« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
whole by the same hands would subvert the principles of a free constitution.
$ 64. How far the Constitution of the United States, in the actual separation of these departments, and the occasional mixtures of some of the powers of each, has accomplished the great objects of the maxim, which we have been considering, will appear more fully, when a survey is taken of the particular powers confided to each department. But the true and only test must, after all, be experience, which corrects at once the errors of theory, and fortifies and illustrates the eternal judgements of Nature.
$ 65. The first section, of the first article, begins with the structure of the Legislature. It is in these words :
“All legislative powers, herein granted, shall be vested in a Congress of the United States ; which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Under the Confederation, the whole legislative power of the Union was confided to a single branch ; and, limited as that power was, this concentration of it, in a single body, was deemed a prominent defect. The Constitution, on the other hand, adopts, as a fundamental rule, the exercise of the legislative power by two distinct and independent branches. The advantages of this division are, in the first place, that it interposes a great check upon undue, hasty, and oppressive legislation. In the next place, it interposes a barrier against the strong propensity of all public bodies to accumulate all power, patronage, and induence in their own hands. In the next place, it operates, indirectly, to retard, if not wholly to prevent, the success of the efforts of a few popular leaders, by their combinations and intrigues in a single body, to carry their own personal, private,
or party objects into effect, unconnected with the public good. In the next place, it secures a deliberate review of the same measures, by independent minds, in different branches of government, engaged in the same habits of legislation, but organized upon a different system of elections. And, in the last place, it afforus great securities to public liberty, by requiring the co-operation of different bodies, which can scarcely ever, if prop. erly organized, embrace the same sectional or local interests, or influences, in exactly the same proportion, as a single body. The value of such a separate organization will, of course, be greatly enhanced, the more the elements, of which each body is composed, differ from each other, in the mode of choice, in the qualifications, and in the duration of office of the members, provided due intelligence and virtue are secured in each body. All these considerations had great weight in the Convention, which framed the Constitution of the United States. We shall presently see, how far these desirable modifications have been attained in the actual composition of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives.
$ 66. The second section, of the first article, contains the structure and organization of the House of Representatives. The first clause is—" The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States; and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications, requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature."
§ 67. First, the principle of representation. The Representatives are to be chosen by the people. No reasoning was necessary, to satisfy the American people of the advantages of a House of Representatives, which should emanate directly from themselves, which should guard their interests, support their rights, express their opinions, make known their wants, redress their grievances, and introduce a pervading popular influence throughout all the operations of the national government. Their own experience, as colonists, as well as the experience of the parent country, and the general deductions of theory, had settled it, as a fundamental principle of a
free government, and especially of a rep iblican governo ment, that no laws ought to be passed without the cunsent of the people, through representatives, immediately chosen by, and responsible to them.
$ 69. The indirect advantages, from this immediate agency of the people in the choice of their Representatives, are of incalculable benefit, and deserve a brief mention in this place, because they furnish us with matter for most serious reflection, in regard to the actual operations and influences of republican governments. In the forst place, the right confers an additional sense of personal dignity and duty upon the mass of the people. It gives a strong direction to the education, studies, and pursuits of the whole community. It enlarges the sphere of action, and contributes, in a high degree, to the formation of the public manners, and national character. It procures to the common people courtesy and sympathy from their superiors, and diffuses a common confidence, as well as a common interest, through all the ranks of society. It awakens a desire to examine, and sift, and debate all public proceedings; and it thus nourishes a lively curiosity to acquire knowledge, and, at the same time, furnishes the means of gratifying it. The proceedings and debates of the legislature; the conduct of public officers, from the highest to the lowest ; the character and conduct of the Executive and his ministers; the struggles, intrigues, and conduct of different parties ; and the dis cussion of the great public rneasures and questions which agitate and divide the community ;-are not only freely canvassed, and thus improve and elevate conversation put they gradually furnish the mind with safe and solid materials for judgement upon all public affairs, and check that impetuosity and · rashness, to which sudden impulses might otherwise lead the people, when they are artfully misguided by selfish demagogues, and plausible schemes of change.
$ 69. Secondly, the qualifications of electors. These were various in the different States. In some of them, none but freeholders were entitled to vote ; in others, only persons, who had been admitted to the privileges of
freeinen ; in others, a qualification of property was required of voters ; in others, the payment of taxes ; and in others, again, the right of suffrage was almost universal. This consideration had great weight in the Convention ; and the extreme difficulty of agreeing upon any uniforin rule of voting, which should be acceptable to all the States, induced the Convention, finally, after much discussion, to adopt the existing rule in the choice of Representatives in the popular branch of the State legislatures. Thus, the peculiar wishes of ea, h State, in the formation of its own popular branch, were consulted ; and some not unimportant diversities were introduced into the actual composition of the national House of Representatives All the members would represent the people, but not ex actly under influences precisely of the same character.
$ 70. Thirdly, the term of service of the Representatives. It is two years.
This period, with reference to the nature of the duties to be performed by the members, to the knowledge and experience essential to a right performance of them, and to the periods, for which the members of the State legislatures are chosen, seems as short as an enlightened regard to the public good could require. A
very short term of service would bring together a great many new members, with little or no experience he national business; the very frequency of the elections would render the office of less importance to able men; and some of the duties to be performed would require more time, and more mature inquiries, than could be gathered, in the brief space of a single session, from the distant parts of so extensive a territory. What might be well begun by one set of men, could scarcely be carried on, in the same spirit, by another. So that there would pe great danger of new and immature plans succeeding each other, without any well-established system of operations.
$ 71. But the very nature and objects of the national government require far more experience and knowledge, than what may be thought requisite in the members of a State legislature. For the latter, a knowledge of local interests and opinions may ordinarily suffice. But it is tar different with a member of Congress. He is to legis. late for the interest and welfare, not of one State only, but of all the States. It is not enough, that he comes to the task with an upright intention and sourd judgement ; but he must have a competent degree of knowledge of all the subjects, on which he is called to legislate ; and he must have skill, as to the best mode of applying it. The latter can scarcely be acquired, but by long experience and training in the national councils. The period of service ought, therefore, to bear some proportion to the variety of knowledge and practical skill, which the duties of the station demand.
$72. The most superficial glance at the relative duties of a member of a State legislature and of those of a member of Congress, will put this matter in a striking light. In a single State, the habits, manners, institutions, and laws, are uniform, and all the citizens are more or less conversant with them. The relative bearings of the various pursuits and occupations of the people are well understood, or easily ascertained. The general affairs of the State lie in a comparatively narrow compass, and are daily discussed and examined by those, who have an immediate interest in them, and, by frequent communication with each other, can interchange opinions. It is very different with the general government. There, every measure is to be discussed with reference to the rights, interests, and pursuits of all the States. When the Constitution was adopted, there were thirteen, and there are now twenty-six States, having different laws, institutions, employments, products, and climates, and many artificial, as well as natural differences in the structure of society, growing out of these circumstances. Some of them are almost wholly agricultural ; some commercial ; some manufacturing ; some have a mixture of all; and in no two of them are there precisely the same relative adjustments of all these interests. No legislation for the Union can be safe or wise, which is not founded upon an accurate knowledge of these diversi ties, and their practical influence upon public measures. What may be beneficial and politic, with reference to the