Wilson: Three weeks have now elapsed since this Convention met. Some of the delegates attended on Tuesday the 20th November; a great majority within a day or two afterwards, and all but one on the 4th day. We have been since employed in discussing the business for which we are sent here. I think it will now become evident to every person who takes a candid view of our discussions, that it is high time our proceedings should draw towards a conclusion. Perhaps our debates have already continued as long, nay, longer than is sufficient for every good purpose. The business which we were intended to perform is necessarily reduced to a very narrow compass. The single question to be determined is, shall we assent to and ratify the Constitution proposed?
As this is the first state whose Convention has met on the subject, and as the subject itself is of very great importance not only to Pennsylvania, but to the United States, it was thought proper, fairly, openly, and candidly, to canvass it. This has been done. You have heard, Mr. President, from day to day, and from week to week, the objections that could be offered from any quarter. We have heard those objections once-we have heard a great number of them repeated much oftener than once. Will it answer any valuable end, sir, to protract these debates longer? I suppose it will not. I apprehend it may serve to promote very pernicious and destructive purposes. It may perhaps be insinuated to other states, and even to distant parts of this state, by people in opposition to this system, that the expediency of adopting is at most very doubtful, and that the business labors among the members of the Convention.
This would not be a true representation of the fact; for there is the greatest reason to believe that there is a very considerable majority who do not hesitate to ratify the Constitution. We were sent here to express the voice of our constituents on the subject, and I believe that many of them expected to hear the echo of that voice before this time.
When I consider the attempts that have been made on this floor, and the many misrepresentations of what has been said among us that have appeared in the public papers, printed in this city, I confess that I am induced to suspect that opportunity may be taken to pervert and abuse the principles on which the friends of this Constitution act. If attempts are made here, will they not be repeated when the distance is greater, and the means of information fewer? Will they not at length produce an uneasiness, for which there is, in fact, no cause? Ought we not to prohibit any such uses being made of the continuance of our deliberations? We do not wish to preclude debate-of this our conduct has furnished the most ample testimony. The members in opposition have not been prevented repetition of all their objections, that they could urge against this plan.
The honorable gentleman from Fayette (Mr. Smilie) the other evening claimed for the minority, the merit of contending for the rights of mankind; and he told us, that it has been the practice of all ages, to treat such minorities with contempt. He further took the liberty of observing, that if the majority had the power, they do not want the inclination to consign the minority to punishment. I know that claims, self-made, form no small part of the merit, to which we have heard undisguised pretenses; but it is one thing to claim, and it is another thing, very different indeed, to support that claim. The minority, sir, are contending for the rights of mankind; what then are the majority contending for? If the minority are contending for the rights of mankind, the majority must be contending for the doctrines of tyranny and slavery. Is it probable that that is the case? Who are the majority in this assembly? Are they not the people? Are they not the representatives of the people, as well as the minority? Were they not elected by the people as well as the minority? Were they not elected by the greater part of the people? Have we a single right separate from the rights of the people? Can we forge fetters for others, that will not be clasped round our own limbs? Can we make heavy chains, that shall not cramp the growth of our own posterity? On what fancied distinction shall the minority assume to themselves the merit of contending for the rights of mankind?
Sir, if the system proposed by the late Convention, and the conduct of its advocates, who have appeared in this house, deserve the declarations and insinutions that have been made concerning them well may we exclaim-ill-fated America! thy crisis was approaching! perhaps it was come! Thy various interests were neglected thy most sacred rights were insecure. Without a government! without energy! without confidence internally! without respect externally! the advantages of society - were lost to thee! In such a situation, distressed but not despairing, thou desiredst to reassume thy native vigor, and to lay the foundation of future empire! Thou selectedst a number of thy sons, to meet together for the purpose. The selected and honored characters met; but horrid to tell, they not only consented, but they combined in an aristocratic system, calculated and intended to enslave their country! Unhappy Pennsylvania! thou, as a part of the Union, must share in its unfortunate fate! For when this system, after being laid before thy citizens, comes before the delegates selected by you for its consideration, there are found but three of the numerous members that have virtue enough to raise their voices in support of the rights of mankind! America, particularly Pennsylvania, must be ill-starred indeed, if this is a true state of the case! I trust we may address our country in far other language.
