« AnteriorContinuar »
THE CONSTITUTION—THE FRAMERS AND THE FRAMING.*
In a preceding article (D. R., August, out great differences of opinion; and 1842, Article II.) we made some re- these naturally turned upon the extent marks upon the proceedings that led to which the proposed increase of the to the Federal Convention, and upon power of the Union should be carried, the characters of some of the most pro- and the form in which it should be minent members. On the present oc- effected. The debates that grew out casion we propose to notice very briefly of these differences revealed the existthe principal plans that were presents ence of the National and State-Rights ed, and the progress of the debate, by parties, which divided the Convention, which they were gradually moulded and which seem to constitute the perinto the existing Constitution.
manent party division most naturally The evil complained of under the resulting from the political circumpreceding system-commonly called stances of this country. The precise the old Confederation—was the ineffi- point on which the parties took issue ciency of the Congress, and its want of in the Convention was, whether the any regular power to enforce its requi- Union should be continued as a consitions on the States. The nature of federacy of independent States, with the remedy indicated by this political such extension of the powers of Condisease, was, of course, in general gress, as might be deemed expedient, terms, an extension of the authority or whether the States, for the purposes delegated to the Union, and a partial contemplated in the Union, should sacrifice of State independence. Thus surrender their independence, and form far all were agreed—at least all whose themselves into one body politic, under opinions were represented in the con- a common government. vention. But it was, of course, impos- The friends of the latter system prosible that a revolution like the one in posed the establishment of a general contemplation should take place with- government, with a legislature in
* The Papers of James Madison, purchased by Order of Congress, being his Correspondence, and Reports of Debates during the Congress of the Confederation, and his Reports of Debates in the Federal Convention, now published from the Original MSS., deposited in the Department of State, by Direction of the Joint Literary Committee of Congress, under the Superintendence of Henry D. Gilpin. 3 vols 8yo. New York : J. and H. G. Langley. 1841.
which the States should exercise in- representation of the States in one fluence in proportion to their popula- branch of the Legislature, having a tion. They also proposed to give to complete negative on the acts of the the General Government a negative on other, would be just as fatal to the effithe acts of the State Governments. ciency of the Government as an equal The State-Rights party, on the other representation in both, and would perhand, proposed the continuance of the petuate all the vices of the old Confeexisting confederacy, with some exten- deration. This apprehension, which sion of the powers of Congress, and the appears, in fact, very plausible, and of addition of a national executive and which nothing but experience could judiciary. After much discussion the have shown the futility, was enterpoint was compromised, by the estab- tained, not only by those who would lishment of a general government, acts have preferred a permanent executive ing directly upon individuals, and not and senate-in short, a constitution upon States; with a legislature consist- substantially on the British model-but ing of two branches, in one of which by those who contemplated merely an the States were to have an equal vote, efficient republican government. We and in the other a yote proportional to had occasion to advert, in our precedtheir population. The other question ing article, to the great influence exerwas compromised in a still more skil. cised by Virginia on the establishment ful way, by maintaining, in the first of the Constitution, and to the extraorinstance, the formal validity of all the dinary prominence of Mr. Madison as acts of the State Governments; but, a member of the Convention. It is, at the same time, giving to the Consti- therefore, worthy of remark in this tutional laws of the Union a para- connection, and the fact is highly homount authority in the courts of just- norable to the character of the Convenice, anything in the constitution and tion, that this influence, far from being laws of the several States to the con- dictatorial, was not even on the most trary notwithstanding. By this mas. important points regarded as decisive; terly device the ascendency of the and that every member of the ConvenUnion, which was indispensable to the tion seems to have acted with perfect harmonious and successful conduct of independence upon every question that the public affairs, was fully secured, came before the body. On both the without any offensive interference with points alluded to above-the proporthe formal legislation of the States, ortional vote and the formal negative on any danger of the collisions to which the laws of the States-Virginia was an attempt at such interference would decided. They are the leading points have necessarily led. The adoption of in Governor Randolph's plan, which these principles fixed the basis of the formed the basis of the proceedings. new system: the subsequent proceed- Mr. Madison insisted on both, with imings of the Convention were a mere movable tenacity, to the very last moarrangement of details, not always un- ment that they were under discussion ; attended with difficulty, but, in most but, notwithstanding their respect for cases, of no essential importance to the the commanding position of Virginia general result.
