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ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY, &c. - ALLEN-BRIGGS-UPTON-DURGIN.
because if it be a private matter, you can say to the individual interested, you should have come earlier; or if it be public matter, they may say we shall be here six months hence, and no great evil can result from the delay. But in an assembly constituted as this is, to recommend to the people changes in the Constitution, neither of these
reasons can operate.
Then, in regard to giving an hour to chairmen of committees, and limiting other members to a less time, it appears to me that if such a rule is to be made, it ought to be made in another direction. The chairman of a committee has the advantage of the prestige of the report. He has the advantage of the views he has presented to the Committee, and the concurrence of the Committee, whereas those who come in opposition, stand upon a new ground, and their reasons are surely entitled to be heard. The rule ought, therefore, to be the other way; but I object to the adoption of any rule that shall prevent any question being debated; and let me say to this Convention, through you, that such a rule does not save one moment of time. The true way to insure a short debate on any subject, in Committee of the Whole, is to allow those who have examined the subject to discuss it thoroughly, otherwise each suggestion calls up members in every part of the House; and every suggestion which carries with it indications of justice and propriety costs absolutely more time in an assembly composed of over four hundred delegates than would be the case in the absence of such a rule. I hope the order will be rejected; but if it is to be adopted, I trust that the amendment proposed by the gentleman from Brookline will first be made.
Mr. ALLEN, of Worcester. I hope the amendment will not be adopted, for I like the exception better than the rule. If the Committee make a report recommending an amendment to the Constitution, it is necessary to make such explanation of the report as cannot be done in fifteen minutes; and I believe it is according to the practice of parliamentary bodies elsewhere to allow the chairman of the Committee an opportunity to explain the report; but I doubt the expediency of adopting the rule at all. I think the limitation to one hour, with a right on the part of the chairman to close the debate, is stringent enough. I therefore move that the order be laid upon the table.
The motion was agreed to, and the order was accordingly laid upon the table.
Mr. BRIGGS, of Pittsfield, moved to take from the table the Report of the Committee in relation to Sectarian Schools, with the view to its being placed upon the Orders of the Day.
The question being taken on agreeing to the motion, it was-by ayes, 73; noes, 85-decided in the negative.
Orders of the Day.
On motion of Mr. ADAMS, of Lowell, the Convention proceeded to the consideration of the Orders of the Day. The first matter on the Orders of the Day was the resolves on subject of
Elections by Plurality,
On their second reading, the question being on their final passage; pending this question the gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Schouler,) had moved
to amend the first resolution, by striking out all after the word "Resolved," and inserting the following:
That it is expedient to provide in the Constitution that in the election of governor, lieutenantgovernor, secretary, treasurer, auditor, attorneygeneral and councillors, the person having the largest number of votes shall be deemed to be elected.
Mr. UPTON, of Boston. Is an amendment still in order.
The PRESIDENT. It is in order.
Mr. UPTON. Then I move to strike out all after the word "the" in the sixth line, and insert the following: "individual having the highest number of votes shall be declared to be elected."
Mr. President: In offering the amendment, I had supposed that this Convention would agree to the principle laid down in the first part of this resolution, namely: "that is is expedient." I hope gentlemen of the Convention will mark and note the phraseology-" that it is expedient to provide in the Constitution that a majority of all the votes given shall be necessary" to elect certain officers. I agree to that expediency. It is well to provide in the Constitution that it is expedient that these individual officers shall be elected by a majority of the votes cast. But, Sir, it is also expedient to provide something beyond that, if the people do not see fit to elect these officers by a majority of votes, and to do the next best thing. Therefore, I propose to strike out the latter part of this resolution, and put in the next best thing, and that is that the individual candidate having the highest number of votes shall be declared elected. It seems to me it is hardly worth while to go into an argument. It is not enough to declare the expediency of the principle, that the individual having the majority of votes shall be elected. But we must go beyond that, as these individuals voted for do not have a majority of the votes cast, perhaps; and therefore instead of leaving the question to the minority of the people, which most assuredly will be the case, when it comes to the legislature, I propose, in the amendment which I have offered, that the person having the highest number of votes shall be declared elected. I do not propose to go into a discussion of the question of the majority and the plurality; but simply to state the grounds of the amendment, and to express the hope that it may meet the approbation of the members of this Convention.
Mr. DURGIN, of Wilmington. When this subject was up before, I had the audacity to offer a few remarks, and I have some of the same sort left. I wish, on this occasion, to express freely my feelings and my views upon this subject. I have seen no good reason for changing them from that time to the present. In every age of the world, Sir, when republics and independent governments have arisen, great men have been there, and great men acted; and these republics came up, in despite and in defiance of monarchy of every kind. While those great men, those guardian spirits, those master spirits of the storm were there, those republics were safe. The same was true of our government. When this republic sprang up, there were great men and true there, men that feared God and regarded the interests of men-not like the unjust judge that feared not God nor regarded man-but men wil
ling to sacrifice life, sacred honor, and fortune. Perhaps these great men have fallen.
Then, what has been the tendency of the ancient republics? There was, and there is, a tendency in republics towards monarchy. If you look for the ancient republics, where are they? They are not. They live only in history-only in song. And, if you look to modern republics even, look to Mexico, look to the South American republics, and what is the tendency to-day? Are they breathing, are they panting, are they striving, as the heart of one man, for liberty, or is there a tendency to monarchy? Look at France, with all her boasted liberty and her republicanism; that peaceful and bloodless conquest; that bloodless transit from monarchy to republicanism, and where is France now? Is it a republic? I say there is a tendency in republics to monarchy. How did it happen, and how does it happen? Is it because the people come out en masse, and assert their rights, and assert their liberties, and take the responsibility of the government upon their own shoulders-take the government into their own hands? No, Sir; but this tendency arises from the fact, that the people relinquish and yield, daily and unresistingly, that which, in duty, they are bound before God, to come out and to support. They yield it into the hands of a few, and that few hand it down to a still less number, and that less number may perhaps make the one man power in the nation. Thus the tendency is going on, and every man that has half an eye, that has half a thought, can comprehend this fact.
But, Sir, let me say, that there is no absolute and fatal necessity for this state of affairs. The first cause of this tendency, is the removal of the government from the people. While the people hold the government in their hands, and while they exercise its functions, this thing never can take place; but, when the government is removed from them, or when they surrender it, then this is the legitimate tendency. The cutting off of the participation of the people in the government, is the first, and one of the fundamental causes why this state of things ever exists in the world.
The second cause, is the want of knowledge on the part of the people, of the principles of a free government. You give to every individual citizen a knowledge of the great principles of a free government, and there is no danger of a republic's waning, or becoming a monarchy. How shall you give to the people a knowledge of the great principles of a free government? Throw the government upon their shoulders; throw it into their heads and hearts, and make the people responsible; make them understand their rights; school them; educate them in these principles. And how shall they be educated? By withdrawing the great principles of free government from them? No, Sir; but by holding them up before their understanding, and making the people feel that government is for the people.
Again. The more widely the government is diffused among the people, the farther it is from monarchy. Let the people of any nation, the whole mass of the people be responsible, and be actors in the great principles of a free government, and a monarch will die; he cannot breathe; there is no air which is congenial to his existence. There is no food on which a monarch can be sustained, none that shall give subsistence
and vitality, and he fails and dies. He moves not; he thinks not; he feels not; he is not there.
Again, let me say, the fewer the people who participate in the government, the nearer that government approaches to a monarchy or an aristocracy. I want this principle clearly understood, that the fewer the people, the less the number of those who participate in the government, and have a voice in its concerns, the nearer that government approaches to a minority, and by so much it approaches to an aristocracy, both of which are opposed to the great principles of true republicanism, and true democracy.
Plurality, Sir, is something less than the people. Yes, I avow it. A mere plurality is not the people in any correct republican sense of the term, as used in a government like ours. I say, that a plurality is something less than the people; it is not the voice of the people, it is but a voice of a minority of the people. What are its tendencies? You may undertake to convince me that seven is not less than ten. Who will believe it? Who can admit it as a fact? No one, unless he is deprived of his senses. The legitimate, and the only tendency of a plurality system, no matter where it is adopted, or where it acts, whether in Massachusetts, or Rhode Island, or in every State in this federal republic, whether in America, or in Europe, is to contract and narrow down the powers of men, instead of extending them abroad and diffusing life and vitality; and the tendency is constantly towards monarchy; towards the one man power, in spite of the very fates. Sir, look at it. If you have a plurality to-day, you have a less number to-morrow, and a less number next year, and so on. Some good mathematician, some individual skilled in algebra, or well skilled in progression, perhaps, may tell if you give him the data, how long it would be, before the one man power would exist. Every man knows that this is the legitimate tendency, if there is any tendency at all.
Again. I say every man should be made to feel, as far as possible, his responsibility in relation to the government in such a country as ours. I am opposed, therefore, to anything that will lessen a man's responsibility in this government. I was very much pleased with an order introduced by the reverend gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Lothrop,) sometime since, making it penal to neglect the discharge of duties towards the government, and not to go out and vote and take a share of the responsibility in this great government. Why, Sir, I would no more neglect the government than I would neglect my God. It is the duty of every man in this republic to go up to the polls and there show, by his voice and his vote, that he feels his responsibility, and teach it to his sons, and his sons' sons, and teach it to the rising generation that they are to take the responsibility of this great government upon themselves. individual who looks at the specific and legitimate tendencies of curtailing and checking this responsibility upon the rising generation, though he may not feel it in his heart, is virtually an enemy to his country, an enemy to his God. These are my convictions, and these are my views. The plurality system, Sir, is a departure, it is a daring, fearful departure from those high, world-wide principles which distinguish Americanism from monarchy. Is there no specific difference, is there no difference in the practical workings of Americanism, so-called republicanism, as enjoyed by
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. - DURGIN.
this great federal republic, and the government of a monarchy, or a monarchical form of government?
Now, Sir, I say that the plurality system is a daring, and I had almost said, a Heaven-daring departure from those principles. Tell it to some of those patriots of 1776, who have long slumbered in their graves, and I should not think it strange at all that they moved from their resting places.
What do the principles of monarchy do, Sir? When these principles are carried out, their legitimate tendency is to extort groans, and tears, and sighs. They not only clothe a people in rags in too many cases, but they spread hunger and death through the realm. Look at England, proud as she is, and see what has been the result of her system of government, with all the professions of liberty which they make-see what results have been produced there for the last quarter of a century in this respect. Why, Sir, there is Ireland, which contributes largely to the funds of that nation; and it presents the most frightful picture of distress, poverty and wretchedness-all owing to the working of that government, which is world-wide from that of a republic.
Let me say again, that the tendency of the plurality system, if carried out, will be to lull the mass of the people to sleep; for it does, and it will of necessity, deprive the great mass of the people from acting, or from seeing any results of their action. A man will stay at home because he cannot act conscientiously. We have had a question up here this morning about the pay roll, and the gentleman from Pittsfield avowed his wish to act conscientiously in relation to this matter; and that is the way it will be with a great many people throughout the Commonwealth. Men will not go and vote, if they cannot vote upon principle. They will say: "If you tie up my hands and my feet, how can I act? If you adopt the plurality system, what can I do? If I act at all, I want to act conscientiously." So you see, Mr. President, that the result of the plurality system will be to keep a great many men from the polls. A man will say to himself and to his boys: "Let us stay at home, for if we were to go and vote, we should vote so and so; and we know that we cannot have the privilege of expressing our opinions, or if they are expressed, it will do no good at all. Let us stay at home, and let the government go to rack and ruin." Men will feel thus, and they will talk thus. Every man can see, if he will reflect on it, that this will be the result of that system.
It is said that the plurality system will be more convenient. That seems to be the great bugbear that is brought up here against the majority system; but what have we got to do with convenience, in a government like this? It might have been more convenient for our fathers in 1776 to have remained at home quietly, and let the iron heel of tyranny and oppression tread out the last spark of life and liberty from these coloniesthat might have been more convenient; but, Sir, they were not men who heeded the labor, and toil, and peril, of the cause in which they were engaged. They loooked beyond all these considerations to the principle of right and justice, and upon these they acted; and Sir, they acted nobly, wisely, and victoriously. A government like ours, if it does not cost anything, would scarcely be worth anything; can we expect that such a government
as ours will be brought to us if we lie supinely upon our backs and make no effort? If it be a mere matter of convenience, I would rather take the noble principle of one anciently, when he said: "I will not sacrifice to God that which costs me nothing." It seems to be a mere matter of dollars and cents -a mere saving of a little time. I ask the members of this Convention, through you, Mr. President, must we sacrifice principles which are as high as eternal truth, at the shrine of sordid convenience? This is nothing more nor less than sordid convenience; it is a mere saving of dollars and cents; and I hope and pray that we shall do no such thing. Why shall we not have the plurality system in all things, if it is a good principle? I was pleased to hear the remarks of the gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Stevenson). When he made his remarks I said "Amen!" in spite of myself-it drew it right out of me-for he is a gentleman who speaks so eloquently, and more than that, he speaks only when he has something to say. Why not have the plurality in everything? Why not carry it into your juries? If they cannot decide, let the majority rule; or why not let even a plurality rule, if a case could arise, where there could be a plurality, why not let them decide the question? Would it be a departure from principle, and a sacrifice of principle? I tell you it would. Sir, no little fraction, no clique, no little squad of men ought to rule in the town, in the parish, in the county, in the state, or in the nation, and woe to this Union when the people allow such a state of affairs.
