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MASON REPLIES TO MADISON AND WILSON.
detest their corruption. Why has the power of the Crown increased, so remarkably increased, the last century? A stranger, by reading their laws, would suppose it considerably diminished ; and yet by the sole power of appointing the increased officers of the government, corruption pervades every town and village in the kingdom. If such a restriction should abridge the right of election, it is still necessary, as it will prevent the people from ruining themselves. And will not the same causes here produce the same effects ? I consider this clause as the corner-stone on which our liberties depend; and if we strike it out, we are erecting a fabric for our destruction."
The subject was continued on the following day, June 23d, when Madison renewed his motion to render the members of the first branch “ineligible during their term of service, and for one year after, to such offices only, as should be established, or the emolument augmented, by the legislature of the United States during the time of their being members." Colonel Mason "thought the motion of his colleague but a partial remedy for the evil. He appealed to him as a witness of the shameful partiality of the legislature of Virginia to its own members. He enlarged on the abuses and corruption in the British Parliament connected with the appointment of its members. He could not suppose that a sufficient number of citizens could not be found who would be ready, without the inducement of eligibility to offices, to undertake the legislative service. Genius and virtue, it may be said [he here alluded to some remarks of Mr. Wilson), ought to be encouraged. Genius, for aught he knew might; but that virtue should be encouraged by such a species of venality, was an idea that at least had the merit of being new." Yates, in reporting this speech, gives the substance of the last clause in these words:
“ It is asserted that it will be very difficult to find men sufficiently qualified as legislators without the inducement of emolu1 Yates' Minutes, Elliot, vol. i., p. 437.
Madison Papers," vol. ii., p. 940.
ments. I do believe that men of genius will be deterred unless possessed of great virtues. We may well dispense with the first characters when destitute of virtue. I should wish them never to come forward. But if we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end; nor would I wish to put a man of virtue in the way of temptation. Evasions and caballing [he continued] would evade the amendment. Nor would the danger be less, if the executive has the appointment of officers. The first three or four years we might go on well enough, but what would be the case afterwards ? I will add, that such a government ought to be refused by the people, and it will be refused.”
On the 25th of June, the vexed question of the mode of appointing the Senate was brought up, Mr. Wilson moving that the members be elected by electors chosen by the people. This was a point which divided, as a class, the large and small States, the former advocating proportional representation in both Houses, the latter opposing it, and, as Bancroft observes, the election of the Senate by the State legislatures was looked upon “as the stepping-stone to an equal representation.” And while Virginia's vote went with that of Pennsylvania against a doctrine so important for the preservation of the individual commonwealth, it was one of Virginia's representatives who consistently supported it as a pillar of States-rights. “It has been agreed, on all hands,” said George Mason, “that an efficient government is necessary ; that to render it such, it ought to have the faculty of self-defence; that to render its different branches effectual each of them ought to have the same power of self-defence. He did not wonder that such an agreement should have prevailed on these points. He only wondered that there should be any disagreement about the necessity of allowing the State governments the same self-defence. If they are to be preserved, as he conceived to be essential, they certainly ought to have this power; and the only mode
1 Yates' Minutes, Elliot, vol. i., p. 440.
THE “CONNECTICUT COMPROMISE."
left of giving it to them was by allowing them to appoint the second branch of the national legislature." Dr. Johnson, of Connecticut, in advocating this means of self-defence for the States, gives George Mason credit as the author of the scheme. “This is the idea of Col. Mason, who appears to have looked to the bottom of this matter.” ? Much has been written, of late, on the “Connecticut Compromise," as Bancroft styles it, the equal representation of the States in the Senate, and here is one of the three representatives from Connecticut who urged the measure upon the Convention avowing that it was the “idea" of Colonel Mason, that the States should appoint the members of the Senate, the “stepping-stone” to equal representation. The proportional representation in the first branch, which would make the large States more powerful there, was acquiesced in by the small States in consideration that an equality in the Senate would give them the same voice in its councils as their more powerful sisters. The small States, led by Connecticut, finally effected this settlement in the Convention. But Sherman, Ellsworth, and Johnson only made practical an idea independently evolved by the Virginia statesman, who, wiser than his colleagues, had “looked to the bottom of this matter.” Madison, in the Federalist, frankly avowed his subsequent conversion to the equality of votes in the Senate, which he opposed throughout the sessions of the Convention."
