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289. THE Second section of the first article contains the structure and organization of the house of representatives. The first clause is as follows:

"The house of representatives shall be composed of "members chosen every second year by the people of the several states; and the electors in each state shall "have the qualifications requisite for electors of the "most numerous branch of the state legislature."

§ 290. As soon as it was settled, that the legislative power should be divided into two separate and distinct branches, a very important consideration arose in regard to the organization of those branches respectively. It is obvious, that the organization of each is susceptible of very great diversities and modifications, in respect to the principles of representation; the qualification of the electors, and the elected; the term of service of the members; the ratio of representation; and the number, of which the body should be composed.

§ 291. First; the principle of representation. The American people had long been in the enjoyment of the privilege of electing, at least, one branch of the legislature; and, in some of the colonies, of electing all the branches composing the legislature. A house of representatives, under various denominations, such as a house of delegates, a house of commons, or, simply, a house of representatives, emanating directly from, and responsible to the people, and possessing a distinct and independent legislative authority, was familiar to all the colonies, and was held by them in the highest rever

ence and respect. They justly thought, that as the government in general should always have a common interest with the people, and be administered for their good; so it was essential to their rights and liberties, that the most numerous branch should have an immediate dependence upon, and sympathy with the people. There was no novelty in this view. It was not the mere result of a state of colonial dependence, in which their jealousy was awake to all the natural encroachments of power in a foreign realm. They had drawn their opinions and principles from the practice of the parent country. They knew the inestimable value of the house of commons, as a component branch of the British parliament; and they believed, that it had at all times furnished the best security against the oppressions of the crown, and the aristocracy. While the power of taxation, of revenue, and of supplies, remained in the hands of a popular branch, it was difficult for usurpation to exist for any length of time without check; and prerogative must yield to that necessity, which controlled at once the sword and the purse. No reasoning, therefore, was necessary to satisfy the American people of the advantages of a house of representatives, which should emanate directly from themselves; which should guard their interests, support their rights, express their opinions, make known their wants, redress their grievances, and introduce a pervading popular influence throughout all the operations of the government. Experience, as well as theory, had settled it in their minds, as a fundamental principle of a free government, and especially of a republican government, that no laws ought to be passed without the co-operation and consent of the representatives of the people; and that these representatives should be chosen by themselves,

without the intervention of any other functionaries to intercept, or vary their responsibility.

§ 292. We accordingly find, that in the section under consideration, the house of representatives is required to be composed of representatives chosen by the people of the several states. The choice, too, is to be made immediately by them; so that the power is direct; the influence direct; and the responsibility direct. If any intermediate agency had been adopted, such as a choice through an electoral college, or by official personages, or by select and specially qualified functionaries pro hac vice, it is obvious, that the dependence of the representatives upon the people, and the responsibility to them, would have been far less felt, and far more obstructed. Influence would have naturally grown up with patronage; and here, as in many other cases, the legal maxim would have applied, causa proxima, non remota, spectatur. The select body would have been at once the patrons and the guides of the representative; and the people themselves would have become the instrument of subverting their own rights and power.

§ 293. But this fundamental principle of an immediate choice by the people, however important, would alone be insufficient for the public security, if the right of choice had not had many auxiliary guards and accompaniments. It was indispensable, secondly, to provide for the qualifications of the electors. It is obvious, that even when the principle is established, that the popular branch of the legislature shall emanate directly from the people, there still remains a very serious question; by whom and in what manner the choice shall be made. It is a question vital to the system, and in a practical sense decisive, as to the durability and efficiency of the powers of government. Here, there is much room for

doubt, and ingenious speculation, and theoretical inquiry; upon which different minds may arrive, and indeed have arrived, at very different results. To whom ought the right of suffrage, in a free government, to be confided? Or, in other words, who ought to be permitted to vote in the choice of the representatives of the people? Ought the right of suffrage to be absolutely universal? Ought it to be qualified and restrained? Ought it to belong to many, or few? If there ought to be restraints and qualifications, what are the true boundaries and limits of such restraints and qualifications?

294.. These questions are sufficiently perplexing and disquieting in theory; and in the practice of different states, and even of free states, ancient as well as modern, they have assumed almost infinite varieties of form and illustration. Perhaps they do not admit of any general, much less of any universal answer, so as to furnish an unexceptionable and certain rule for all ages and all nations. The manners, habits, institutions, characters, and pursuits of different nations; the local position of the territory, in regard to other nations; the actual organizations and classes of society; the influences of peculiar religious, civil, or political institutions; the dangers, as well as the difficulties, of the times; the degrees of knowledge or ignorance pervading the mass of society; the national temperament, and even the climate and products of the soil; the cold and thoughtful gravity of the north; and the warm and mercurial excitability of tropical or southern regions; all these may, and probably will, introduce modifications of principle, as well as of opinion, in regard to the right of suffrage, which it is not easy either to justify, or to overthrow.

295. Without laying any stress upon theoretical reasoning on this subject, it may be proper to state, that every civilized society has uniformly fixed, modified, and regulated the right of suffrage for itself, according to its own free will and pleasure. Every constitution of government in these United States has assumed, as a fundamental principle, the right of the people of the state to alter, abolish, and modify the form of its own government, according to the sovereign pleasure of the people. In fact, the people of each state have gone much farther, and settled a far more critical question, by deciding, who shall be the voters, entitled to approve and reject the constitution framed by a delegated body under their direction. In the adoption of no state constitution has the assent been asked of any, but the qualified voters; and women, and minors, and other persons, not recognised as voters by existing laws, have been studiously excluded. And yet the constitution has been deemed entirely obligatory upon them, as well as upon the minority, who voted against it. From this it will be seen, how little, even in the most free of republican governments, any abstract right of suffrage, or any original and indefeasible privilege, has been recognised in practice. If this consideration does not satisfy our minds, it at least will prepare us to presume, that there may be an almost infinite diversity in the established right of voting, without any state being able to assert, that its own mode is exclusively founded in natural justice, or is most conformable to sound policy, or is best adapted to the public security. It will teach us, that the question is necessarily complex and intricate in its own nature, and is scarcely susceptible of any simple solution, which shall rigidly

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