Sir, the adoption of this plurality system is not a tacit acknowledgment, but it is an open, unblushing avowal, that men are not capable of governing themselves.
Sir, that is just what Old England, just what Russia, just what Austria, just what every tyrannical government under heaven declaresthey all agree in the opinion that men cannot govern themselves. Now, this is not a tacit acknowledgment of this doctrine, but it is a candid, open, unblushing avowal, that a majority of the people cannot govern themselves; and therefore you must place the government in the hands of somebody else. Now, Mr. President, I am not in favor of making this avowal to-day, or at any time. Far from it, Sir. As I have said before, this is the acknowledgment; for a plurality is not the people, but it is something less than the people. If you adopt this system, therefore, you declare, by a vote of this body, the conviction that the people cannot govern themselves. But, says one, other States have adopted it. So much the worse, say I. Suppose every State in this whole republic should adopt the plurality system, I say that only makes the matter so much the worse; it is only making the acknowledgment so much the more universal, that men cannot govern themselves, and it is consequently so much the more to be lamented and deplored. There is only one thing under Heaven that would induce me to go for the plurality system, and that is this: If we were likely to fail and not have any government at all, I would go for the plurality system, or almost anything else, in order to prevent such a result, upon the principle that almost any government is better than no government at all. But that is the only inducement that would operate upon me to make me favor that system.
[The hammer fell, the time allowed having expired.]
The question being taken on the amendment of Mr. Upton, it was not agreed to.
The question then recurred on the amendment of Mr. SCHOULER, and the question being taken by yeas and nays, the result was—yeas, 159; nays, 159-as follows:
Adams, Benjamin P.
Aldrich, P. Emory Andrews, Robert Aspinwall, William Atwood, David C. Austin, George Ayres, Samuel Barrows, Joseph Bell, Luther V. Bishop, Henry W. Blagden, George W. Boutwell, George S. Bradbury, Ebenezer Braman, Milton P. Breed, Hiram N. Brewster, Osmyn Brinley, Francis Briggs, George N. Brown, Adolphus F. Bullock, Rufus Bumpus Cephas C. Burlingame, Anson Carter, Timothy W. Chandler, Amariah Chapin, Chester W. Childs, Josiah Clark, Henry Clarke, Alpheus B. Clarke, Stillman Coggin, Jacob
Cook, Charles E.
Hobbs, Edwin Hooper, Foster Hopkinson, Thomas Hubbard, William J. Hunt, William Huntington, Asahel Huntington, Charles P Hurlburt, Samuel A. Hyde, Benjamin D. Jackson, Samuel Jacobs, John James, William Jenkins, John Jenks, Samuel II. Kellogg, Giles C. Kingman, Joseph Kinsman, Henry W. Knight, Hiram Knight, Jefferson Knight, Joseph Knowlton, Charles L. Kuhn, George H. Ladd, John S. Leland, Alden Littlefield, Tristram Livermore, Isaac Lord, Otis P. Lothrop, Samuel K. Loud, Samuel P. Meader, Reuben Miller, Seth, Jr. Mixter, Samuel Morey, George Morss, Joseph B. Morton, Marcus Nayson, Jonathan Noyes, Daniel Oliver, Henry K. Orcutt, Nathan Osgood, Charles Park, John G. Parker, Adolphus G. Perkins, Jonathan C. Pomroy, Jeremiah Putnam, George Putnam, John A. Rantoul, Robert Read, James Sargent, John M. Schouler, William Sikes, Chester Sleeper, John S. Souther, John Stetson, Caleb Stevens, Charles G. Stevens, Granville Stevens, Joseph L., Jr. Stevenson, J. Thomas Storrow, Charles S. Strong, Alfred L.
Walcott, Samuel B.
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. — HATHAWAY.
White, Benjamin Wilbur, Daniel Wilder, Joel
Wilkins, John H. Wilkinson, Ezra
Abbott, Josiah G.
Alvord, D. W. Baker, Hillel Banks, Nath'l P., Jr. Barrett, Marcus Bates, Eliakim A. Bates, Moses, Jr. Bennett, Zephaniah Bigelow, Edward B. Bird, Francis W. Booth, William S. Boutwell, Sewell Bronson, Asa Brown, Alpheus R. Brown, Artemas Brown, Hammond Brownell, Joseph Bryant, Patrick Buck, Asahel Butler, Benjamin F. Carruthers, William Case, Isaac Chapin, Daniel E. Chapin, Henry Churchill, J. McKean Clark, Ransom Cleverly, William Crane, George B. Cressy, Oliver S. Cross, Joseph W. Cushman, Thomas Cutler, Simeon N. Davis, Ebenezer Davis, Isaac Day, Gilman Deming, Elijah S. Denton, Augustus DeWitt, Alexander Duncan, Samuel Dunham, Bradish Durgin, John M. Eames, Philip Earle, John M. Easland, Peter Eaton, Calvin D. Fay, Sullivan Fellows, James K. Fiske, Emery Fitch, Ezekiel W. Foster, Abram Fowle, Samuel Fowler, Samuel P. Freeman, James M. French, Rodney French, Samuel Gale, Luther Gates, Elbridge Gilbert, Washington Giles, Charles G. Giles, Joel Gooch, Daniel W. Gooding, Leonard Graves, John W. Greene, William B. Hallett, B. F. Hapgood, Lyman W. Hapgood, Seth
Williams, J. B.