Happy America! Thy crisis was indeed alarming, but thy situation was not desperate. We had confidence in our country; though on whichever side we turned, we were presented with scenes of distress. Though the jarring interests of the various states, and the different habits and inclinations of their inhabitants, all lay in the way, and rendered our prospect gloomy and discouraging indeed, yet such were the generous and mutual sacrifices offered up, that amidst forty-two members, who represented twelve of the United States, there were only three who did not attest the instrument as a confirmation of its goodness-happy Pennsylvania! this plan has been laid before thy citizens for consideration, they have sent delegates to express their voice; and listen, with rapture listen! From only three opposition has been heard against it.
The singular unanimity that has attended the whole progress of their business will in the minds of those considerate men, who have not had opportunity to examine the general and particular interest of their country, prove to their satisfaction, that it is an excellent Constitution, and worthy to be adopted, ordained, and established by the people of the United States.
After having viewed the arguments drawn from probability, whether this is a good or a bad system, whether those who contend for it, or those who contend against it, contend for the rights of mankind, let us step forward and examine the fact.
We were told some days ago, by the honorable gentleman from Westmoreland (William Findley) when speaking of this system and its objects, that the Convention, no doubt, thought they were forming a compact or contract of the greatest importance. Sir, I confess I was much surprised at so late a stage of the debate, to hear such principles maintained. It was a matter of surprise to see the great leading principle of this system still so very much misunderstood. "The Convention, no doubt, thought they were forming a compact!" I cannot answer for what every member thought; but I believe it cannot be said, that they thought they were making compact, because I cannot discover the least trace of a compact in that system. There can be no compact unless there are more parties than one. It is a new doctrine, that one can make a compact with himself. "The Convention were forming compacts!" With whom? I know no bargains that were made there. I am unable to conceive who the parties could be. The state governments make a bargain with one another; that is the doctrine that is endeavored to be established, by gentlemen in opposition, their state sovereignties wish to be represented! But far other were the ideas of the Convention, and far other are those conveyed in the system itself.
As this subject has been often mentioned and as often misunderstood, it may not be improper to take some further notice of it. This, Mr. President, is not a government founded upon compact; it is founded upon the power of the people. They express in their name and their authority, "We the People do ordain and establish," etc. from their ratification, and their ratification alone, it is to take its constitutional authenticity; without that, it is no more than tabula rasa.
I know very well all the commonplace rant of state sovereignties, and that government is founded in original compact. If that position was examined, it will be found not to accede very well with the true principle of free government. It does not suit the language or genius of the system before us. I think it does not accord with experience, so far as I have been able to obtain information from history.
The greatest part of government have been founded on conquest; perhaps a few early ones may have had their origin in paternal authority. Sometimes a family united, and that family afterwards extended itself into a community. But the greatest governments which have appeared on the face of the globe have been founded in conquest. The great empires of Assyria, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome were all of this kind. I know well that in Great Britain, since the Revolution, it has become a principle, that the constitution is founded in contract; but the form and time of that contract, no writer has yet attempted to discover. It was, however, recognized at the time of the Revolution, therefore is politically true. But we should act very imprudently to consider our liberties as placed on such foundation.
If we go a little further on this subject, I think we see that the doctrine of original compact cannot be supported consistently with the best principles of government. If we admit it, we exclude the idea of amendment; because a contract once entered into between the governor and governed becomes obligatory, and cannot be altered but by the mutual consent of both parties. The citizens of United America, I presume do not wish to stand on that footing, with those to whom, from convenience, they please to delegate the exercise of the general powers necessary for sustaining and preserving the Union. They wish a principle established by the operation of which the legislatures may feel the direct authority of the people. The people possessing that authority will continue to exercise it by amending and improving their own work. This Constitution may be found to have defects in it; amendments hence may become necessary; but the idea of a government founded on contract destroys the means of improvement. We hear it every time the gentlemen are up, "shall we violate the Confederation, which directs every alteration that is thought necessary to be established by the state legislatures only." Sir, those gentlemen must ascend to a higher source; the people fetter themselves by no contract. If your state legislatures have cramped themselves by compact, it was done without the authority of the people, who alone possess the supreme power.
