Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

ginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, aye-8, Pennsylvania, Georgia, no—2; Massachusetts, divided.

On the second member of the sentence, extending ineligibility of members to one year after the term for which they were elected,

Colonel Mason thought this essential to guard against evasions by resignations, and stipulations for office to be fulfilled at the expiration of the legislative term.

Mr. Gerry had known such a case.

Mr. HAMILTON. Evasions could not be prevented, -as by proxies—by friends holding for a year, and then opening the

way,

&c. Mr. RUTLEDGE admitted the possibility of evasions, but was for contracting them as far as possible. On the question,-New York, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, ayem4; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, no—6; Pennsylvania, divided. 27

Adjourned.

MONDAY, JUNE 25TH.

In Convention,—The fourth Resolution being taken up, —

Mr. PINCKNEY spoke as follows:

The efficacy of the system will depend on this article. In order to form a right judgment in the case, it will be proper to examine the situation of this country more accurately than it has yet been done.

The people of the United States are perhaps the most singular of any we are acquainted with. Among them there are fewer distinctions of fortune, and less of rank, than among the inhabitants of any other nation. Every freeman has a right to the same protection and security; and a very moderate share of property entitles them to the possession of all the honors and privileges the public can bestow. Hence, arises a greater equality than is to be found among the people of any other country; and an equality which is more likely to continue. I say, this equality is likely to continue; because in a new country, possessing immense tracts of uncultivated lands, where every temptation is offered to emigration, and where industry must be rewarded with competency, there will be few poor, and few dependent. Every member of the society almost will enjoy an equal power of arriving at the supreme offices, and consequently of directing the strength and sentiments of the whole community. None will be excluded by birth, and few by fortune, from voting for proper persons to fill the offices of government. The whole cominunity will enjoy, in the fullest sense, that kind of political liberty which consists in the power, the members of the State reserve to themselves, of arriving at the public offices, or at least, of having votes in the nomination of those who fill them.

If this state of things is true, and the prospect of its continuance probable, it is perhaps not politic to endeavour too close an imitation of a government calculated for a people whose situation is, and whose views ought to be, extremely different.

Much has been said of the Constitution of Great Britain. I will confess that I believe it to be the best constitution in existence; but, at the same time, I am confident it is one that will not or cannot be introduced into this country, for many centuries. If it were proper to go here into a historical dissertation on the British Constitution, it might easily be shown that the peculiar excellence, the distinguishing feature, of that government cannot possibly be introduced into our system-that its balance between the Crown and the people cannot be made a part of our Constitution,—that we neither have nor can have the members to compose it, nor the rights, privileges and properties of so distinct a class of citizens to guard,—that the materials for forming this balance or check do not exist, nor is there a necessity for having so permanent a part of our Legislative, until the Executive power is so constituted as to have something fixed and dangerous in its principle. By this I mean a sole, hereditary, though limited Executive,

That we cannot have a proper body for forming a Legislative balance between the inordinate

power of the Executive and the people, is evident from a review of the accidents and circumstances which gave rise to the peerage of Great Britain. I believe it is well ascertained, that the parts which compose the British Constitution arose immediately from the forests of Germany; but the antiquity of the establishment of nobility is by no means clearly defined. Some authors are of opinion that the dignity denoted by the titles of dux and comes, was derived from the old Roman, to the German, Empire ; while others are of opinion that they existed among the Germans long before the Romans were acquainted with them. The institution, however, of nobility is immemorial among the nations who may properly be termed the ancestors of Great Britain. At the time they were summoned in England to become a part of the national council, the circumstances which contributed to make them a constituent part of that Constitution, must be well known to all gentlemen who have had industry and curiosity enough to investigate the subject. The nobles, with their possessions and dependents, composed a body permanent in their nature, and formidable in point of power. They had a distinct interest both from the King and the people,-an interest which could only be represented by themselves, and the guardianship of which could not be safely intrusted to others. At the time they were originally called to form a part of the national council, necessity perhaps, as much as other causes induced the monarch to look up to them. It was necessary to demand the aid of his subjects in personal and pecuniary services. The power and possessions of the nobility would not permit taxation from any assembly of which they were not a part: and the blending of the deputies of the commons with them, and thus forming what they called their parler-ment, was perhaps as much the effect of chance as of any thing else. The commons were at that time completely subordinate to the nobles, whose consequence and influence seem to have been the only reasons for their superiority; a superiority so degrading to the commons, that in the first summons, we find the peers are called upon to consult, the commons to consent. From this time the peers have composed a part of the British Legislature; and notwithstanding their power and influence have diminished, and those of the commons have increased, yet still they have always formed an excellent balance against either the encroachments of the Crown or the people.

I have said that such a body cannot exist in this country for ages; and that until the situation of our people is exceedingly changed, no necessity will exist for so permanent a part of the Legislature. To illustrate this, I have remarked that the people of the United States are more equal in their circumstances than the people of any other country; that they have very few rich men among them-by rich men I mean those whose riches may have a dangerous influence, or such as are esteemed rich in Europe—perhaps there are not one hundred such on the continent; that it is not probable this number will be greatly increased; that the genius of the people, their mediocrity of situation, and the prospects which are afforded their industry, in a country which must be a new one for centuries, are unfavorable to the rapid distinction of ranks. The destruction of the right of primogeniture, and the equal division of the property of intestates, will also have an effect to preserve this mediocrity; for laws invariably affect the manners of a people. On the other hand, that vast extent of unpeopled territory, which opens to the frugal and industrious a sure road to competency and independence, will effectually prevent, for a considerable time, the increase of the poor or discontented, and be the means of pre

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »