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THE PROPER RULE OF REPRESENTATION.
doubling the number, the laws might still be made by so few as almost to be objectionable on that account. Mr. Madison's motion being lost, and the report of the committee of eleven agreed to, Edmund Randolph moved that the legislature take a periodical census to redress inequalities in the representation. Colonel Mason here gave expression to his fears, that the South would not be sufficiently secured in her rights by the new Constitution :
“ The greater the difficulty we find in fixing a proper rule of representation, the more unwilling ought we to be to throw the task from ourselves on the General Legislature. He did not object to the conjectural ratio which was to prevail in the outset; but considered a revision from time to time, according to some permanent and precise standard, as essential to the fair representation required in the first branch. According to the present population of America, the Northern part of it had a right to preponderate ; and he could not deny it. But he wished it not to preponderate hereafter, when the reason no longer continued. From the nature of man, we may be sure that those who have power in their hands will not give it up, while they can retain it. On the contrary, we know that they will always, when they can, rather increase it. If the Southern States, therefore, should have three-fourths of the people of America within their limits, the Northern will hold fast the majority of representatives. Onefourth will govern the three-fourths. The Southern States will complain, but they may complain from generation to generation without redress. Unless some principle, therefore, which will do justice to them hereafter shall be inserted in the Constitution, disagreeable as the declaration was to him, he must declare he could neither vote for the system here, nor support it in his State. Strong objections had been drawn from the danger to the Atlantic interests from new Western States. Ought we to sacrifice what we know to be right in itself, lest it should prove favorable to States which are not yet in existence? If the Western States are to be admitted into the Union, as they arise, they must, he would repeat, be treated as equals, and subjected to no degrading discriminations. They will have the same pride, and other passions, which we have ; and will either not unite with, or will speedily revolt from, the Union, if they are not in all respects placed on an equal footing with their brethren. It has been said, they will be poor, and unable to make equal contributions to the general treasury. He did not know but that, in time, they would be both more numerous and more wealthy than their Atlantic brethren. The extent and fertility of their soil made this probable ; and though Spain might for a time deprive them of the natural outlet for their productions, yet she will, because she must, finally yield to their demands. He urged that numbers of inhabitants, though not always a precise standard of wealth, was sufficiently so for every substantial purpose." ;
1 Ibid., p. 1061.
The representation to be regulated on a census of the free white inhabitants and three fifths of the slaves was the next proposition discussed. Some of the Northern members of the Convention were opposed to any representation of the slaves, while the extreme Southern delegates insisted that they should be counted equally with the whites. The threefifths basis was another one of the compromises of the Constitution. George Mason advocated it, and on a motion for an equal representation of the blacks, declared he “could not agree to the motion, notwithstanding it was favorable to Virginia, because he thought it unjust. It was certain that the slaves were valuable, as they raised the value of land, increased the exports and imports, and of course the revenue, would supply the means of feeding and supporting an army, and might in cases of emergency become themselves soldiers. As in these important respects they were useful to the community at large, they ought not to be excluded from the estimate of representation. He could not, however, regard them as equal to freemen, and could not vote for them as such. He added, as worthy of remark, that the Southern States have this peculiar species of property, over and above the other species of property common to all the States.' Mr. Sherman said that he had become convinced by the observations of Mr. Randolph and Colonel
? Ibid., p. 1068.
MOTION MADE BY GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Mason that the periods and the rule of revising the representation ought to be fixed by the Constitution. George Mason“ objected to a motion [made by Rutledge] to include wealth with population in the estimate, as requiring of the legislature something too indefinite and impracticable, and leaving them a pretext for doing nothing." to Gouverneur Morris, who reiterated his objections to admitting the Western country on an equal footing with the Atlantic States, Colonel Mason, while agreeing with him, “that we ought to leave the interests of the people to the representatives of the people,” said, that “the objection was, that the legislature would cease to be the representatives of the people. It would continue so no longer than the States now containing a majority of the people should retain that majority. As soon as the southern and western population should predominate, which must happen in a few years, the power would be in the hands of the minority, and would never be yielded to the majority, unless provided for by the Constitution." ;
Gouverneur Morris startled the Convention on the 12th by a proposal that "taxation should be in proportion to representation." This was a blow aimed at the Southern proposition for a full representation of the slaves. George Mason in reply “admitted the justice of the principle but was afraid embarrassments might be occasioned to the legislature by it. It might drive the legislature to the plan of requisitions." Morris then limited his motion to direct taxation, and this was agreed to. After a little further skirmishing, it was finally decided that representation should be proportioned to direct taxation, and both to the number of the free white and three fifths of the slave population. On a motion to assess the inhabitants of the States, until a census could be taken according to the number of their representatives in the first branch, Colonel Mason said he “ did not know that Virginia would be a loser by the proposed regulation, but had some scruple as to the justice 1 Ibid., p. 1071.
Ibid., p. 1075.
3 Ibid., p. 1089.
of it. He doubted much whether the conjectural rule which was to precede the census would be as just as it would be rendered by an actual census. The equal vote in the Senate was the next disputed point taken up. The small States refused to confederate on any other terms, and the large States as a class still opposed it. On the 16th an adjournment was voted to enable the dissatisfied ones to talk over the subject, and the result was satisfactory, for the compromise was finally effected at this time.
1 Ibid., p. 1089.
THE CHAMPION OF STATES-RIGHTS.
The mode of electing the Executive was under discussion on the 17th of July. George Mason approved of an election by the legislature rather than by the people at large. In animadverting upon some of the opinions that had been expressed, Colonel Mason said:
“It is curious to remark the different language held at different times. At one moment we are told that the legislature is entitled to thorough confidence, and to indefinite power. At another, that it will be governed by intrigue and corruption, and cannot be trusted at all. But not to dwell on this inconsistency, he would observe that a government which is to last ought at least to be practicable. Would this be the case if the proposed election should be left to the people at large ? He conceived it would be as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper character for Chief Magistrate to the people, as it would, to refer a trial of colors to a blind man. The extent of the country renders it impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates.” 1
On a motion to strike out seven years as the term of office for the Executive, and substitute “ during good behaviour," Colonel Mason spoke decisively against it :
“This motion was made some time ago, and negatived by a very large majority. He trusted that it would be again negatived.
Madison Papers," vol. ii., p. 1122.