I have already shown, that this system is not a compact or contract; the system itself tells you what it is; it is an ordinance and establishment of the people. I think that the force of the introduction to the work must by this time have been felt. It is not an unmeaning flourish. The expressions declare, in a practical manner, the principle of this Constitution.2
It is ordained and established by the people themselves; and we, who give our votes for it, are merely the proxies of our constituents. We sign it as their attorneys, and as to ourselves, we agree to it as individuals.3
We are told by honorable gentlemen in opposition, "that the present Confederation should have been continued, but that additional powers should have been given to it. That such was the business of the late Convention, and that they had assumed to themselves, the power of proposing another in its stead; and that which is proposed is such a none as was not expected by the legislatures nor by the people." I apprehend this would have been a very insecure, very inadequate, and a very pernicious mode of proceeding. Under the present Con-federation, Congress certainly do not possess sufficient power; but one body of men we know they are; and were they invested with additional - powers, they must become dangerous. Did not the honorable gentleman himself tell us, that the powers of government, vested either in one man, or one body of men, formed the very description of tyranny? To have placed in the present, the legislative, the executive, and judicial authority, all of which are essential - to the general government, would indubitably have produced the severest despotism. From this short deduction, one of these two things must have appeared to the Convention, and must appear to everyman, who is at the pains of thinking on the subject. It was indispensably necessary, either to make a new distribution of the powers of government or to give such powers to one body of men, as would constitute a tyranny. If it was proper to avoid tyranny, it becomes requisite to avoid placing additional powers in the hands of a Congress, constituted like the present; hence the conclusion is warranted, that a different organization ought to take place.
Our next inquiry ought to be, whether this is the most proper dis-position and organization of the necessary powers. But before I con-sider this subject, I think it proper to notice one sentiment, expressed by an honorable gentleman from the county of Cumberland (Robert Whitehill); he asserts the extent of the government is too great, and this system cannot be executed. What is the consequence if this assertion is true? It strikes directly at the root of the Union.
I admit, Mr. President, there are great difficulties in adopting a system of good and free governments to the extent of our country. But I am sure that our interests as citizens, as states, and as a nation depend essentially upon an Union. This Constitution is proposed to accomplish that great and desirable end. Let the experiment be made; let the system be fairly and candidly tried before it is determined that it cannot be executed.
I proceed to another objection; for I mean to answer those that have been suggested since I had the honor of addressing you last week. It has been alleged by honorable gentlemen, that this general government possesses powers, for internal purposes, and that the general government cannot exercise internal powers. The honorable member from Westmoreland William Findley) dilates on this subject and instances the opposition that was made by the colonies against Great Britain, to prevent her imposing internal taxes or excises. And before the federal government will be able to impose the one, or obtain the other, he considers it necessary that it should possess power for every internal purpose.
Let us examine these objections; if this government does not possess in4
ternal as well as external power, and that power for internal as well as external purposes, I apprehend, that all that has hitherto been done must go for nothing. I apprehend government that can-not answer the purposes for which it is intended is not a government for this country. I know that Congress, under the present Articles of Confederation, possess no internal power, and we see the consequences; they can recommend; they can go further, they can make requisitions, but there they must stop. For as far as I recollect, after making a law, they cannot take a single step towards carrying it into execution. I believe it will be found in experience, that with regard to the exercise of internal powers, the general government will not be unnecessarily rigorous. The future collection of the duties and imposts will, in the opinion of some, supersede the necessity of having recourse to internal taxation. The United States will not, perhaps, be often under the necessity of using this power at all; but if they should, it will be exercised only in a moderate degree. The good sense of the citizens of the United States is not to be alarmed by the picture of taxes collected at the point of the bayonet. There is no more reason to suppose, that the delegates and representatives in Congress, anymore than the legislature of Pennsylvania, or any other state, will act in this manner. Insinuations of this kind, made against one body of men, and not against another, though both the representatives of the people, are not made with propriety, nor will they have the weight of argument. apprehend the greatest part of the revenue will arise from external taxation.
But certainly it would have been very unwise in the late Convention to have omitted the addition of the other powers; and I think it would be very unwise in this Convention, to refuse to adopt this Constitution, because it grants Congress power to lay and collect taxes for the purpose of providing for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.
What is to be done to effect these great purposes if an impost should be found insufficient? Suppose a war was suddenly declared against us by a foreign power possessed of a formidable navy; our navigation would be laid prostrate, our imposts must cease; and shall our existence as a nation depend upon the peaceful navigation of our seas? A strong exertion of maritime power, on the part of an enemy, might deprive us of these sources of revenue in a few months. It may suit honorable gentlemen, who live at the western extremity of this state, that they should contribute nothing, by internal taxes, to the support of the general government. They care not what restraints - are laid upon our commerce, for what is the commerce of Philadelphia to the inhabitants on the other side the Allegheny Mountain? But though it may suit them, it does not suit those in the lower part of the state, who are by far the most numerous. Nor can we agree that our safety should depend altogether upon a revenue arising from commerce.
