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tional limitation, that one third should go out biennially.1


§708. No inconsiderable array of objections was brought to bear against this prolonged term of service of the senators beyond that fixed for the members of the house of representatives, both in the convention, and before the people, when the constitution was under their advisement. Perhaps some of those objections still linger in the minds of many, who entertain a general jealousy of the powers of the Union; and who easily persuade themselves on that account, that power should frequently change hands in order to prevent corruption and tyranny. The perpetuity of a body (it has been said) is favourable to every stride it may be

1 Journal of Convention, 67, 72, 118, 130, 147, 148, 149, 207, 217, 238, 353, 373; Yates's Minutes, 4 Elliot's Debates, 70, 71, 103, 104, 105, 106. — Montesquieu seems to have been decidedly of opinion, that, a senate ought to be chosen for life, as was the custom at Rome, at Sparta, and even at Athens.* It is well known, that this was Gen. Hamilton's opinion, or rather his proposition was, that the senators should be chosen to serve during good behaviour. (Journ. of Convention, p. 130; North American Review, Oct. 1827, p. 266.) It appears to have been that of Mr. Jay. (North American Review, Oct. 1827, p. 263.) Mr. Madison's original opinion seems to have been, to have a senate chosen for a longer term, than the house of representatives. But in the convention, it is said, that he was favourably inclined to Mr. Hamilton's plan. In a question of so much difficulty and delicacy, as the due formation of a government, it is not at all surprising, that such opinions should have been held by them, and many others of the purest and most enlightened patriots. They wished durability and success to a republican government, and were, therefore, urgent to secure it against the imbecility resulting from what they deemed too frequent changes in the administration of its powers. To hold such opinions was not then deemed a just matter of reproach, though from the practical operations of the constitution they may now be deemed unsound.

22 American Museum, 547.

* Montesquieu's Spirit of Laws, B. 5. ch. 7. North American Review, Oct. 1827, p. 265. t 2 Pitkin's Hist. 259, note.

disposed to make towards extending its own power and influence in the government. Such a tendency is to be discovered in all bodies, however constituted, and to which no effectual check can be opposed, but frequent dissolutions and elections.' The truth of this remark may be admitted; but there are many circumstances, which may justly vary its force and application. While, on the one hand, perpetuity in a body may be objectionable, on the other hand, continual fluctuations may be no less so, with reference to its duties and functions, its powers, and its efficiency. There are dangers arising from too great frequency in elections, as well as from too small. The path of true wisdom is probably best attained by a moderation, which avoids either extreme. It may be said of too much jealousy, and of too much confidence, that, when either is too freely admitted into public councils, it betrays like treason.

§709. It seems paradoxical to assert, (as has been already intimated,) but it is theoretically, as well as practically true, that a deep-felt responsibility is incompatible with great frequency of elections. Men can feel little interest in power, which slips away almost as soon, as it is grasped; and in measures, which they can scarcely do more than begin, without hoping to perfect. Few measures have an immediate and sensible operation, exactly according to their wisdom or policy. For the most part, they are dependent upon other measures, or upon time, and gradual intermixtures with the business of life, and the general institutions of society.3 The first superficial view may shock popular prejudices, or errors; while the ultimate results may be as admira

1 Tucker's Black. Comm. App. 196.

2 See ante, § 587, &c. on the same point. 3 The Federalist, No. 63.

ble and excellent, as they are profound and distant. Who can take much interest in weaving a single thread into a measure, which becomes an evanescent quantity in the main fabric, whose texture requires constant skill, and many adaptations from the same hand, before its perfection can be secured, or even be prophesied ?

710. The objections to the senatorial term of office all resolve themselves into a single argument, however varied in its forms, or illustrations. That argument is, that political power is liable to be abused; and that the great security for public liberty consists in bringing home responsibility, and dependence in those, who are entrusted with office; and these are best attained by short periods of office, and frequent expressions of public opinion in the choice of officers. If the argument is

admitted in its most ample scope, it still leaves the question open to much discussion, what is the proper period of office, and how frequent the elections should be. This question must, in its nature, be complicated; and may admit, if it does not absolutely require, different answers, as applicable to different functionaries. Without wandering into ingenious speculations upon the topic in its most general form, our object will be to present the reasons, which have been, or may be relied on, to establish the sound policy and wisdom of the duration of office of the senators as fixed by the constitution. In so doing, it will become necessary to glance at some suggestions, which have already occurred in considering the organization of the other branch of the legislature. It may be proper, however, to premise, that the whole reasoning applies to a moderate duration only in office; and that it assumes, as its basis, the absolute necessity of short limitations of office, as constituting indispensable checks to power in all republican governments. It

would almost be useless to descant upon such a basis, because it is universally admitted in the United States as a fundamental principle of all their constitutions of government.

§ 711. In the first place, then, all the reasons, which apply to the duration of the legislative office generally, founded upon the advantages of various knowledge, and experience in the principles and duties of legislation, may be urged with increased force in regard to the senate. A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the ob ect of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which that object is to be attained. Some governments are deficient in both these qualities; most are deficient in the first. Some of our wisest statesmen have not scrupled to assert, that in the American governments too little attention has been paid to the latter.1 It is utterly impossible for any assembly of men, called for the most part from the pursuits of private life, continued in appointment for a short time, and led by no permanent motive to devote the intervals of public occupation to the study of the nature and operations of government, to escape from the commission of many errors in the discharge of their legislative functions. In proportion to the extent and variety of these functions, the national interests, which they involve, and the national duties, which they imply, ought to rise the intellectual qualifications, and solid attainments of the members. Even in our domestic concerns, what are our voluminous, and even changing codes, but monu

1 The Federalist, No. 62; 2 Wilson's Law Lect. 146, 147, 148.

2 The Federalist, No. 62; 1 Elliot's Debates, 65, 66; Id. 269 to 284 ; 3 Elliot's Debates, 50, 51; 2 Wilson's Law Lect. 152; 1 Kent's Comm. Lect. 11, p. 212.

ments of deficient wisdom, hasty resolves, and still more hasty repeals? What are they, but admonitions to the people of the dangers of rash, and premature legislation,1 of ignorance, that knows not its own mistakes, or of overweening confidence, which heeds not its own follies?

§ 712. A well constituted senate, then, which should interpose some restraints upon the sudden impulses of a more numerous branch, would, on this account, be of great value.2 But its value would be incalculably increased by making its term of office such, that with moderate industry, talents, and devotion to the public service, its members could scarcely fail of having the reasonable information, which would guard them against gross errors, and the reasonable firmness, which would enable them to resist visionary speculations, and popular excitements. If public men know, that they may safely wait for the gradual action of a sound public opinion, to decide upon the merit of their actions and measures, before they can be struck down, they will be more ready to assume responsibility, and pretermit present popularity for future solid reputation.3 If they are designed, by the very structure of the government, to secure the states against encroachments upon their rights and liberties, this very permanence of office adds new means to effectuate the object. Popular opinion may, perhaps, in its occasional extravagant sallies, at the instance of a fawning demagogue, or a favorite chief, incline to overleap the constitutional barriers, in order

1 The Federalist, No. 62.

2 The Federalist, No. 63; 1 Elliot's Debates, 259, 260, 261, 269 to 284; 2 Wilson's Law Lect. 146, 147, 148, 152; 1 Kent's Comm. 212. 3 See 1 Elliot's Debates, 263, 264, 269 to 278; 3 Elliot's Debates, 48 to 51.

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