« ForrigeFortsett »
QUESTION OF ORDER, &c.—BRADBURY — BUTLER — HILLARD-WESTON-LORD-BALL.
now adjourn. The Chair is of opinion that the motion to adjourn is in order.
The question being taken, it was, upon a division-ayes, 68; noes, 118-decided in the negative.
So the motion to adjourn did not prevail. The question recurred on sustaining the decision of the Chair?
Cries of "Question!" "Question!"
Mr. BRADBURY, of Newton. I have stood here too many times in defence of my parliamentary rights, to be silenced by this call for the question.
I rise merely to state the reasons why I cannot concur in the decision of the Chair, that, under the order adopted to-day, this session does not terminate at eight o'clock. The record which has been read seems to indicate that this session should close at that time.
But, in order to be certain what is demanded by good faith, we must ascertain what is the apparent meaning of the order, and the manifest understanding with which it was adopted; and, in order to this, I desire that the Secretary refer to the language of the standing order terminating our morning sessions at one o'clock, and also to the subsequent order by which, for Saturdays, it was extended to two o'clock. And it seems, if I were occupying your Chair, Mr. President, that the form in which I should find those orders, would guide me in giving a decision in the present instance.
Besides, Sir, under such an order as has been read to us by the Secretary, gentlemen had reasonable ground to expect that this session would terminate at eight o'clock. It looks to me like a breach of faith to absent members, to continue this session beyond eight o'clock, under existing circumstances; and I would as soon cut off a right hand as vote to do so with these impressions.
Mr. BUTLER, of Lowell. I would inform the gentleman that there has been no hour fixed, by any rule whatever, for this Convention to adjourn in the afternoon.
Mr. BRADBURY. The record will show us the nature of the order. We are assembled here to act upon grave questions, and they must soon be settled definitively. We owe to ourselves and the public our most considerate action upon these questions. They should be settled in a full Convention, and if there is dereliction of duty in the absence of members, I submit that it is not at this time the fault of the minority. And I farther submit to this Convention, whether, under existing circumstances, we ought not now to adjourn, to meet to-morrow morning, when we can act upon the subjects before us more deliberately and understandingly than by sitting here to-night?
Mr. HILLARD, of Boston. In my younger days I studied a book called "Paley's Moral Philosophy," and in that is laid down this moral rule, that when A makes a contract with B, A shall execute it according to the way in which he knows B to understand it. Now, I can, with justice, apply that rule to this Convention. The order which has been read, is a contract between the majority and the minority; and I ask whether, in accordance with this moral rule, the majority is not to interpret the contract, or vote in the sense in which they suppose the minority understand it? Now, if the majority vote that the session of the Convention shall be extended to eight o'clock, I should like to know
whether there is a man in that majority, possessing natural common sense, who does not believe that it is the understanding of every person in the minority that it is intended to adjourn at eight o'clock, and at no other time? If that be so, I put it to the moral sense of every gentleman here if they are not now bound to stand by that construction.
The PRESIDENT. The motion made by the delegate for Erving, (Mr. Griswold,) was, that the session be extended to eight o'clock this evening. The order of adjournment at one o'clock, reads as follows:
That the Convention hereafter adjourn at one o'clock in the afternoon, until otherwise ordered.
Mr. WESTON, of Duxbury. I am surprised that gentlemen profess not to have understood the motion of the gentleman for Erving. For their information, I will state that when that motion was made this morning, a gentleman arose and asked the Chair whether, if the motion should prevail, it would make it imperative upon the Convention to adjourn at eight o'clock, and it was the decision of the Chair that it was not imperative upon the Convention, but that it was an open question, to adjourn at eight o'clock, or extend the session beyond that hour.
Mr. LORD, of Salem. If the gentleman will allow me, I desire to make a correction. The inquiry was this: whether we might not adjourn before that time; and the decision of the President was, that the Convention might do so if they desired; but there was no statement that the session could be extended beyond eight o'clock.
Mr. GARDNER, of Boston. I merely desire to say, that when the gentleman for Erving (Mr. Griswold) made that motion, I inquired of you, as President pro tempore of the Convention, whether that motion compelled us to remain in session until eight o'clock, and your reply was, that the Convention might adjourn at any time it saw fit before that hour. I understood nothing, however, in regard to remaining in session after that time.
Mr. WESTON. The decision of the Chair, as I understood it, was that the vote did not make it imperative upon the Convention to adjourn before or after eight o'clock; and it seems very strange to me that gentlemen pretend that we were to be confined to that hour.
Mr. BALL, of Upton. One of the gentlemen who has risen to discuss this question, has laid down a principle of moral philosophy, and I hold that I am bound, and we are all bound, to act in accordance with that principle. Now, this question was talked over by the gentlemen in the eastern gallery, who are known by those who have watched their votes, to be in favor of completing the business of this Convention at the earliest day possible, that we may go to our homes and families; and we decided, without the dissent of a single member, that if the rest of the Convention would do so, we would stay here until eight o'clock to-morrow morning. The proposition was made in the Convention to extend the session until eight o'clock, but it was the understanding of members in the gallery, that we might extend that hour still farther, if the state of the business should demand it; and accordingly, gentlemen were prepared to remain here so long as the session should continue. Now I appeal to gentlemen whether it is not about time to close the labors of this Convention, and allow
those who reside at a distance, to return to their families. My business requires that I should be at home now, and there are many others equally as impatient as myself, to be released from the deliberations of this body.
In regard to another matter. I think that the majority of the Convention will do themselves great harm, if they order the main question to be put at this stage of the proceedings. At any rate, I shall be compelled to vote against it. I hope that the Convention will be ready to come together, and discuss the question which has been proposed, in good spirit, as much so as may be necessary, and take the vote upon it, and close up the business at as early a day as possible.
The question was then taken on sustaining the decision of the Chair, and it was decided in the affirmative.
Elections by Plurality.
Mr. BUTLER, of Lowell. When interrupted, I was about saying that I could adduce many reasons why the main question should be put now, and among others, was the action of certain gentlemen who had a habit of calling for the yeas and nays upon the most unimportant questions, thus causing a delay in the proceedings of the Convention. Another reason, and a very important one, too, is, that I now see more of the solid men of Boston in this hall, than I have seen since the commencement of the session, and I do not wish to have them detained from their families any longer than possible. I hope that the main question will be ordered, if for no other purpose than to accommodate them. Another reason is, that if we do not pass these resolves tonight, they will lie over until to-morrow, when they would, in all probability, be postponed until the next day, a result which, I trust, the good sense of the majority will not permit to be brought about.
Now I propose--for I have not an overbearing disposition to allow every gentleman who desires it, to discuss this question fully and fairly. The gentleman from Boston, (Mr. Stevenson,) says that he desires to submit an amendment, and whether he desires to speak or not, we are all here ready to sit and listen to him, though I, myself, happen to be one of those unfortunate men who have had to go without their suppers. [Laughter.] I think, therefore, that it is better that the previous question should be withdrawn, and we will then fix the time at half-past ten for the question to be taken. In the mean time, let every gentleman prepare his amendments, and we will proceed to consider them with all good nature and harmony possible.
Mr. TRAIN, of Framingham. I hope gentlemen understand that this will be a final vote. Mr. BUTLER. My friend from Framingham says that this will be the final vote; it certainly is case, but if necessary, a reconsideration may
Mr. ALVORD, for Montague. I once offered to withdraw my motion for the previous question, provided I could be permitted to substitute a motion to close debate at a particular hour. I am willing to do this at any moment, and place that hour as late in the night as gentlemen may think advisable. I therefore now withdraw my motion for the previous question.
Mr. BUTLER moved that the Orders of the Day be laid upon the table.
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. — HALE-SCHOULER-GARDNER-EARLE-STEVENSON.
The motion was agreed to.
Mr. BUTLER. I now move that the debate upon the question cease at ten o'clock.
Mr. HALE, of Bridgewater. I admire the good nature of the gentleman from Lowell, and I hope that the Convention will follow his example, for by so doing, I believe we shall much sooner arrive at the object we have in view. I think that we may make a compromise in this matter, provided gentlemen will agree to yield a little to each other. As has been already suggested, I believe that we had better separate tonight, and fix upon some hour in the morning for taking the question. This will give every opportunity to members to express their views upon this important subject; but if it is settled to-night, the result will be by no means satisfactory, and may even tend to extend the session much longer than we now anticipate. I would suggest, therefore, that the most appropriate course for the Convention to pursue, will be to adjourn to-night, after fixing some hour in the morning for debate to cease upon this question; we can then meet and consider this subject in a much more satisfactory manner than would be the case if we continued in session to-night.
Mr. LIVERMORE, of Cambridge. I believe I am as good natured as my friend from Lowell, and just as desirous of closing up this session as he is. But I cannot see that we shall gain anything by continuing our labors to-night. I therefore move to amend the motion of the gentleman, by substituting ten o'clock to-morrow morning, in place of the words half-past ten this evening.
Mr. SCHOULER, of Boston. If this question is to be decided so good naturedly, I think I may be allowed to say a word or two. [A laugh.] I think that this is a perfectly fair proposition, and it would be doing no more than justice to the minority of the Convention, to give them the opportunity which this proposition would afford, of offering their amendments, and expressing their views in regard to the question. It is true, a little bad blood has been stirred up, but it has now entirely subsided, and we are prepared to act harmoniously and deliberately.
