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title:“Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention”
date written:1788-1-19

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:31 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 8, 2023, 8:14 p.m. UTC

"Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 6. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2000. 1254-59. Print.

Newspaper Report of the Massachusetts Ratification Convention (January 19, 1788)

The Hon. Mr. SINGLETARY thought we were giving up all our privileges, as there was no provision that men in power should have any religion-and though he hoped to see Christians, yet by the Constitution, a Papist or an Infidel, were as eligible as they: It had been said that men had not degenerated-He did not think men were better now than when men after God's own heart did wickedly-He thought in this instance, we were giving great power to-we know not whom.
General BROOKS, If good men are appointed, government will be administered well. But what will prevent bad men from mischief is the question-If there should be such in the Senate-we ought to be cautious of giving power but when that power is given with proper checks, the danger is at an end.-When men are answerable, and within the reach responsibility they cannot forget that their political existence depends upon their good behaviour The Senate can frame no law but by consent of the Representatives-and is answerable to that house for its conduct-If their conduct excites suspicion, they are to be impeached-punished (or prevented from holding any office, which is a great punishment.) If these checks are not sufficient, it is impossible to devise such as will be so.
Hon. Mr. KING. It so happened that I was both of the Convention and Congress at the same time, and if I recollect right the answer of Mr G. does not materially vary In 1778, Congress required the States to make a return of the houses and lands surveyed-but one State only complied therewith, New-Hampshire. Massachusetts did not.3 Congress consulted no rule; it was resolved that the several States should be taxed according to their ability and if it appeared any state had paid more than her just quota, it should be passed to the credit of that state, with lawful interest.
Mr. DALTON said we had obtained a great deal by the new constitution-By the confederation each state had an equal vote-Georgia is now content with three eighths of the voice of Massachusetts.
Colonel JONES, Bristol objected to the length of time-If men continue in office four or six years they would forget their dependence on the people, and be loath to leave their places-men elevated so high in power they would fall heavy when they came down.
Mr. AMES observed, that an objection was made against the constitution, because the senators are to be chosen for six years. It has been said, that they will be removed too far from the controul of the people, and that, to keep them in proper dependence, they should be chosen annually It is necessary to premise, that no argument against the new plan has made a deeper impression than this, that it will produce a consolidation of the states. This is an effect which all good men will deprecate. For it is obvious, that, if the state powers are to be destroyed, the representation is too small. The trust in that case would be too great to be confided to so few persons. The objects of legislation would be so multiplied and complicated, that the government would be unwieldy and impracticable. The state governments are essential parts of the system, and the defence of this article is drawn from its tendency to their preservation.
The senators represent the sovereignty of the states; in the other house, individuals are represented. The senate may not originate bills. It need not be said, that they are principally to direct the affairs of war and treaties. They are in the quality of ambassadours of the states, and it will not be denied that some permanency in their office is necessary to a discharge of their duty:—Now, if they were chosen yearly how could they perform their trust? If they would be brought by that means more immediately under the influence of the people, then they will represent the state legislatures less, and become the representatives of individuals. This belongs to the other house. The absurdity of this, and its repugnancy to the federal principles of the constitution, will appear more fully by supposing that they are to be chosen by the people at large. If there is any force in the objection to this article, this would be proper. But whom in that case would they represent? Not the legislatures of the states, but the people. This would totally obliterate the federal features of the constitution. What would become of the state governments, and on whom would devolve the duty of defending them against the encroachments of the federal government? A consolidation of the states would ensue, which, it is conceded, would subvert the new constitution, and against which this very article, so much condemned, is our best security. Too much provision cannot be made against a consolidation. The state governments represent the wishes and feelings and local interests of the people. They are the safe guard and ornament of the constitution—they protract the period of our liberties—they will afford a shelter against the abuse of power and will be the natural avengers of our violated rights.
A very effectual check upon the power of the senate is provided. A third part is to retire from office every two years. But this means, while the senators are seated for six years, they are admonished of their responsibility to the state legislatures. If one third new members are introduced who feel the sentiments of their states, they will awe that third, whose term will be near expiring. This article seems to be an excellence of the constitution, and affords just ground to believe, that it will be in practice as in theory a federal republick. AFTERNOON.
The 3d sect[ion] respecting the construction of the senate, under debate.
Col. JONES said, his objection still remained—that senators chosen for so long a time will forget their duty to their constituents—We cannot, says he, recall them. The choice of representatives was too long—the senate was much worse—it is, says he, a bad precedend—and is unconstitutional.
Mr. King as the senate preserved the equality of the States—their appointment is equal.3 To the objection to this branch, that it is chosen for too long a period, he observed, if the principle of classing them is considered, although it appears long, it will not be found so long as it appears—One class is to serve two years—another four—and another six years—the average therefore is four years. The senators, said Mr K. will have a powerful check, in those men who wish for their seats, who will watch their whole conduct in the general government—and will give the alarm in case misbehaviour.—And the state legislature, if they find their delegates erring, can and will instruct them will not this be a check? when they hear the voice of the people solemnly dictating to them their duty they will be bold men indeed to act contrary to it. These will not be instructions sent them in a private letter which can be put in their pockets—they will be publick instructions, which all the country will see, and they will be hardymen indeed to violate them. The honourable gentleman said, the power to controul the senate, is as great as ever was enjoyed in any government; and that the members therefore will be found not to be chosen for too long a time. They are, says he, to assist the executive in the designation and appointment of officers; and they ought to have time to mature their judgments; if for a shorter period, how can they be acquainted with the rights & interests of nations, so as to form advantageous treaties? To understand these rights is the business of education:—Their business being naturally different, and more extensive than the other branch, they ought to have different qualifications; and their duration is not too long for a right discharge of their duty.4
Dr. TAYLOR said, he hoped the honourable gentleman [Rufus King] did not mean to deceive us, by saying, that the senate are not to be chosen for six years; for they are really to be chosen for six years: and as to the idea of classing, he did not know who, when chosen for that time, would go out at a shorter. He remarked on Mr King's idea of checks, and observed, that such indeed were the articles of confederation, which provides for delegates being chosen annually—for rotation, and the right of recalling. But in this, they are to be chosen for six years; but a shadow of rotation provided for and no power to recall; and concluded by saying, that if they are once chosen, they are chosen forever.
The Hon. Mr. STRONG, mentioned the difficulty which attended the construction of the senate in the Convention; and that a committee, consisting of one delegate from each state, was chosen to consider the subject, who reported as it now stands; and that Mr. Gerry was on the committee, from Massachusetts.

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