Hoyt, Henry K.
Richardson, Samuel II.
Hathaway, Elnathan P. Williams, Henry
Heath, Ezra, 2d Hewes, William H. Hobart, Henry Hood, George Howard, Martin
Wilson, Henry Wilson, Willard Winslow, Levi M. Wood, Charles C. Wood, Otis Wright, Ezekiel
Abbott, Alfred A. Alley, John B. Allis, Josiah Appleton, William Ballard, Alvah Ball, George S. Bancroft, Alpheus Bartlett, Russel Bartlett, Sidney Beach, Erasmus D. Beal, John Beebe, James M. Bennett, William, Jr. Bigelow, Jacob Bliss, Gad O. Bliss, William C. Bradford, William J. A Brown, Hiram C. Brownell, Frederick Bullen, Amos H. Cady, Henry Choate, Rufus Clark, Salah Cole, Lansing J. Copeland, Benjamin F. Crowninshield, F. B. Cummings, Joseph Curtis, Wilber Davis, Charles G. Davis, John Davis, Robert T. Dehon, William Denison, Hiram S. Dorman, Moses Ely, Joseph M. Eustis, William T. Fisk, Lyman French, Charles A. Gardner, Henry J. Gardner, Johnson Goulding, Jason Greenleaf, Simon Hadley, Samuel P. Hale, Nathan Harmon, Phineas Holder, Nathaniel Houghton, Samuel Howland, Abraham H. Hunt, Charles E. Huntington, George H.
Kellogg, Martin R.
Parker, Samuel D.
Plunkett, William C.
Absent and not voting, 99.
The PRESIDENT. One hundred and fifty-nine gentlemen have voted in the affirmative, and one hundred and fifty-nine gentlemen in the negative. In the belief that it is inexpedient to submit to the people so radical a change in the Constitution upon a casting vote, the Chair votes in the negative, and the amendment is rejected.
Mr. HATHAWAY, of Freetown, moved to amend the third resolution, so that it would read as follows:
Resolved, That representatives to the general court shall be elected as by law shall be provided.
Mr. HATHAWAY. It is with diffidence that I propose this amendment. I know the fate that befell the amendment which I proposed yesterday, when this Convention was in another situation, that of the Committee of the Whole. I suppose that I have a little, if not a full share, of the same feeling that it is said pervades most families: that the more sickly and rickety the bantling, the more the parent becomes attached to it, because of its weakness; while the healthy and strong one is left to care for itself. Sir, I recollect that this proposition, when offered to the Convention in another situation, fell almost lifeless. There is
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. — HATHAWAY - HOOPER.