Excise may be a necessary mode of taxation; it takes place in most states already.
The capitation tax is mentioned as one of those that are exceptionable.5
In some states, that mode of taxation is used; but I believe in many, it would be received with great reluctance; there are one or two states where it is constantly in use, and without any difficulties and incon6
veniences arising from it.
An excise, in its very principles, is an improper tax, if it could be avoided; but yet it has been a source of revenue in Pennsylvania, both before the Revolution and since; during all which time, we have enjoyed the benefit of free government.
I presume, sir, that the executive powers of government ought to be commensurate with the government itself, and that a government which cannot act in every part is so far defective. Consequently it is necessary, that Congress possess powers to tax internally, as well as externally.7
It is objected to this system, that under it there is no sovereignty left in the state governments. I have had occasion to reply to this already; but I should be very glad to know at what period the state governments became possessed of the supreme power. On the principle on which I found my arguments, and that is the principle of this Constitution, the supreme power resides in the people. If they choose to indulge a part of their sovereign power to be exercised by the state governments, they may. If they have done it, the states were right in exercising it; but if they think it no longer safe or convenient, they will resume it, or make a new distribution, more likely to be productive of that good, which ought to be our constant aim.
The power both of the general government, and the state governments, under this system, are acknowledged to be so many emanations of power from the people. The great object now to be attended to, instead of disagreeing about who shall possess the supreme power, is to consider whether the present arrangement is well calculated to promote and secure the tranquility and happiness of our common country. These are the dictates of sound and unsophisticated sense, and what ought to employ the attention and judgment of this honorable body.
We are next told, by the honorable gentlemen in opposition (as indeed we have been from the beginning of the debates in this Convention to the conclusion of their speeches yesterday) that this is a consolidated government and will abolish the state governments. Definitions of a consolidated government have been called for; the gentlemen gave us what they termed definition, but it does not seem, to me at least, that they have as yet expressed clear ideas upon that subject. I will endeavor to state their different ideas upon this point. The gentleman from Westmoreland (William Findley) when speaking on this subject, says, that he means by a consolidation, that government which puts the thirteen states into one.
The honorable gentleman from Fayette (John Smilie) gives you this definition: "What I mean by a consolidated government is one that will transfer the sovereignty from the state governments to the general government."
The honorable member from Cumberland (Robert Whitehill) instead - of giving you a definition, sir, tells you again, that "it is a consolidated government, and we have proved it so."
These, I think, sir, are the different descriptions given us of a consolidated government. As to the first, that it is a consolidated government, that puts the thirteen United States into one; if it is meant, that the general government will destroy the governments of the states, I will admit that such a government would not suit the people of America. It would be improper for this country, because it could not be proportioned to its extent on the principles of freedom. But that description does not apply to the system before you. This, instead of placing the state governments in jeopardy, is founded on their existence. On this principle, its organization depends; it must stand or fall, as the state governments are secured or ruined. Therefore, though this may be a very proper description of a consolidating government, yet it must be disregarded as inapplicable to the proposed Constitution. It is not treated with decency when such insinuations are offered against it.
The honorable gentleman (John Smilie) tells you, that a consolidating government, "is one that will transfer the sovereignty from the state governments to the general government." Under this system, the sovereignty is not in the possession of the state governments, therefore it cannot be transferred from them to the general government. So that in no point of view of this definition can we discover that it applies to the present system.
In the exercise of its powers will be insured the exercise of their powers to the state government; it will insure peace and stability to them; their strength will increase with its strength; their growth will extend with its growth.
Indeed narrow minds, and some such there are in every government- narrow minds, and intriguing spirits, will be active in sowing dissensions and promoting discord between them. But those whose understandings, and whose hearts are good enough to pursue the general welfare, will find, that what is the interest of the whole must, on the great scale, be the interest of every part. It will be the duty of a state, as of an individual, to sacrifice her own convenience to the general good of the Union.