in the Union, and for the personal charSuch is the naked outline of the pro- acter and talents of Mr. Madison, the ceedings of the Convention. At the representatives of the smaller States present time we believe it to be the acted without hesitation upon what prevalent opinion that the compromise they considered as the interest of their adopted on both these points was, on constituents, and succeeded in defeatthe whole, favorable to the views of ing the efforts of Mr. Madison and the the National party. In the Convention other statesmen of the Virginia school. itself the feeling appears to have been The result has shown that in practical different. The proportional vote of politics the force of circumstances is a the States in both branches of the na- safer guide than any theoretical reasontional legislature, and a formal nega- ing, however plausible, or, considered tive by the General Government on the as theory, apparently incontestable. laws of the States, were considered by The equal vote of the States in the the National party as indispensable to Senate has not been found in practice the success of the new scheme. They to impair, in the slightest degree, the feared, and fully believed, that an equal efficiency of the General Government. The assignment of the duty of main- embracing the principles which were taining the ascendency of the legisla- to form the basis of the proposed Contion of the Union over that of the stitution. He introduced them by a States to the judiciary department, speech of some length, explaining the instead of the legislative or execu- nature of the mischiefs which had been tive, was an improvement, of which no felt under the old Confederation, the language can describe the importance, dangerous condition of the country, and is the feature in the Government and the character of the remedy prowhich is now justly regarded as the posed in the Resolves, which were pride and beauty of the system. offered in the name of the Virginia de
This question, upon which the divi- legation. These Resolutions contain sions in the Convention, and subse- the germ of the Constitution, as finally quently in the country, were destined adopted, and formed the text of the chiefly to turn, presenied itself for disc debates throughout the whole proceedcussion at the very threshold of the ings. They are as follow :proceedings. Mr. Madison tells us, that “ before the arrival of a majority “ MR. RANDOLPH'S RESOLUTIONS. of the States, the rule by which they ought to vote in the Convention had
“ Resolved, That the Articles of Conbeen a subject of conversation among federation ought to be so corrected and those members present. It was pressed enlarged as to accomplish the objects proby Gouverneur Morris, and favored of posed,
Lof posed by their institution : namely, 'comRobert Morris and others from Penn. mon defence, security of liberty, and gen
i eral welfare.' sylvania, that the large States should
“ 2. Resolved, That the rights of sufunite in firmly refusing to the small
" frage in the national Legislature ought to
fra ones an equal vote in the Convention, be proportioned to the quotas of the contrias unreasonable, and as enabling the bution, or to the number of free inhabitants, small States to negative every good as the one or the other rule may seem best in system of government, which must, in different cases. the nature of things, be founded on a **3. Resolved, That the national Leviolation of that equality. The mem- gislature ought to consist of two branches. bers from Virginia, conceiving that “ 4. Resolved, That the members of the such an attempt might beget fatal al- first branch of the national Legislature tercations between the large and small ought to be elected by the people of the States, and that it would be easier to several States every — for the term prevail on the latter, in the course of of ; to be of the age of the deliberations, to give up their ;
If years at least; to receive liberal stipends,
by which they may be compensated for equality for the sake of an effective
the devotion of their time to the public government, than, on taking the field
service; to be ineligible to any office, esof discussion, to disarm themselves of ;
tablished by a particular State, or under the right, and thereby throw them the authority of the United States, except selves on the mercy of the larger those peculiarly belonging to the funcStates, discountenanced and stifled the tions of the first branch, during their project."
term of service, and for the space of The want of punctuality in attend
after its expiration; to be incaing to their duties, which prevailed to pable of re-election for the space of so great an extent among the members after the expiration of their term of serof Congress under the old Confedera. vice, and to be subject to recall. tion, was also observed at the opening “5. Resolved, That the members of the of the Convention. The day fixed for second branch of the national Legislature the meeting was the fourteenth of ou
of ought to be elected by those of the first May, 1787, but it was not until the
out of a proper number of persons, nomi
nated by the individual Legislatures; to twenty-fifth that seven States, forming be of the age of years at least; to at that time a majority of the whole hold their offices for a term sufficient to number, were represented, and that it ensure their independence; to receive was possible to proceed to business. liberal stipends, by which they may be After the formal arrangements, which compensated for the devotion of their occupied three or four days, had been time to the public service; and to be inecompleted, Governor Randolph, of Vir- ligible to any office, established by a parginia, on the twenty-ninth of May, pre- ticular State, or under the authority of the sented a series of fifteen Resolutions, United States, except those peculiarly
belonging to the functions of the second foreigners, or citizens of other States, branch during the time of service, and for applying to such jurisdictions, may be inthe space of — after the expiration terested; or which respect the collection thereof.