A recent writer says:
" The adoption of different bases for the two Houses, the House of Representatives representing the States according to population while the Senate represented them equally, was one of the most important pieces of work which the Convention accomplished, as well as the one which it reached most unwil1 Madison Papers, vol. ii., p. 958.
Ibid., p. 987. 3 As John Dickinson, representing the small State of Delaware in the Convention, made the motion for the appointment of the Senate by the State legislatures, he is entitled to some of the credit for this measure.
lingly. All the States experimenting to find different bases for their two Houses, Virginia had come nearest to the appearance of the final result, in having her Senate chosen by districts and her Representatives by counties ; and as the Union already had its districts' formed in the States) one might think that the Convention merely followed Virginia's experience. But the real process was far different and more circuitous."
In fact, says this writer, it was the Connecticut system, where the towns were equally represented in the lower House, while the upper one was chosen from the whole people, which was the model proposed by Connecticut delegates to the Convention. George Mason, however, standing apart from his colleagues, did, in effect, propose the Virginia constitution, of which he was the author, as a type for the new constitution, when he advocated both ideas combined-equal and unequal representation, for the legislature of the Union, or the choice of one House by the people and of the other by the States.
In regard to the qualifications of senators, Colonel Mason thought that “one important object in constituting the Senate was to secure the rights of property. To give them weight and firmness for this purpose, a considerable duration in office was thought necessary. But a longer term than six years would be of no avail in this respect, if needy persons should be appointed. He suggested, therefore, the propriety of annexing to the office a qualification of property. He thought this would be very practicable, as the rules of taxation would supply a scale for measuring the degree of wealth possessed by every man."
It was now nearly the last of June. Five weeks, as Dr. Franklin anxiously noted, had been spent in trying to reconcile the opposing views that were to be found in the Convention; to steer between the rock of centralized government and the whirlpool, as it was deemed, of a pure
1“ The First Century of the Constitution," article in The New Princeton Review, Sept., 1887.
? Madison “ Papers," vol. ii., p. 971.
LETTER TO HIS SON GEORGE.
confederation; to decide upon the features of the equitable via media. Groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when they found it,” it were well, Dr. Franklin thought to implore for themselves each day the Divine guidance. The proposal came a little late, it is true, and there might be reason to think, as was suggested, that it would alarm the people. But surely the daily consecration was needed, and the proposition should have been agreed to. On the question for allowing each State one vote in the Senate, there seemed to be at this time no hope of a settlement. It was then determined to appoint a committee, consisting of one member from each State, in order, if possible, to effect a solution of the difficulty. George Mason was the significant choice from Virginia, and the Convention adjourned from Monday the 2d, to Thursday the 5th, of July.
The following letters were written by Colonel Mason to George Mason, Jr., and to Beverley Randolph during the month of June. The solemn words to his son on the great responsibility of the work in which he was engaged, evince George Mason's profound sense of duty, and his earnest desire to carry out its obligations.
PHILADELPHIA, June Ist, 1787. DEAR GEORGE :
The idea I formerly mentioned to you, before the Convention met, of a great national council, consisting of two branches of the legislature, a judiciary and an executive, upon the principle of fair representation in the legislature, with powers adapted to the great objects of the Union, and consequently a control in these instances, on the State legislatures, is still the prevalent one. Virginia has had the honor of presenting the outlines of the plan, upon which the convention is proceeding; but so slowly that it is impossible to judge when the business will be finished, most probably not before August-festina lente may very well be called our motto. When I first came here, judgin from casual conversations with gentlemen from the different States, I was very apprehensive that soured and disgusted with