The next objection that I mean to take notice of is that the powers of the several parts of this government are not kept as distinct and independent as they ought to be. I admit the truth of this general sentiment. I do not think, that in the powers of the Senate, the distinction is marked with so much accuracy as I wished, and still wish; but yet I am of opinion, that real and effectual security is obtained, which is saying a great deal. I do not consider this part as wholly unexceptionable; but even where there are defects in this system, they are improvements upon the old. I will go a little further; though in this system, the distinction and independence of power is not adhered to with entire theoretical precision, yet it is more strictly adhered to than in any other system of government in the world. In the constitution of Pennsylvania, the executive department exercises judicial powers, in the trial of public officers; yet a similar power in this system is complained of; at the same time the constitution of Pennsylvania is referred to as an example for the late Convention to have taken a lesson by.
In New Jersey, in Georgia, in South Carolina, and in North Carolina the executive power is blended with the legislative. Turn to their constitutions and see in how many instances.
In North Carolina, the Senate and House of Commons elect the governor himself; they likewise elect seven persons, to be a council of state, to advise the governor in the execution of his office. Here we find the whole executive department under the nomination of the legislature, at least the most important part of it.
In South Carolina, the legislature appoint the governor and commander in chief, lieutenant governor, and privy council "Justices of the peace shall be nominated by the legislature and commissioned by the governor," and what is more, they are appointed during pleasure. All other judicial officers are to be appointed by the senate and house of representatives. I might go further and detail a great multitude of instances in which the legislative, executive, and judicial powers are blended, but it is unnecessary; I only mention these to show that though this Constitution does not arrive at what is called perfection, yet, it contains great improvements, and its powers are distributed with a degree of accuracy, superior to what is termed accuracy, in particular states.
There are four instances in which improper powers are said to be blended in the Senate. We are told, that this government is imperfect, because the Senate possess the power of trying impeachments. But here, sir, the Senate are under a check, as no impeachment can be tried until it is made; and the House of Representatives possess the sole power of making impeachments. We are told that the share which the Senate have in making treaties is exceptionable; but here they are also under a check, by a constituent part of the government, and nearly the immediate representative of the people, I mean the President of the United States. They can make no treaty without his concurrence. The same observation applies in the appointment of officers. Every officer must be nominated solely and exclusively, by the President.
Much has been said on the subject of treaties, and this power is denominated blending of the legislative and executive powers in the Senate. It is but justice to represent the favorable, as well as unfavorable side of a question, and from thence determine, whether the objectionable parts are of a sufficient weight to induce a rejection of this Constitution.
There is no doubt, sir, but under this Constitution, treaties will become the supreme law of the land; nor is there any doubt but the Senate and President possess the power of making them. But though treaties are to have the force of laws, they are in some important respects very different from other acts of legislation. In making laws, our own consent alone is necessary. In forming treaties, the concurrence of another power becomes necessary; treaties, sir, are truly contracts, or compacts, between the different states, nations, or princes, who find it convenient or necessary to enter into them. Some gentlemen are of opinion, that the power of making treaties should have been placed in the legislature at large; there are, however, reasons that operate with a great force on the other side. Treaties are frequently (especially in time of war) of such a nature, that it would be extremely improper to publish them, or even commit the secret of their negotiation to any great number of persons. For my part I am not an advocate for secrecy in transactions relating to the public; not generally even in forming treaties, because I think that the history of the diplomatic corps will evince, even in that great department of politics, the truth of an old adage, that "honesty is the best policy," and this is the conduct of the most able negotiators; yet sometimes secrecy may be necessary, and therefore it becomes an argument against committing the knowledge of these transactions to too many persons. But in their nature treaties originate differently from laws. They are made by equal parties, and each side has half of the bargain to make; they will be made between us and the powers at the distance of three thousand miles. A long series of negotiation will frequently precede them; and can it be the opinion of these gentlemen, that the legislature should be in session during this whole time? It well deserves to be remarked, that though the House of Representatives possess no active part in making treaties, yet their legislative authority will be found to have strong restraining influence upon both President and Senate.8
In England, if the king and his ministers find themselves, during their negotiation, to be embarrassed, because an existing law is not repealed, or a new law is not enacted, they give notice to thelegislature of their situation and inform them that it will be necessary; before the treaty can operate, that some law be repealed or some be made. And will not the same thing take place here? Shall less prudence, less caution, less moderation take place among those who negotiate treaties for the United States, than among those who negotiate them for the other nations of the earth? And let it be attended to, that even in the making treaties the states are immediately -represented, and the people mediately represented; two of the constituent parts of government must concur in making them. Neither the President nor the Senate solely can complete a treaty; they are checks upon each other and are so balanced, as to produce security to the people.
I might suggest other reasons, to add weight to what has already been offered, but I believe it is not necessary; yet let me however add one thing: the Senate is a favorite with many of the states, and it was with difficulty that these checks could be procured; it was one of the last exertions of conciliation in the late Convention, that obtained them.
It has been alleged, as a consequence of the small number of Representatives, that they will not know as intimately as they ought, the interests, inclinations, or habits of their constituents.
We find on an examination of all its parts, that the objects of this government are such as extend beyond the bounds of the particular states. This is the line of distinction between this government and the particular state governments.
This principle I had an opportunity of illustrating on a former occasion. Now when we come to consider the objects of this government, we shall find, that in making our choice of a proper character to be a member of the House of Representatives, we ought to fix on one, whose mind and heart are enlarged; who possesses a general knowledge of the interests of America and a disposition to make use of that knowledge for the advantage and welfare of his country. It belongs not to this government to make an act for a particular township, county, or state.
A defect in minute information has not certainly been an objection in the management of the business of the United States; but the want of enlarged ideas has hitherto been chargeable on our councils; yet even with regard to minute knowledge, I do not conceive it impossible to find eight characters, that may be very well informed as to the situation, interests and views of every part of this state; and who may have a concomitant interest with their fellow citizens. They could not materially injure others without affecting their own fortunes.
I did say, that in order to obtain that enlarged information in our Representatives, a large district for election would be more proper than a small one. When I speak of large districts, it is not agreeable to the idea entertained by the honorable member from Fayette (John Smilie) who tells you, that elections for large districts must be ill-attended, because the people will not choose to go very far on this business. It is not meant, sir, by me, that the votes should be taken at one place; no, sir, the elections maybe held thro this state, in the same manner as elections for members of the General Assembly, and this may be done too without any additional inconvenience or expense.
If it could be effected, all the people of the same society ought to meet in one place and communicate freely with each other on the great business of representation. Though this cannot be done in fact, yet we find that it is the most favorite and constitutional idea. It is supported by this principle too, that every member is the representative of the whole community, and not of a particular part. The larger therefore the district is, the greater is the probability of selecting wise and virtuous characters, and the more agreeable it is to the constitutional principle of representation.
As to the objection that the House of Representatives may be bribed by the Senate, I confess I do not see that bribery is an objection against this system; it is rather an objection against human nature. I am afraid that bribes in every government may be offered and received; but let me ask of the gentlemen who urge this objection, to point out where any power is given to bribe under this Constitution? Every species of influence is guarded against as much as possible. Can the Senate procure money to effect such design? All public monies must be disposed of by law, and it is necessary that the House of Representatives originate such law. Before the money can be got out of the treasury, it must be appropriated by law. If the legislature had the effrontery to set aside three or four hundred thousand pounds for this purpose, and the people would tamely suffer it, I grant it might be done; and in Pennsylvania the legislature might do the same; for by a law, and that conform ably to the constitution, they might divide among themselves what portion of the public money they pleased. I shall just remark, sir, that the objections, which have repeatedly been made, with regard to "the number of Representatives being too small, and that they may possibly be made smaller; that the districts are too large, and not within the reach of the people; and that the House of Representatives may be bribed by the Senate"; these objections come with an uncommon degree of impropriety, from those who would refer us back to the Articles of Confederation. For under those, the representation of this state cannot exceed seven members, and may consist of only two; and these are wholly without the reach or control of the people. Is there not also greater danger that the majority of such a body might be more easily bribed, than the majority of one, not only more numerous, but checked by a division of two or three distinct and independent parts? The danger is certainly better guarded against in the proposed system, than in any other yet devised. The next objections which I shall notice are, "that the powers of the Senate are too great, that the representation therein is unequal, and that the Senate, from the smallness of its number, may be bribed."Is there any propriety in referring us to the Confederation on this subject? Because, in one or two instances, the Senate possess more power than the House of Representatives, are these gentlemen sup-ported in their remarks when they tell you they wished and expected more powers to be given to the present Congress, a body certainly much more exceptionable than any instituted under this system? "That the representation in the Senate is unequal," I regret, because - I am of opinion, the states ought to be represented according to their importance; but in this system there is considerable improvement; for the true principle representation is carried into the House of Representatives, and into the choice of the President; and without the assistance of one or the other of these, the Senate is inactive and can do neither good or evil. It is repeated again and again, by the honorable gentlemen, "that the power over elections, which is given to the general government in this system, is a dangerous power." I must own I feel myself surprised that an objection of this kind should be persisted in, after what has been said by my honorable colleague in reply. I think it has appeared by a minute investigation of the subject, that it would have been not only unwise, but highly improper in the late Convention, to have omitted this clause, or given less power, than it does over elections. Such powers, sir, are enjoyed by every state government in the United States. In some, they are of a much greater magnitude; and why should this be the only one deprived of them? Ought not these, as well as every other legislative body, to have the power of judging of the qualifications of its own members?