another reason, that oppresses me, upon this matter. I know very well the situation in which I stand here, in relation to certain gentlemen, and this Convention; but before proceeding to that, let me say to the gentleman from Salem, (Mr. Lord,) that what he yesterday said is not precisely true, as to myself. He yesterday said, if I understood him correctly, that no man dared give the reasons why this Report was made, and resolutions offered in their present form. Sir, let me say to him, that I "dare do all that becomes a man, and he who dares do more, is none." But, Sir, there are certain reasons, I doubt not, for this Report, which the Committee itself do not like to give, and would not be judged to be exactly appropriate and parliamentary; and therefore it would be improper for me here to say, that such reasons controlled their action, and hence I shall not undertake to give them; but in giving reasons that are proper and appropriate, and from which no one would start back, I will assure the gentleman from Salem that he will find me by no means backward in giving, in defence of any measure I may propose; but I am not answerable for this Report and resolutions, and shall leave it to the Committee who reported them, to give their reasons therefor. I cannot refuse the temptation of saying, that I feel that a debt of gratitude is due from me to my constituents, for the generous confidence they have bestowed upon me,-aye, Sir, something more,-a debt, not only of gratitude, but of duty. I feel as though I should fail of performing my duty to them, did I not make the proposition which I have made to this Convention, in reference to this amendment. Permit me, Sir, to say, that I may be again, as I unjustly heretofore have been, subjected to the shafts of calumny, from a certain quarter, for the course which I am taking; but I have had, thus far, and trust that I shall continue hereafter to have, but one rule to guide me in this Convention. When I came into it, it was for the purpose of correcting our fundamental and organic law, wherever, in my judgment, it had operated badly with or upon the people; and wherever it had worked well, and we stood well upon it, there, I said, long since, that I was willing to stand, without a change; and where I thus stood, to "stand still." I believe that such are the views of all my associates, in this Convention, from the county of Bristol; and although we may have sometimes voted differently, yet our difference was a manly one, and in good faith, all of us seeking for the best measures and greatest good; but others have levelled at some of us-because we choose thus to act, independent of their direction and biddingthe shafts of detraction and calumny. I presume that there is no one here, from the county of Bristol, who is not perfectly willing to stand up and meet these Parthian arrows of detraction, although they may fall as fast as hail from a summer's cloud; but let me say, that they have been, thus far, impotent, because they were hurled at us by a puny arm, and came from a feeble hand. And let me say, farther, that time will soon heal the wounds which have been inflicted by that feeble hand and puny arm, and will soon allay the stings that calumny has attempted and intended.
Sir, to come to the matter in hand, I go for the amendment to the resolution, because the people do not demand the change which is contemplated by the resolution. Let me say, as the gentleman
for Erving, (Mr. Griswold,) said the other day, in reference to the loan of the State credit, that the object of this resolution was not a part of the programme of the campaign which preceded the call of this Convention. Will he, or anybody else, tell me where this amendment to the present Constitution, in reference to elections for representatives, town, or district officers, was put forth, or recommended, in that famous document that was drawn up by him, and sent out to the people? Sir, so far as I know, it made neither part nor parcel of that document. It was not one of those propositions which were there chalked out for us here to act upon. It may possibly be there, nevertheless; but if it is, it has escaped my observation.
But, Sir, I have a deeper and more solid objection than this; and I ask whether our present Constitution, thus far, in regard to this matter of choosing representatives and town officers, has worked well? Permit me to say, still farther, that I hope that your Constitution will remain precisely as it now stands, and has stood ever since 1780, as to the election of your representatives and town officers. Will gentlemen point to a single word in that Constitution that requires by which mode your representatives and town officers shall be elected, whether by a majority vote or a plurality vote? Sir, have there been any petitions from the people laid upon your table, showing that they desire a change of the Constitution in this matter? Again, Sir, I ask, has the table of any of your legislatures ever groaned under the weight of complaints, embodied in petitions from the people, in regard to this matter? No, Sir-No, Sir. Then, if there be no complaint, and has been none, in the community, why make this change? I put it to gentlemen seriously: Why should we make this change? The great complaint has been in reference to the election of your governor, and those officers who have been elected, not by towns, but by the people generally; that it was necessary to have a plurality vote as the test in such elections, because of the great difficulty of calling the whole people of the Commonwealth, or any great portion of them, out a second time. Gentlemen have said, and repeated it, and it has been handed from the lips of one to the other, that your towns were but little republics, and that you could go on and vote perhaps as many as three or four hundred times in a day, in some instances-that in town elections the people are all together; and it has been repeated here, again and again, that your nominations in town meetings for representatives, or town officers, are not made in caucus and in convention, as for State officers, where the nominations are taken from the towns, but that they are nominated upon the spot, and at the time of the election; that these nominations come from the people themselves, when they are all together; and, if this is so, I cannot see, for the life of me, why, in this matter, you should not allow the Constitution to remain as it is. This, as I said before, did not constitute any part of the reasons that were given why this Convention was called; neither has there been any complaint, to my knowledge, in reference to this matter, on the ground that the people did not choose, or had failed to choose, all the representatives to which they were entitled. Sir, whenever it is shown to me that the people demand this change, I shall go heart and hand for it; but, until I do see it, I
shall go, not for rebuking them because they have not complained-as you virtually would if this resolution shall pass-but, I am for retaining the good old rule which has thus far worked so well, and in regard to which no one has ever complained. I would leave it precisely as it is; and let me say to gentlemen, in reference to this matter, that if this resolution shall be adopted, then I would make not only the representatives and town officers elective, under a statute such as the legislature may hereafter make, but I would apply it to all your state and district officers. I cannot see any reason why the rule should not be a uniform one, and apply to the whole, as well as a part of them.
