It has been observed, that in considering this great and momentous question, we ought to consult the sentiments of wise men, who have written on the subject of government, and thereby regulate our decision on this business, A passage is adduced from Montesquieu, stating, That where the people delegate great power, it ought to be compensated for by the shortness of the duration. Thought strictly agreeing with the author, I do not see that it applies to the subject under consideration. This might be perfectly applicable to the ancient governments, where they had no idea of representation, or different checks in the legislature or administration of government; but in the proposed Constitution, the powers of the whole government are limited to certain national objects, and are accurately defined; the House of Representatives is but one branch of the system, and can do nothing of itself;2
Montesquieu, in the sentiment alluded to, must have had in his mind the Epistates of Athens, or the Dictators of Rome, but certainly observations drawn from such sources can have no weight in considering things so essentially different: again, sir, gentlemen have said, that annual elections were necessary to the preservation of liberty, and that in proportion as the people of different nations have lengthened, beyond the term of a year the duration of their representatives, they have lost their liberties, and that all writers have agreed in this. I may mistake, but I know no such thing as a representation of the people in any of the ancient republicks; in England, from whence we receive many of our ideas on this subject, King John covenanted with his people to summons certain classes of men to Parliament- by the Constitution of that country, the King alone can convoke, and he alone, previous to the revolution, could dissolve the Parliament- but in the reign of William III. the patriots obtained an act limitting the duration of Parliaments to three years- soon after, a Parliament then sitting and near expiring, a rebellion broke out, and the tories and Jacobites were gaining strength to support the pretender's claim to the crown:-Had they dissolved themselves, and a new Parliament been convoked, probably many of the very opponents to the government might havebeen elected. In that case they might have effected by law, what they, in vain, attempted by arms.