of the national revenue; impeachments 66 6. Resolved, That each branch ought of any national officers, and questions, to possess the right of originating acts; which may involve the national peace and that the national Legislature ought to be harmony. empowered to enjoy the legislative rights “ 10. Resolved, That provision ought to vested in Congress by the confederation, be made for the admission of States, lawand, moreover, to legislate in all cases to fully arising within the limits of the Uniwhich the separate States are incompe- ted States; whether from a voluntary tent, or in which the harmony of the junction of Government and territory, or United States may be interrupted by the otherwise, with the consent of a number exercise of individual Legislatures; to of voices in the national Legislature, less negative all laws passed by the several than the whole. States, contravening, in the opinion of the “ 11. Resolved, That a republican govnational Legislature, the Articles of Union, ernment and the territory of each or any treaty subsisting under the authority state, except in the instance of a volunof the Union ; and to call forth the force tary junction of Government and terriof the Union against any member of the tory, ought to be guarantied by the UniUnion failing to fulfil its duty under the ted States to each State. articles thereof.
« 12. Resolved, That provision ought to “7. Resolved, That a national Execu- be made for the continuance of Congress tive be instituted, to be chosen by the and their authorities and privileges, until national Legislature for the term of a given day after the reform of the arti- ; to receive punctually at stated cles of union shall be adopted, and for the times, a fixed compensation for the ser- completion of all their engagements. vices rendered, in which no increase nor “ 13. Resolved, That provision ought to diminution shall be made, so as to affect be made for the amendment of the artithe magistracy existing at the time of in- cles of union, whenever it shall seem necrease or diminution, and to be ineligible a cessary; and that the assent of the nationsecond time; and that, besides a general al Legislature ought not to be required authority to execute the laws, it ought to thereto. enjoy the executive rights vested in Con- “ 14. Resolved, That the legislative, gress by the confederation.
executive and judiciary powers within the - 8. Resolved, That the executive and a several States ought to be bound by oath convenient number of the national judiciary to support the articles of union. ought to compose a council of revision, “15. Resolved, That the amendments, with authority to examine every act of which shall be offered to the confederathe national Legislature, before it shall tion by the convention, ought, at a proper operate, and every act of a particular Leg- time, or times, after the approbation of islature, before a negative thereon shall be Congress, to be submitted to an assembly final; and that the dissent of the said of representatives, recommended by the council shall amount to a rejection, unless several Legislatures, to be expressly the act of the national Legislature be chosen by the people to consider and deagain passed, or that of a particular Leg- cide thereon.” islature be again negatived by of the members of each branch.
The Resolutions, as well as the ab“9. Resolved, That a national judiciary stract of the speech introducing them, be established, to consist of one or more which is given in the Report, were supreme tribunals, and of inferior tribu- furnished to Mr. Madison by Mr. Ran. nals to be chosen by the national Legis- dolph himself, and are in his handlature; to hold their office during good
writing in the original papers. behavior, and to receive punctually at
but just, however, to both ihe parties, stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no increase or
to add that the substance of the plan diminution shall be made, so as to affect
i is contained in a letter addressed to the persons actually in office at the time of Mr. Randolph by Mr. Madison from such increase or diininution. That the ju. New York, where he was in attendrisdiction of the inferior tribunals shall ance as a member of Congress, under be to hear and determine, in the first in- date of the eighth of April, 1787. Mr. stance, and of the supreme tribunal to Madison himself remarks in the Introhear and determine in the dernier ressort, duction to the Reports, that “the earall piracies and felonies on the high seas; liest sketch on paper of a constitucaptures from an enemy; cases in which tional Government for the Union (or