Sir, I am not inclined to discuss this matter at any great length; but it seems to me that, unless gentlemen show a substantial reason for making this change in the organic law as it now stands, no such change should be made. I know of no rule in the present Constitution, under, and by which, the legislature might not, at any time, since 1780 down to the present time, have changed the law in an hour, and have adopted the plurality system in the election of representatives and town officers, if it had so pleased; and if there had been any great evils in this matter, arising from the requisition of a majority of the voters, and if the people had felt and suffered inconvenience and wrong, think you that the legislature would not have been called upon, again and again, to make a change? Assuredly, it would.
Sir, I have no great regard for the amendment to these resolutions, on any other ground than that I believe it to be right and a good one. It is not, however, such an amendment that I cherish so dearly as to induce me to vote against the whole of these resolutions, in case it should not be adopted; but it does seem to me, that the Constitution as it now stands, is altogether better than the change which is proposed. I do not believe that the people of the Commonwealth are ready for a change in this matter; and least of all, for such a change as this.
Mr. HOOPER, of Fall River. I shall vote for the gentleman's proposition to amend, but not for the reasons which he has assigned for its adoption, but for reasons precisely the opposite of those which he has given. I shall vote for it because I am in favor of electing representatives by a plurality vote. I should prefer to have all elections decided on the first ballot; and if I cannot get that, then I would leave the matter to the legislature; and then the people can accommodate themselves, and have the plurality system whenever they choose to have it. I think it altogether preferable to leave it to the legislature to determine, than to put into the Constitution a provision providing for the plurality mode on the second ballot, and only on the second ballot. If that is done, the mode can never be changed until we change the Constitution itself.
I fully concur with the gentleman from Freetown, (Mr. Hathaway,) that as this thing has stood in the Constitution, the legislature might have changed the mode at any time, and have adopted the plurality system. They might have made this change in reference to representatives and all town officers, and therefore I am willing to leave it in that shape; for I believe that the people will see to it, that they will have their views carried out, and that the time is not distant
when they will require all elections of town officers, to be conducted on the plurality system. For these reasons, in brief, I hope that the amendment may be adopted.
Mr. KEYES, for Abington. Since this discussion took place, I have waited without saying a word; supposing that it was well understood that this plan was a compromise between the two parties here, in relation to the questions of plurality and majority. When the Committee reported to the Convention in favor of universal plurality, it was defeated, and it was found that there was a great difference of opinion, a majority of the members of the Convention being in favor of the majority system, and a new Committee was appointed, and a compromise plan was drafted, which, so far from being an unmeaning and imperfect system, was founded on reason in every part of it; and if there had been a disposition to concede anything on the part of either one side or the other, that system would have been adopted without farther strife, by a large majority of this body. I must confess, however, my surprise at the vote just taken; and while I am filled with surprise, I must also be allowed to express my gratification at the fact that this Convention has been saved from lasting disgrace by the casting vote of the Chairman; for, had we lost this question, what should we not have lost? Everything. The liberal party in the Convention would have been defeated in all the most important matters; the Whig party would have been triumphant, and in a fair way to hold the reins of power, for an indefinite period. Sir, had that amendment succeeded, I would have prayed Heaven that the people might have hissed the whole amended Constitution into oblivion.
Now, what is the system before us? It has been mainly adopted, and there was a reason why it should have been adopted. It was adopted as a compromise, on the ground that the Convention was about equally divided upon the subject to which it refers. We have proposed a plan of compromise, basing the elections in part upon the plurality system, and in part upon the majority system. The reason was this, viz. : certain officers elected on general ticket, were restricted to the majority rule on the ground that if the people should fail to elect, and the election should devolve on the legislature, they would still be elected by the immediate representatives of the whole people; and according to this the people would be allowed to nominate their own officers without trouble, or the intervention of others.
In regard to the Senate, the majority system has been objected to, under the present system, on the ground that the representatives of one locality or section, have elected the local representatives of other sections. To do away with that difficulty, it is provided that the Senate shall be elected by a plurality vote, so that cach district may elect its own senators, and other district officers, without interference on the part of representatives of other districts.
We supposed that that would do away with every difficulty which existed in regard to the present system.
Those who go for the plurality system in reference to State officers, are at heart in favor of the majority principle for electing members of the House of Representatives. What is the reason that they now go for a plurality system? Why,
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. — KEYES.
