Hon. Mr. TURNER. Mr President, I am pleased with the ingenuity, of some gentlemen in defence of this section. I am so impressed with the love of our liberty so dearly bought, that I heartily acquiesce in compulsory laws, for the people ought to be obliged to attend to their interest. But I do not wish to give Congress a power which they can abuse; and, I wish to know whether such a power is not contained in this section? I think it is.
I now proceed, sir, to the consideration of an idea, that Congress may alter the place for chusing representatives in the general Congress- they may order that it may be at the extremity of a state, and by their influence, may there prevail that persons maybe chosen, who otherwise would not; by reason that a part of the qualified voters in part of the state, would be so incommoded thereby, as to be debarred from their right as much as if they were bound at home. If so, such a circumstance would militate against the constitution, which allows every man to vote. Altering the place will put it so far in the power of Congress, as that the representatives chosen will not be the true and genuine representatives of the people, but creatures of the Congress; and so far as they are so, so far are the people deprived of their rights, and the choice will be made in an irregular and unconstitutional manner. When this alteration is made by Congress- may not suppose whose re-election will be provided for? Would it not be for those who were chosen before? The great law of self preservation will prevail. It is true, they might, one time in an hundred, provide for a friend, but most commonly for themselves. But, however honourable the convention may be who proposed this article, I think it is a genuine power for Congress to perpetuate themselves- a power that cannot be unexceptionably exercised in any case whatever:- Knowing the numerous arts, that designing men are prone to, to secure their election, and perpetuate themselves, it is my hearty wish that a rotation may be provided for.1
I respect and revere the convention who proposed this constitution. In order that the power given to Congress may be more palatable, some gentlemen are pleased to hold up the idea, that we may be blessed with sober, solid, upright men in Congress. I wish that we may be favoured with such rulers; but I fear they will not all, if most be the best moral or political characters. It gives me pain, and I believe it gives pain to others, thus to characterize the country in which I was born. I will endeavour to guard against any injurious reflections against my fellow citizens. But they must have their true characters, and if I represent them wrong, I am willing to make concessions. I think that the operation of paper money, and the practice of privateering, have produced gradual decay morals- introduced pride- ambition- envy- lust of power- produced decay of patriotism, and the love of commutative justice; and I am apprehensive these are the invariable concommitants of the luxury in which we are unblessedly involved, almost to our total destruction. In the lower ranks of people, luxury and avarice operate to the want of publick duty and the payment of debts. These demonstrate the necessity of an energetick government: As people become more luxurious, they become more incapacitated governing themselves. And are we not so? A like people, a like prince: But suppose it should so happen, that the administrators of this constitution should be preferable to the corrupt mass of the people, in point of manners, morals, and rectitude; power will give a keen edge to the principles I have mentioned. Ought we not, then, to put all checks and controuls on governours for the publick safety: therefore, instead of giving Congress powers they may not abuse; we ought to withhold our hands from granting such, as must be abused exercised. This is a general observation. But to the point: at the time of the restoration, the people of England were so vexed, harassed and worn down, by the anarchical and confused state of the nation, owing to the commonwealth not being well digested, that they took an opposite career; they run mad with loyalty, and would have given Charles any thing he could have asked- Pardon me, sir, if I say I feel the want of an energetick government, and the dangers to which this dear country is reduced, as much as any citizen of the United States; but I cannot prevail on myself to adopt a government, which wears the face of power without examining it. Relinquishing an hair's breadth in a constitution is a great deal; for by small degrees has liberty in all nations, been wrested from the hands of the people. I know great powers are necessary to be given to Congress, but I wish they may be well guarded.