I hope that the gentleman from Lowell, (Mr. Butler,) will consent to amend his motion, in the manner suggested, to adjourn to-night, meet tomorrow morning, at an early hour, and, at ten o'clock, take the vote upon the question.
Mr. DANA, for Manchester. I would ask for information, so that there may be no misunderstanding, whether this question can be again reconsidered, the gentleman from Walpole having once moved to reconsider it? Many gentlemen may vote under the impression that it can be reconsidered after it has been finally disposed of.
The PRESIDENT. The Chair would inform the gentleman for Manchester, that the question before the Convention has been reconsidered, and amendments have been submitted by the gentleman from Walpole, (Mr. Bird,) so that it would not be properly in order to entertain a motion to reconsider a second time.
Mr. GARDNER, of Boston. I am afraid that the Convention will think that all the good nature is contained within the sixth division. about to rise for the purpose of making the same inquiry which the gentleman for Manchester has made, because I felt a serious apprehension that if the final vote was taken at ten o'clock, this evening, the question having once been recon
sidered, a second motion to reconsider could not be entertained.
The PRESIDENT. That is the understanding of the Chair.
Mr. GARDNER. Under these circumstances, and as there are, moreover, but very few members of the Convention who have heard the resolutions and amendments read, or know their meaning, I submit to the good sense and judgment of gentlemen, whether it is not best to postpone farther action until to-morrow morning? In the meantime, the resolves and amendments can be printed; we can read and consider them at our leisure, and submit, if necessary, such additional amendments as may be suggested to our minds.
Mr. ALVORD, for Montague. I wish to call the attention of gentlemen to the fact, that after we have disposed of the matter now before the Convention, we have still to act upon the motion of the gentleman from Taunton, (Mr. Morton,) in reference to the submission of an alternative proposition to the people, on the subject of Representation; and also upon the Report of the Committee on Revision. Members can judge for themselves of the time which will be required to complete this business; and, if this motion is adopted, to adjourn until to-morrow, I think it will be utterly impossible to close our session until sometime next week. I hope, therefore, we shall dispose of this matter to-night, and leave only those two questions I have named to be considered by the Convention.
Mr. EARLE, of Worcester. I have endeavored to get the floor for the purpose of making the suggestions to which we have just listened. It seems to me, that if we intend to get through with our labors this week, we must finish the consideration of this question to-night. There are present, as will be perceived from the last vote which was taken, as many members as there are at any time in the course of the day; there is a disposition to go on with the business, and I hope that there will be no objection to our proceeding and settling this matter to-night. The propositions which have been submitted are simple in their character, and have been discussed over and over again, in all their bearings, and I have no doubt that they can be decided in a very short time, if members will consent to sit an hour or two longer. Gentlemen are desirous of returning to their homes as soon as possible, and are therefore anxious to do as much as can be done when there is an opportunity afforded, and I have not the slightest doubt, if we settle this matter to-night, that we shall be able to adjourn this week.
Mr. UPTON, of Boston. I cannot say like some gentlemen here, that I am too full for utterance, for I have not yet had my supper. [Laughter.] If there is a disposition, however, on the part of the majority to stop and make a night of it, I am willing and ready to meet them. I would, therefore, propose to the gentleman from Lowell to withdraw his motion, and let us go on with the discussion of the question. We can ascertain by midnight, whether the Convention is ready to take a vote or not; and if not, we can then adjourn, and resume the discussion to-mor
Mr. BUTLER, of Lowell. If the course suggested by the gentleman from Boston, can be taken, I will withdraw my motion, with pleas
Mr. WALKER, of North Brookfield, moved
that the Orders of the Day be taken from the table.
The motion was agreed to.
The question being on agreeing to the amendments to the resolutions,
Mr. GARDNER, of Boston, asked for the reading of the resolutions.
They were accordingly read by the Secretary. Mr. SCHOULER, of Boston, moved that the resolutions be acted upon separately.
The motion was agreed to.
The question was, therefore, upon adopting the first amendment submitted by the gentleman from Walpole, (Mr. Bird).
Mr. SCHOULER. If it is in order, I move to amend the first resolution, by striking out the words "a majority of all the votes given shall be necessary to the election," and inserting the words "the person having the highest number of votes shall be deemed and taken to be elected," so that if amended, it will read :
That it is expedient to provide in the Constitution, that the person having the highest number of votes shall be deemed and taken to be elected in the election of a Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor, and Attorney-General of the Commonwealth.
The question being taken, the amendment was rejected.
The question being on adopting the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole, (Mr. Bird).
