صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

1789.]

AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION.

405

The bill organizing the War Department was adopted without opposition.

On the eighth of June, Mr. Madison having proposed to bring to the consideration of the House the amendments to the Constitution recommended by different States, the subject, after some discussion, was postponed until the more pressing business of organizing the Executive departments, and of providing a public revenue, was disposed of. He was, however, first permitted to submit to the House all the amendments which he wished adopted, because he deemed them additional safeguards to the public welfare, and from a proper regard for respectable portions of his fellow-citizens who wished for them. He did not deem bills of rights indispensable, but they might sometimes tend to check the undue exercise of authority he regarded the legislative power as more liable to abuse than that of the Executive, for it is most exposed to abuse, and is the least under control: he thought, moreover, that some further restrictions on the powers of the States would be as salutary as those on the powers of the Federal government; such as prohibitions against passing ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, &c. The subject was then referred to a Committee of the Whole; but a few weeks later it was resumed, and a preliminary question presented itself, whether the amendments which might be adopted should be incorporated in the Constitution that had been ratified, or should be in the form of additional articles, as was proposed by Mr. Sherman. This course was adopted, and the Committee proceeded to consider the several amendments recommended by a majority of the Committee. Among those that were opposed were the following:

First. Instead of a member of the House of Representatives for every thirty thousand persons, Mr. Ames

406

AMENDMENTS PROPOSED.

[CHAP. V.

wished to substitute forty thousand. His amendment was, however, rejected by a large majority, and thirty thousand was carried.

Second. That no law varying the compensation of members shall take effect, unless an election shall have intervened. This was carried by twenty-four votes to twenty.1

1

Mr. Tucker moved to add to one of the clauses in the bill of rights, that the people have a right to meet "to instruct their Representatives." But the sentiments of the members widely differed as to this doctrine; some considering the right itself as problematical, because they said a member represented not merely the district which elected him, but the whole community; while others maintained that instructions were not obligatory on the Representative, and that the practice was more fruitful of mischief than of benefit.

The motion was opposed by Messrs. Hartley, Clymer, Sherman, Madison, Smith, Stone, Ames, and Wentworth ; and was supported by Messrs. Gerry, Page, Burke, Livermore, Lawrence, and Sumter, though these also differed on the binding character of the instructions. The amendment was rejected by forty-one to ten.

Mr. Burke proposed "that Congress should not alter, modify, or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections of Senators or Representatives, except when a State should refuse, or neglect, or be unable by invasion or rebellion, to make such election;" which, after some discussion, was rejected by twenty-eight votes to twenty-three.

Various minor amendments, proposed by those who, viewing the power of the Federal government with jealousy and distrust, were rejected by the majority, 1 These two amendments were not ratified by the States.

1789.] PERMANENT SEAT OF GOVERNMENT.

1

407

who regarded that government with more confidence and favor, until at length twelve amendments were recommended by two-thirds of both Houses to the Legislatures of the several States. Of these, ten were ratified by three-fourths of those Legislatures, and thus became parts of the Federal Constitution. They were all restrictions on the power of the Federal government, or additional safeguards for the rights of the States, or of individuals, and were indicative of the political jealousy which so extensively prevailed.

[ocr errors]

While the House had been engaged on the impost, and in organizing the Executive departments, the Senate had prepared a bill to establish a judicial system for the Federal government, which was passed by the Representatives, not, however, without opposition from some of the anti-Federal party. Mr. Livermore strongly objected to the establishment of the Supreme Court.

The subject of the permanent seat of government having been taken up, a good deal of local jealousy was evolved; the members, with scarce an exception, being desirous of having the location as near to their own State as possible.

A bill was passed in the House, for establishing the government at some point on the Susquehanna, in the State of Pennsylvania, by a majority of thirty-one votes to seventeen; but the bill was amended, in the Senate, by substituting ten miles square about Germantown, near Philadelphia; and the bill having been returned to the House with an amendment, was there postponed for want of time.

On the twenty-first of September, on a report from a

'There was some disagreement between the two Houses as to the amendments, and after a conference, the points of difference were adjusted.

408

REPUBLICAN SIMPLICITY.

[CHAP. V

committee to whom the petition of the public creditors of Pennsylvania had been referred, the House adopted the following resolutions:

That an adequate provision for the support of public credit was important to the national honor and pros perity, and that the Secretary of the Treasury prepare a plan for that purpose, and report to the House at its next meeting.

He was further directed to apply to the Executives of the States for the statements of their public debts, of the funds provided for the payment, and of the amount of loan-office certificates and other securities, and report the same to Congress.

One consequence of the vigilant jealousy of the antiFederal party was, that they had juster ideas than their opponents of the precise limits of the constitutional powers of the Federal government, and of what was congenial with republican institutions. It thus was opposed to giving titles of honor to the President; and when it was proposed that a committee from both Houses should wait upon the President, and request that he would recommend to the people a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, two members of that party from South Carolina were opposed to it, as mimicking European customs, and as a matter that should more properly proceed from the authority of the States. The motion, however, prevailed. To this may be added the objection to the style of the writs issued from the Federal Courts, which, according to the bill from the Senate, were to be in the name of the President, but which the House of Representatives insisted should be in the name of the United States; and after a conference between the two Houses, the Senate partially receded, and a compromise was effected. The principles on which this party acted on

1789.]

COMPENSATION OF MEMBERS.

409

these questions are so clearly, as well as comprehensively stated by Mr. Stone, of Maryland, that they may be here cited:

"He thought, that substituting the name of the President, instead of the name of the United States, was a declaration that the sovereign authority was vested in the Executive. He did not believe this to be the case. The United States were sovereign; they acted by an agency, but could remove such agency without impairing their own capacity to act. He did not fear the loss of liberty by this single mark of power; but he apprehended that an aggregate, formed of one in considerable power, and another in considerable authority, might, in time, lay a foundation for pretensions which would be troublesome to dispute, and difficult to get rid of. A little prior caution was better than much future remedy."

1

To this last we might, perhaps, also add the claim set up by the Senate for a higher rate of daily compensation than for the members of the House of Representatives. This claim being resisted by the House, committees of conference were appointed, but they were unable to agree, until, at length, Mr. Burke proposed that the House should agree to the Senate's amendment, by which Senators were to receive seven dollars a day, after the fourth of March, 1795, and the Representatives six dollars; but with the further amendment, that this clause should continue in force till the first of March, 1796, and no longer which was carried by twenty-eight votes to twenty-six; and to this amendment the Senate agreed.2

In all these points of difference the anti-Federal party, whether they succeeded or not, seem to have anticipated 1 I. Gales & Seaton's Debates, page 951.

2

Ibid. page 926.

« السابقةمتابعة »