"The times, places and manner of holding elections for Representatives may be altered by Congress." This power, sir, has been shown to be necessary, not only on some particular occasions, but even to the very existence of the federal government. I have heard some very improbable suspicions indeed suggested with regard to the manner in which it will be exercised. Let us suppose it may be improperly exercised. Is it not more likely so to be by the particular states, than by the government of the United States? Because the general government will be more studious of the good of the whole, than a particular state will be; and therefore, when the power of regulating the time, place, or manner of holding elections is exercised by the Congress, it will be to correct the improper regulations of a particular state.9
I now proceed to the second Article of this Constitution, which relates to the executive department.
I find, sir, from an attention to the arguments used by the gentle- men on the other side of the house, that there are but few exceptions taken to this part of the system. I shall take notice of them and afterwards point out some valuable qualifications, which I think this part possesses in an eminent degree.
The objection against the powers of the President is not that they are too many or too great, but to state it in the gentleman's own language, they are so trifling that the President is no more than the tool of the Senate.
Now, sir, I do not apprehend this to be the case, because I see that he may do a great many things independent of the Senate; and with respect to the executive powers of government in which the Senate participate, they can do nothing without him. Now I would ask, which is most likely to be the tool of the other? Clearly, sir, he holds the helm, and the vessel can proceed neither in one direction nor another, without his concurrence. It was expected by many, that the cry would have been against the powers of the President as a monarchical power; indeed the echo of such sound was heard, some time before the rise of the late Convention. There were men at that time, determined to make an attack upon whatever system should be proposed, but they mistook the point of direction. Had the President possessed those powers, which the opposition on this floor are willing to consign him, of making treaties, and appointing officers, with the advice of a council of state, the clamor would have been, that the House of Representatives and the Senate were the tools of the monarch. This, sir, is but conjecture, but I leave it to those who are acquainted with the current of the politics pursued by the enemies - to this system to determine whether it is a reasonable conjecture or not.
The manner of appointing the President of the United States I find is not objected to, therefore I shall say little on that point. But I think it well worthwhile to state to this house how little the difficulties, even in the most difficult part of this system, appear to have been noticed by the honorable gentlemen in opposition. The Convention, sir, were perplexed with no part of this plan so much as with the mode of choosing the President of the United States. For my own part, I think the most unexceptionable mode, next after the one prescribed in this Constitution, would be that practiced by the Eastern States and the State of New York; yet if gentlemen object, that an 8th part of our country forms a district too large for elections, how much more would they object, if it was extended to the whole Union? On this subject, it was the opinion of a great majority in Convention, that the thing was impracticable; other embarrassments presented themselves.
Was the President to be appointed by the legislature? Was he to continue a certain time in office, and afterward was he to become ineligible?
To have the executive officers dependent upon the legislative would certainly be a violation of that principle so necessary to preserve the freedom of republics, that the legislative and executive powers should be separate and independent. Would it have been proper, that he should be appointed by the Senate? I apprehend, that still stronger objections could be urged against that-cabal, intrigue, corruption-everything bad would have been the necessary concomitant of every election.
To avoid the inconveniences already enumerated, and many others that might be suggested, the mode before us was adopted. By it we avoid corruption, and we are little exposed to the lesser evils of party and intrigue; and when the government shall be organized, proper care will undoubtedly be taken to counteract influence even of that nature-the Constitution, with the same view has directed, that the day on which the Electors shall give their votes shall be the same throughout the United States. I flatter myself the experiment will be a happy one for our country.
The choice of this officer is brought as nearly home to the people as is practicable; with the approbation of the state legislatures, the people may elect with only one remove; for "each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and representatives, to which the state may be entitled in congress." Under this regulation, it will not be easy to corrupt the Electors, and there will be little time or opportunity for tumult or intrigue. This, sir, will not be like the elections of a Polish diet, begun in noise and ending in bloodshed.