Mr. STEVENSON, of Boston. If I understand the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole, he is making no constitutional provision at all, except that the law which may be passed by one legislature upon this subject, shall not take effect until it shall have been ratified by a second legislature, and then it may be made a part of the Constitution. It seems to me, that by the adop tion of such a provision, we shall be throwing into that body every year a party quarrel in regard to the election of these six State officers named, although the gentleman has attempted to guard against such an occurrence, by providing, that the plurality law which may be passed by one legislature may stand, unless the people choose a body the next year for the sole purpose of repealing it. Now, if the gentleman is correct in saying, that this is submitting this question to the people, I should like to know what is the objection to our submitting it to the people at once? Surely, if he has so much confidence in them as he professes to have, I see no reason why he should have made it incumbent upon two successive legislatures to establish the law.
While the Committee were considering this subject, a compromise was proposed,—not like the one now introduced by the member from Walpole; but a compromise in which some distinction could be drawn,-to this effect: that an arrangement should be made, providing for the election of some officers by the plurality, and of others by the majority principle; but in both cases, the election of officers of the Commonwealth to be left in the hands of the people. It was proposed that the Convention should recommend, that the plurality should rule in those cases where, after repeated trials, the failure to elect was not provided for, and leave the majority rule to be employed in those cases where election would take place upon the first or second ballots; always leaving the power to elect, however, in the
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. — STEVENSON — HILLARD — UPTON — BUTLER — WHITNEY.
hands of the people, instead of transferring it to the legislature.
Now, I can see no advantage which will result from the resolution, if it is amended in the manner proposed by the gentleman; but, on the contrary, it introduces not only into the legislature a party contest as to what the law shall be, but also at the polls, in regard to those who may be sent here to legislate with reference entirely to that one question. And, Sir, I do not believe, that the people of Massachusetts desire to choose representatives for any such purpose. If the amendment suggested by the gentleman from Walpole gives the question to the voters when the law has been passed by the legislature, what earthly reason can there be, why we should not submit it to them directly? Do not set a political firebrand of this character in the legislature; but let us recommend one or the other of these two rules: The majority or plurality directly to the people; and let them determine which one they will have, when they vote upon the adoption of the Constitution. The gentleman gains nothing by his amendment, and the probability is, that it would only result in producing disorder and danger.
We all know the unpleasant consequences which result in a legislature, where, in a contest for election, members have been voted for with reference, especially, to one particular question. We know that the result has been that that question has been log-rolled more than any other question in the State House. And in regard to forming a constitutional provision, there is but one plain, proper mode of dealing with the people, as to how they shall vote for it; and that is, to propose it to them directly, fairly, and openly, instead of submitting it to them in the indirect way proposed by the gentleman from Walpole. It has been found, that whenever there has been dragged into an election of candidates to the legislature a question upon which the people are divided, it has been made the centre around which log-rolling has been going on. There never was, and never will be, a legislative body where this will not be the case. The amendment of the gentleman proposes nothing, neither a majority nor a plurality rule, but simply leaves it with the legislature to act upon the subject or not, as it may feel disposed.
As I said before, I think that the Convention has but one step to take in the premises; and that is, to submit the plurality principle to the people with the Constitution, and let them vote upon it as they please; if they want it, they will, of course, make it known by their votes; but, I hope that we shall not consent to let the matter be placed in the hands of the legislature, to be there made a matter of party contest and turmoil. For these reasons, I hope that the amendment will not be adopted.
Mr. HILLARD, of Boston. I desire to ask but a single question, and that is, whether the gentleman means to give to all subsequent legislatures the power of repealing the act, and whether it is a matter that may be hereafter acted upon like any other legislative question?
Mr. BIRD, of Walpole. I think that the gentleman from Boston is far more competent to answer that inquiry than I am. The question is simply whether one legislature can repeal an act passed by the preceding legislature.
Mr. UPTON, of Boston. I hope that the
amendment of the gentleman, as it now stands, will not be adopted. Gentlemen who have been in the legislature, know as well as I do, that whenever any question of amendment to the Constitution has been proposed, it has been kept as a foot-ball for years, and especially would it be the case were we to allow so important and vital a question as this is, to be placed within their reach. Sir, I hold it to be not only unsound in principle, but it is something to which I might apply much stronger language, to leave the manner of electing the six State officers named in the resolution, to be determined by a body so fluctuating and changeable in its character as the legislature of our Commonwealth. I hope that this Convention will not so settle fundamental law of Massachusetts.
As I understand this matter, if we adopt the amendment now under discussion, the question will arise in the next legislature, whether the governor and other State officers shall be elected by the plurality, or be elected as they are at the present time. If this question is passed upon affirmatively, it then goes over to the succeeding legislature, when it will come up for consideration again.
If that body do not repeal it, it will then, of course, be an open question, and, from that time henceforward, instead of amendments to the Constitution, you will for years and years have a useless, exciting question, which will cost the Commonwealth thousands upon thousands of dollars to settle; when this Convention has the power to submit it directly to the people, and ascertain from them, at once, what are their wishes in regard to it.
Sir, I submit that it is trifling with the voters of this Commonwealth, to undertake here, in the fundamental law, to leave this question subject to legislative action, year in and year out, undetermined and undecided. I would either put in the Constitution the majority rule or the plurality rule, and decide one way or the other, before I would consent to leave this an open question for future legislation. It would be a shame, disgraceful to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and disgraceful to the proceedings of this Convention, were we to leave a proposition of the importance of this, to be kicked about like a foot-ball, from one legislature to the other. So far as the amendment affects the first resolve, I hope that it will not be adopted.
Mr. BUTLER, of Lowell. I would not have spoken upon this question, were I not the chairman of the Committee which reported these resolves which are now proposed to be amended. And, while I am in favor of them, I desire to state to the Convention the reasons why I hope they will be adopted, and the inducements which weigh upon my mind, trusting that they will have the same effect upon the minds of gentlemen of the Convention. When I made this report, the thing which most troubled me was the charge which has been brought by the minority, that we have left these five or six great State officers to be trucked and dickered about; and they seemed to intimate that it was for some foregone political purpose that it was so. Well, Sir, I admit that it did have a look which would give uncharitable men an opportunity to suppose it was the case; and it occurred to me, that whatever could be done to remove this apprehension, should be done. Now, what do we propose to do? One part of
the Convention want the majority rule, the other part want the plurality rule; neither know exactly what rule the people do desire, although we of course, have our opinion. Now, we say we will put the majority system forward as the judgment of the Convention, but in order not to tie up the people, to confine them to this, we will leave it to the legislature to alter it whenever the people may feel disposed to choose a body for that purpose. It may be, and is said, that the question will be used for political purposes; but the next amendment provides that that law shall not take effect until the second legislature has passed upon and agreed to it, and after it has been thus passed upon, there can be no such thing as repealing it, because it has become the settled policy of the Commonwealth. No man can calculate two years ahead as to what will be the political state of the Commonwealth, and, consesequently, it cannot possibly be made to subserve political or party ends.
Mr. SCHOULER, of Boston. The third legislature may repeal it if the people do not like it.
Mr. BUTLER. So it may, provided the people desire it; but it cannot be made a political engine. If the people want the plurality, which fact we shall know from their votes, the legislature will adopt it, and so long as they have that desire, it will be a moral impossibility to repeal it. And it is for the sole purpose of removing any unjust or uncharitable supposition on the part of our minority friends, that this proposition is intended to truck and dicker with, that we have said that we will leave it with the people to fix the matter as they please. If the majority of the Convention, however, choose to establish the plurality or majority principles, so be it; I am perfectly content with that result, and hope that other gentlemen will regard it in the same manner. These are, briefly, my reasons why I shall sustain the resolutions and amendments.
Mr. WHITNEY, of Conway. The gentleman from Lowell has anticipated my remarks, but there has been a single consideration urged here against this amendment, which, I believe, has not been met, and is not, in fact, entitled to much weight, though it deserves a reply. It is this: that if the legislature shall, in future, adopt the plurality rule, it will become a foot-ball in that body, to be constantly kicked about from one session to the other. Now, I think we have some of the past history of Massachusetts to guide us upon this subject. In 1851, we adopted the plurality rule so far as it applied to the election of members of congress. Has that been made a foot-ball? No, Sir; nor do I believe that any legislature for ten years to come will agitate the question. It has been settled, permanently settled, that representatives to congress shall be elected by the plurality rule. It has been said, too, that this will prove a log-rolling machine; but, Sir, I think that is an argument entitled to little weight. The gentlemen from Boston predicted that such would be the case in regard to the election of members of congress, but so far as the rule has been applied there, it has been perfectly successful and satisfactory. It has not been a matter of agitation as yet, and there seems but little probability, at the present time, that it ever will be.
I desire, for a moment, to call the attention of gentlemen to the history of these resolutions. The subject of plurality was introduced in the
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY. - WHITNEY - SCHOULER - GARDNER.
early part of the session, and was one of the first matters discussed in Convention. When we came to vote upon it, we found that the Convention was about equally divided in regard to the adoption of the plurality rule. Under these circumstances, it was thought best to recommit the subject to a Select Committee; this was done, and the Committee, in due time, reported resolutions to the effect, that in the choice of the following officers, to wit: senators, representatives, and other officers elected by the people, where there was a failure to elect by the first ballot, the plurality rule should be appplied thereafter.
Now, Sir, I like those resolutions as they then stood, and, although they were once adopted, the Convention afterwards reversed their original decision. The proposition is now made to leave so much of the resolution as relates to the governor, lieutenant-governor, and other State officers, to the jurisdiction of the legislature, and, in my opinion, it is a perfectly proper amendment. If gentlemen desire the plurality rule they can reach it there. Does the gentleman from Boston feel that the legislature will not sustain the plurality? If he does, we ought not to put it in our Constitution, where it cannot be reached. If the people favor the plurality rule, we shall be sure to get it through the legislature; if not, the present system will stand as heretofore. But it will not be made a foot-ball, to be bandied and kicked about at the mercy of some political party. There is nothing in the history of the Commonwealth to warrant such an intimation, or lead to any such conclusion, nor will it be the history of the Commonwealth if this amendment should prevail.
Mr. HALE, of Bridgewater. Was not an attempt made in the legislature, two or three years ago, to adopt the plurality?
Mr. WHITNEY. It may have been attempted in one portion of the legislature, but it was not sustained. I do not know that the proposition cost much money, or produced much agitation in the Commonwealth; certainly I never heard that such was the case. And, since gentlemen are so nearly divided in their opinion in regard to the majority and plurality, it has been proposed to refer the matter to the decision of the legislature. But, if it is incorporated in the Constitution, without any power being allowed to the legislature to act upon it, the probability is that we should be necessitated to call another Convention in the course of a few years, to provide against the difficulties which would result from this proposition. The question is one that may be safely left with the legislature, and why will gentlemen, who acknowledge themselves to be in favor of the plurality principle in toto, object to such a course being taken? We have already referred to that body so much of the resolution as relates to the choice of representatives by this rule, and I cannot see what reason there is why we should not also refer to them the clause in question. I hope that gentlemen will consider this as a matter of compromise. As for myself, I am entirely in favor of the plurality rule, but I do not think it would be acting wisely to incorporate it in the Constitution before we have heard from the people their opinion in regard to it, and before it is so fully matured as might be desired. Therefore, I think it was wisely proposed to leave the matter with the legislature. In regard to the difficulties which have been suggested as likely to result from such a reference, I merely wish to say,
that all such intimations of danger, are founded on no good, substantial reasons, growing out of the past history, or from any prospective view that we may take of the action of the people of the Commonwealth; and consequently no faith or confidence should be placed in them. I hope that the amendment will prevail.
Mr. SCHOULER, of Boston. I move to amend the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole, by adding after the words "until one year after its passage," the words, " and if repealed, the same shall not take effect until one year after its passage."
Mr. BIRD. I accept the amendment.
Mr. GARDNER, of Boston. The gentleman from Conway, (Mr. Whitney,) says he thinks that the objection which was urged in debate, that if this amendment was adopted by the Convention, it would introduce log-rolling and party spirit into the legislature, making this entirely a political question, is entitled to great weight, provided the past history of the Commonwealth sustained that idea; and he has argued that the past history of Massachusetts does not sustain that idea. That is the point at which his remarks were aimed.
Now, Sir, the gentleman from Conway is usually pretty well informed in these matters; but, if he had been acquainted with the facts of this case, he would not have arisen, as he did, for this purpose of alluding to the past history of Massachusetts as bearing upon this subject; and if I could convince him that the past history is what my colleague claimed, I may safely say that his vote would be cast against the proposition. The facts are these: Three years ago, one branch of the legislature, in this building, enacted that electors and members of congress should be chosen by the plurality rule, on the second trial; and the very next year, the other branch passed a law that the electors for president and members of congress should be elected by the majority rule. The question was discussed for several days, and when the vote was taken there were but five or six majority who voted against changing the law. My friend is mistaken when he says it caused no party division; it did. It commanded almost the whole strength and support of a certain party, and had it not been for three or four gentlemen whom I see here to-night, who broke from party and party trammels, it would have been repealed. And one or two gentlemen who now sit near the gentleman from Conway, were of the small band who voted in favor of sustaining the plurality. It came within a mere handful of votes of being reconsidered and repealed. So much for the past history of the Commonwealth in regard to this
Now the gentleman from Walpole, (Mr. Bird,) has introduced a proposition here which varies the action of the Convention hereafter in several very important particulars, though the difficulty which would result from it has been obviated to some extent by his acceptance of the amendment of my colleague, (Mr. Schouler,) so that it now provides that it shall require the action of two consecutive legislatures to establish the plurality principle, and the action of two consecutive legislatures to repeal it. I should like to know if, under such circumstances, any subsequent legislature could touch the subject thereafter? But why are gentlemen so much afraid of the people, that instead of submitting the question directly
to them for their decision, they should provide that two consecutive legislatures should be required to create the law? So that, in fact, the people themselves have nothing to do or say about the matter. Why is this invidious distinction made?
Then again, this Convention has decided that members of the House of Representatives shall be elected by a plurality vote, but the amendment of the gentleman makes it necessary that two legislatures shall also be required to authorize this law. Now, I ask, what are those who are in favor of plurality to gain by such a compromise as that? The original compromise was that members should be elected by the plurality; the second was that it should require one legislature to enact the law, and now the third compromise is that two consecutive legislatures shall be necessary for this purpose.
Sir, I fear that if this Convention does not adjourn, we shall make another compromise still, that a half-a-dozen legislatures shall be required to pass upon this provision before it can become a law of the land. The more talk there is, the more compromises are made.
Now I want to ask where it is, what part of the State it is, which is deprived of its representatives by a non-election? Why, Sir, it is in those towns which are entitled to one representative only; they are the ones upon whom the loss most heavily falls. And I want to ask the delegates from those towns, thus situated, whether they are in favor of piling Ossa upon Pelion? Now we require the sanction of two consecutive legislatures to authorize the small towns to send their representatives here by a plurality vote. If the towns are to be represented, it is to be brought about by the plurality principle, and by this alone. In the early part of the session there was an amendment submitted by a gentleman, proposing
a very important alteration; it was introduced as a kind of compromise, and was, in fact, the only tub thrown to the whale, having been passed by a majority of the Convention; but of which I have heard nothing since that time. And now it is proposed to go back and change all that has
This is the advantage of compromises; but I did not expect this Convention to be so favorably disposed towards them. I have heard the voices of many of the prominent members of this body raised in opposition. I have listened to the most eloquent diatribes against this vile compromise; but yet, the only argument which can be adduced in favor of the amendment under discussion is, that it is in the nature of a compromise, and will be more acceptable to the people.
As for myself, I have voted for this question of plurality from the first to the last, in accordance with my sentiments, uniformly and conscientiously, and I am free to say that I should prefer to see the plurality question settled here, rather than have the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole adopted as the sense of this body. Indeed, I may say that I would vastly prefer to see the majority principle reestablished, rather than to have this hermaphrodite principle which gentlemen are endeavoring to instil into our minds. I desire to stand fairly, honestly, and openly in this matter; to have something tangible upon which to rely, so that when the question is asked me, What has been the action of the Convention? I need not be compelled to search through
ELECTIONS BY PLURALITY.— WHITNEY - SCHOULER-BATES-MIXTER - WALKER.
a half-a-dozen volumes of law books, constitutions, amendments, compromises, and public documents for a reply. I desire to have the matter plain and explicit; so that it can be understood by all the people.
If we do not adjourn on Saturday, I am afraid we shall be undoing, or digging up other plain questions that have already been acted upon and decided by the Convention, and enclosing and enveloping them in such obscurity that we ourselves cannot tell what has been the result of our proceedings here. In conclusion, let me tell my friends that if they expect the people to accept the Constitution we shall present to them, they must make such provision that when the people ask for fish, we shall not give them a serpent; and when they ask for bread, they shall not receive a stone; we must give them something that when it is presented to them, they will not be compelled to stop and taste of it to ascertain its quality.
Mr. WHITNEY, of Conway. I directed my remarks particularly to the question of the election of members of congress, and I believe that I am right, so far as the matter of history is concerned. In the matter of the election of electors for the office of president, it was agitated in the legislature, but not to any extent among the people. The subject of members of congress, however, I am free to say, has had no very considerable agitation anywhere, though it is a matter of considerable importance in times of high political excitement, such as we have about the period of the presidential election.
Mr. SCHOULER. The statement made by the gentleman from Conway, I believe, is perfectly correct in regard to the action of the House upon the repeal of that part of the plurality law which relates to the election of electors. It passed the Senate and came into the House, and without debate was laid upon the table.
Now, Sir, I presume that the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole is going to pass, and as he has accepted my amendment, which I hope will be adopted also, I have no farther doubt in regard to it.
Mr. BATES, of Plymouth. I will detain the Convention but a moment. I understood the gentleman representing Barre, (Mr. Aldrich,) when he first arose, to state that it had been conceded on all hands, that the people of Massachusetts were unanimously in favor of the plurality principle.
Mr. ALDRICH. The gentleman misunderstood me. I did not say so.
Mr. BATES. Sir, I do not believe that the people are so much in favor of the new principle, as many gentlemen imagine. I shall vote for this thing, because I believe it gives a little more to the majority than it did before. I came here in favor of the majority principle, and shall vote with great reluctance for anything which goes to sustain the plurality. I shall vote for the amendment of the gentleman from Walpole, however, because it gives the power to the legislature to regulate the election of the various officers named, and if the people desire any change, they can obtain it by electing representatives for that purpose.