Sir, because they suppose that they are going to derive some advantage from it. Within the last ten years, the people of the country towns have been deprived of a thousand representatives, by the operation of the majority system. If there be any place where the plurality system is wanted, it is in the election of town representatives. If you want to establish the principle of equality, there is no case on earth, where plurality in voting is justifiable to so great an extent, as it is in the election of town representatives, that the towns may enjoy their own legal rights on the floor of this House. I want to see every town in the State of Massachusetts represented according to its legal rights, every year, in the legislature; because, let party ties be as strong as they may, they are looser in the country towns than they are anywhere else. In State conventions, the leaders of a party can obtain, and hold control, and the delegates en masse, in nine cases out of ten, are mere machines to register their edicts. By this term, I mean no disrespect, but simply to intimate that they usually follow their leaders, either for the reason that they have confidence in them, or because they see no practicable mode of doing otherwise. I have had some experience myself, in regard to this matter. The first time I was elected to the House of Representatives, although belonging to the dominant party, I was just on the extreme verge of it; and, on that account, was considered as being no better than an infidel. But with six of the leaders pitted against me, and without a single voice raised in my favor, I flogged them over and over again, by the aid of the country members. It was upon a party question, to be sure; but the country members are not trained altogether, and solely, to follow party lead; and when they come here, and see how the wires are pulled-which, towards the close of a session, they have generally pretty well learnedthey are then able to act independently.
If you will have plurality, therefore, give it to the country towns, that they may always elect their representatives, and not be deprived of such a large fragment of their strength, as is exhibited in that long list which has been presented to us by the gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Giles). Now these are the reasons why a compromise was proposed; and it was supposed that, on these grounds, and with the proposition which the new Committee put forth, the Convention would be harmonized on the subject, if parties were disposed to harmonize at all. But this feeling, I am sorry to say, has not been met in what would seem to me, to be a proper spirit, on the part of members of this Convention; but gentlemen have stood up here, and opposed this compromise, not, as I believe, I may safely say, because they have changed their principles within the last two years, but because of some advantage, which they expect will accrue to their party, from the course they are pursuing. They have their own objects in view, and the men who desire the success of the Whig party, have voted that way, whether they are called Whigs, or by some other name. There is no use in trying to disguise that fact any longer.
Now, in respect to all these resolves but one, and I do not recollect indorsing that one which relates to municipal officers-in the CommitteeI hope they will pass. I thought, at least, that in regard to the election of municipal and town officers, the mode was to be left to the legislature. We have comprehended the whole organization
of the legislature, and have prescribed the method by which that body shall be constituted; and if any change is to be made, wherein the plurality rule is to be made to apply, it should be, according to my view, to the election of town representatives; because we know that a state of things has existed, and will exist, hereafter, for the next four years at least, which renders it necessary; for there is an impassible barrier between the union of any two of the existing parties within that period; and therefore, I say, that in case of failure to elect, on the part of the country towns, by reason of the majority system, it would be equivalent to reducing their representation in proportion to the number of said failures.
Mr. HATHAWAY. Will the gentleman pardon me a moment. The gentleman entirely mistakes the proposition I made. The proposition which I made, was to leave it entirely within the power of the legislature to determine whether the mode of election should be by plurality, or majority, or any other mode.
Mr. KEYES. In order to have a system which shall embrace the three great branches of the government, so that all the people could understand it, and to place it beyond the possibility of change by the legislature, I should prefer to have the matter fixed and stationary in the Constitution. As regards town and municipal officers, I would leave it to the people themselves, to do as they please.
Now, Mr. President, it strikes me, that if the Convention itself had sat in Committee, and considered what the state of opinion was in this body, as indicated by the votes already taken, and if they had been willing to indulge the same liberal spirit which actuated the Committee, in order to harmonize the views, by conceding something on both sides; then I think that this plan would have been adopted by a triumphant majority.
I have looked at the Convention-prehaps I shall be out of order in saying so-from a hundred miles distance; and when I have seen the votes recorded on several important questions, it struck me that the Convention was not acting upon its own judgment, but that members were actuated by unwise fears of the people. They have seemed to desire to show that they were more economical, for example, than they actually are; they do not seem to me, to have acted as if they were elected to exercise their own judgment and sense of right, according to their ideas, but to take counsel of every bugbear and opinion in the community, so that their course might be shaped accordingly.
How these amendments are to be submitted to the people, I do not know; but so far as the action of the Convention is concerned, in my opinion, it has defeated, in many important cases, the very ends which a large majority of the people desired, especially in relation to the judiciary. The election of judges, by the people, would have been, in my opinion, a jewel in the Constitution, which the people would have rallied most strongly to support. Yes, Sir, the people all over the State, talk to-day about the Convention, as not daring to utter its sentiments, on various important matters, and especially on the question of loaning the credit of the State to private corporations, because a certain portion of the people threaten to rise in opposition to the new Constitution, should it contain any restrictions in regard to that policy. Now a Convention so controlled, is worthy of the hisses