents it seems of the highest importance, that they should return to private Life and mix with the people—Besides by continuing long in office a man becomes a stranger to the condition and feelings of the people—A Senator will be by far the greatest part of his time from home, he will associate with none but those of his rank, and by this means he will forget the state of his constituents, be void of sympathy with them and in a considerable degree unacquainted with their true situation—It will be proper therefore that he should return to his state as well to revive his sympathy & sense of dependance as to gain knowledge & information of the state of his Const[ituents] —Besides a rotation in the office of Senators, will give oppurty. of bringing into the service of their country a greater number of well informed men—and by the means of those who return to mix with the people, of diffusing among the people knowledge & information— Another provision I would have respecting the Senate, & that is a right in the Legislatures to recall them—This right is now in the States under the confederation and appears to me founded in the strictest propriety Nothing can be more consonant to the reason and fitness of things, than that the man or body of men who appoint an agent to manage business for them, should retain in their hands the right of removing them when they conduct in a manner disagreable to them—The Senate will be the representatives of the States as such and is it not in the highest degree improper, that the authority sover[e]ign of a state should relinquish the right to displace a representative, and fix him in office for six years—let [him] behave ever so unfaithfully? This right of recall will tend to keep the Senate dependant on the States, and from hence attentive to their duty. No danger of their being too dependent No danger of abuse of this power, instance in the present [Confed— eration?]
* * * * *
SMITH. Equality of Represent. in the Senate we are told was matter of compromise, to preserve the State Sovereignt. & place men as guardians—But still, we must take care if possible to render them indepd. of the States— It is sd. there is too great anxiety for the State governts. the genl. govt. is looked upon as a vulture preying up[on] the St. Govts.— The apprehension that the State govts. is more Ideal—The genl. govt. is armed at all points—The State govts. defenceless— But it is said the State govts. will have more influ[enc]e than the gen. because
1 they have 2000—members of Leg—But they will have power to do very little— 2. They have more Offices to give—I an[swer] not so many valuable one— 3. It is natural for people to look to those who regulate agriculture &c—& therefore whenever the general Govt. mediate an attack the people will resist— This amots. to no more than this, that the State Legisl. will have great power to form oppos. agt. the genl govt.—this a pernicious check—they ought to harmonize—have mutual confidence—act in concert—To this end the powers should be precisely defined—and the general govt. have a reasonable dependence on the States.— It [is] said local Interests must be counteracted—The Interests of the whole is the true local Intts.—This will more and more appear to the States—But few local Interests to pursue—most of those which gave occasion for this influence removed—Taxes—diff[eren]t duties on commerce— The principal remaining one that between the carrying & non carrying States—This will every day appear more Ideal than substantial—But if it continues, local prejudices cannot be removed and perhaps oug[h]t not—every law relating it must be matter of compromise—in making wh. local attachments will be useful— It is sd. factions wd. be formed, to recall to fill their places— Those who wish for places wd not be likely to render them less permanent— Corruption is again, as it has been, treat[e]d as a chimer[ical] Idea— The Repres. must give the money, therefore they cannot be corrupted—I ask is it a strange thing for the people to be corrupted wt. their own money—They are as exposed to foreign corruption as any other Country— They will be exposed to all that kind of influence arising from grants of lucrative offices—for though they cannot hold an office while they hold a Seat, they may accept one & leave their Seat—except such as have been created or the emoluments encreased while they are Senators—these they cannot hold until their time expires—offices appd. by Presid wt. advice of Senate—Many lucrative offices— Said that Corrupt. has not taken place under Congress—Compd. to State Govts—
ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Mr. Chairman, in debates of this kind it is extremely easy, on either side, to say a great number of plausible things. It is to be acknowledged, that there is even a certain degree of truth in the reasonings on both sides. In this situation, it is the province of judgment and good sense to determine their force and application, and how far the arguments advanced on one side, are balanced by those on the other. The ingenious dress, in which both may appear, renders it a difficult task to make this decision, and the mind is frequently unable to come to a safe and solid conclusion. On the present question, some of the principles on each side are admitted, and the conclusions drawn from them denied, while other principles, with their inferences, are rejected altogether. It is the business of the committee to seek the truth in this labyrinth of argument.
There are two objects in forming systems of government—Safety for the people, and energy in the administration. When these objects are united, the certain tendency of the system will be to the public welfare. If the latter object be neglected, the people's security will be as certainly sacrificed, as by disregarding the former. Good constitutions are formed upon a comparison of the liberty of the individual with the strength of government; If the tone of either be too high, the other will be weakened too much. It is the happiest possible mode of conciliating these objects, to institute one branch peculiarly endowed with sensibility, another with knowledge and firmness. Through the opposition and mutual controul of these bodies, the government will reach, in its regular operations, the perfect balance between liberty and power. The arguments of the gentlemen chiefly apply to the former branch—the house of representatives. If they will calmly consider the different nature of the two branches, they will see that the reasoning which justly applies to the representative hous, will go to destroy the essential qualities of the senate. If the former i calculated perfectly

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