If gentlemen will look into this Article and read for themselves, they will find, that there is no well grounded reason to suspect the President will be the tool of the Senate.11
"The president shall be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service12
of the United States.
He may require the opinion in writing of the principal officers in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relative to the duties of their respective offices;13
and he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, for offenses against the United States.14
" Must the President, after all, be called the tool of the Senate? I do not mean to insinuate, that he has more powers than he ought to have, but merely to declare that they are of such a nature as to place him above expressions of contempt.
There is another power of no small magnitude entrusted to this officer. "He shall take care, that the laws be faithfully executed."
I apprehend, that in the administration of this government, it will not be found necessary for the Senate always to sit. I know some gentlemen have insinuated and conjectured, that this will be the case, but I am inclined to a contrary opinion. If they had employment every day, no doubt but it might be the wish of the Senate to continue their session; but from the nature of their business, I do not think it will be necessary for them to attend longer than the House of Representatives.
Besides their legislative powers, they possess three others, viz., trying impeachments, concurring in making treaties, and in appointing officers.16
With regard to their power in making treaties, it is of importance, that it should be very seldom exercised-we are happily removed from the vortex of European politics, and the fewer, and the more simple our negotiations with European powers, the better they will be. If such be the case, it will be but once in a number of years, that a single treaty will come before the Senate. I think, therefore, that on this account it will be unnecessary to sit constantly.17
With regard to the trial of impeachments, I hope it is what will seldom happen. In this observation, the experience of the ten last years support me.
Now there is only left the power of concurring in the appointment of officers; but care is taken, in this Constitution, that this branch of business may be done without their presence.18
The President is authorized to fill up all vacancies, that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions, which shall expire at the end of their next session. So that on the whole the Senate need not sit longer than the House of Representatives, at the public expense; and no doubt apprehensions are entertained - of the Senate, the House of Representatives will not provide pay for them one day longer than is necessary. But what (it will be asked) is this great power of the President? He can fill the offices only by temporary appointments. True; but every person knows the advantage of being once introduced into an office; it is often of more importance than the highest recommendation.19
Having now done with the legislative and executive branches of this government, I shall just remark, that upon the whole of the executive, it appears that the gentlemen in opposition state nothing as exceptionable, but the deficiency of powers in the President; but rather seem to allow some degree of political merit in this department of government.
I now proceed to the judicial department; and here, Mr. President, I meet an objection, I confess I had not expected; and it seems it did not occur to the honorable gentleman (William Findley) who made it until a few days ago.
He alleges, that the judges, under this Constitution, are not rendered sufficiently independent, because they may hold other offices; and though they may be independent as judges, yet their other office may depend upon the legislature. I confess, sir, this objection appears to me to be a little wire drawn in the first place; the legislature can appoint to no office, therefore the dependence could not be on them for the office, but rather on the President and Senate; but then these cannot add the salary, because no money can be appropriated, but in consequence of a law of the United States. No sinecure can be bestowed on any judge, but by the concurrence of the whole legislature and of the President; and I do not think this an event that will probably happen.
It is true, that there is a provision made in the constitution of Pennsylvania, that the judges shall not be allowed to hold any other office whatsoever; and I believe they are expressly forbidden to sit in Congress; but this, sir, is not introduced as a principle into this Constitution. There are many states in the Union whose constitutions do not limit the usefulness of their best men, or exclude them from rendering such services to their country, for which they are found eminently qualified. New York, far from restricting their chancellor or judges of the Supreme Court from a seat in Congress, expressly provide for sending them there on extraordinary occasions. In Connecticut, the judges are not precluded from enjoying other offices. Judges from many states have sat in Congress. Now it is not to be expected, that eleven or twelve states are to change their sentiments and practice on this subject to accommodate themselves to Pennsylvania.
It is again alleged against this system, that the powers of the judges are too extensive; but I will not trouble you, sir, with a repetition of what I had the honor of delivering the other day; I hope the result of those arguments gave satisfaction, and proved that the judicial were commensurate with the legislative powers; that they went no further, and that they ought to go so far.
The laws of Congress being made for the Union, no particular state can be alone affected, and as they are to provide for the general purposes of the Union, so ought they to have the means of making the provisions effectual over all that country included within the Union.