Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

far different with a member of Congress. He is to legislate 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 sound 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 diversities, and their practical influence upon public measures. What may be beneficial and politic, with reference to the freemen ; 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 uniform 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 each 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 exactly 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 in the 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 be 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 far different with a member of Congress. He is to legislate 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 sound 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 diversities, and their practical influence upon public measures. What may be beneficial and politic, with reference to the interests of a single State, may be subversive of those of other States. A regulation of commerce, wise and just for the commercial States, may strike at the foundation of the prosperity of the agricultural or manufacturing States. And, on the other hand, a measure beneficial to agriculture or manufactures, may disturb, and even overwhelm the shipping interest. Large and enlightened views, comprehensive information, and a just attention to the local peculiarities, and products, and employments of different States, are absolutely indispensable qualifications for members of Congress. Yet it is obvious, that if very short periods of service are to be allowed to members of Congress, the continual fluctuations in the public councils, and the perpetual changes of members, will be very unfavorable to the acquirement of the proper knowledge, and the due application of it for the public welfare. One set of men will just have mastered the necessary information, when they will be succeeded by a second set, who are to go over the same grounds, and then are to be succeeded by a third. So that inexperience, instead of practical wisdom, hasty legislation, instead of sober deliberation, and imperfect projects, instead of well-constructed systems, would characterize the national government.

$ 73. Fourthly, the qualifications of Representatives. The Constitution declares—" No person shall be a Representative, who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years ; and been seven years à citizen of the United States ; and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State, in which he shall be chosen.” These qualifications are few and simple. They respect only age, citizenship, and inhabitancy

Š 74. First, in regard to age. 'That some qualification, as to age, is desirable, cannot well be doubted, if knowledge, or experience, or wisdom, is of any value in the administration of public affairs. And if any qualification is required, what can be more suitable than twenty-five years of age ? The character and principles of young men can scarcely be understood at the moment of self-government; warm in their passions ; ardent in their expectations ; and too eager in their favorite pursuits, to learn the lessons of caution, which riper years in- . culcate. Four years of probation, is but a very short space, in which to try their virtues, to develope their talents, to enlarge their intellectual resources, and to give them a practical knowledge of the true principles of legislation. Indeed, it may be safely said, that a much longer period will scarcely suffice to furnish them with that thorough insight into the business of human life, which is indispensable to a safe and enlightened exercise of public duties.

$75. Secondly, in regard to citizenship. No person will deny the propriety of excluding aliens from any share in the administration of the affairs of the national government. No persons, but citizens, can be presumed to feel that deep sense of the value of our domestic institutions, and that permanent attachment to the soil and interests of our country, which are the true sources of a healthy patriotism. The only practical question would seem to be, whether foreigners, even after they were naturalized, should be permitted to hold office. "Most nations studiously exclude them, from policy, or from jealousy. But the peculiar circumstances of our country were supposed to call for a less rigorous course ; and the period of seven years was selected as one, which would enable naturalized citizens to acquire a reasonable familiarity with the principles of our institutions and with the interests of the people ; and which, at the same time, would justify the latter in reposing confidence in their talents, virtues, and patriotism..

$76. Thirdly, in regard to inhabitancy. The Representative is required to be an inhabitant of the State, at the time when he is chosen. The object of this clause, doubtless, is to secure, on the part of the Representative, a familiar knowledge of the interests of the people whoin he represents, a just responsibility to them, and a personal share in all the local results of the measures, which he shall support. It is observable, that inhabitancy is

« AnteriorContinuar »