Mr. MIXTER, of New Braintree. I desire to state my views in regard to the matter under consideration, and as I have not before intruded myself upon the Convention, it being the first time I have addressed the Chair, I trust that I
may be indulged for a few moments. Nor would I now break the silence which I have hitherto preserved, did I not believe that the importance of this question demanded that I should, in common with other gentlemen, express my views in regard to it.
Sir, I believe that the people of the town which I represent, as well as of other towns in the vicinity of my home, expected that this Convention would establish the plurality principle throughout, when it came together; and as near as I can judge, I am led to believe that this was the main reason why the people were willing and ready to vote for the calling of this Convention. From the beginning, I have been in favor of the plurality system, and am so still; but I am not in favor of the system which will be established by the adoption of this amendment. I think that we came here for the purpose of making a Constitution that should be acceptable to the people of this Commonwealth; we came here to consult and deliberate as to the best mode of promoting their interests and welfare, and not for the purpose of making a sliding rule, so to speak, which may be turned over and changed by the legislature. While we are here, it is our duty to adopt either the majority or plurality rule; we have been considering the plurality rule, but from the votes which have been taken, I am inclined to believe that we have in a great measure departed from that principle. Certainly, there is no principle at all in the course we have taken, and which gentlemen seem disposed to take this evening in adopting this amendment. If we are to have either of the systems, the majority or plurality, let us have the principle of the thing, for when we curtail it, it is no longer a principle, but simply a rule of action.
Now, we have established the plurality rule for the election of some officers of the government, and the majority rule for the election of some others; and this is the kind of Constitution which we are to send out to our constituents as the result of our labors here. But, this is not all. The attempt is now made to establish a sliding scale, by which we shall allow the legislature of Massachusetts to alter the organic law of the land without the sanction of a direct vote of the people, so that at any time when that body is in session, it may make such amendments to the Constitution as it may be disposed to make.
Again, by the adoption of this amendment, the operation of the plurality law is to be suspended for two years, in order to give time to two legislatures to act upon it, and repeal or accept it, as the circumstances may be. Amendments may therefore be made to the Constitution by two legislatures, without the concurrence of the people. And, mark ye, Sir, these legislatures are to be assembled and elected under a rule established
by this Convention, which is admitted by every gentleman who has examined it, to be unjust and unsound. I ask why are we not willing to make such a Constitution as we were sent here to frame? We have provided a basis of representation whereby the legislature is to be elected by less than a majority of the people, and it is to be allowed to assemble here and make laws, and amend our Constitution without the concurrence of the people, and without allowing them to express by their votes, their opinion upon those changes.
Sir, I enter my protest against any provision of
this kind; I do not believe that it is required; I do not believe we were sent here to vote upon any such proposition. I think that its operation will be most injurious to the interests of the people, and that it will introduce difficulties in every election that may hereafter take place. It is our duty to make a Constitution such as our consciences may tell us is right, give it to the people, and let them act upon it just as they may think proper. But, as for this mongrel system, which we are preparing to send out-this unjust basis of representation, this election of officers of government partly by one rule and partly by another, and last of all, this reposing of so much power in the hands of the legislature-I am entirely opposed to it. For these reasons, I shall feel bound to vote against the amendment.
Mr. WALKER, of North Brookfield. The amendment now before us provides, that all the State officers, governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, attorney-general, &c., and also all representatives to the general court, shall be placed on one platform, and elected by a majority of votes; and, also, that the legislature shall have power to provide by law, that they may be elected by a plurality, the law making the change not to take effect until one year after its passage.
That I understand to be the sum and substance of this amendment. This is, in fact, to throw the matter into the hands of the people, and if it be their will that we shall be governed by a plurality instead of a majority, they will say so at the polls and through their representatives; and, as one legislature will intervene, they cannot have the measure sprung upon them contrary to their wishes. They will understand the whole matter, and have ample opportunity to repeal the act should it be obnoxious to them.
Now, I think it marvellously strange, that certain gentlemen here, belonging to the party now in power in this Commonwealth, should manifest such extreme anxiety to defeat the proposition before us. They have been very solicitous, during the whole session, to establish the plurality principle, and now, when it is proposed to give the legislature power to do this very thing, they are out in violent hostility to the measure! They have discovered that it is not safe and proper to trust the people, through their representatives, with this power, and they are in great alarm and trepidation about the matter. Such is the pretence, Sir; but I suppose the real fact is, that they foresee that this provision, as it renders our Constitution consistent, and virtually gives the people the alternative of majority or plurality, will make that instrument so perfect and popular, that they shall not be able to rally even their own party against it.
They did expect to make a great deal of political capital out of the fact, that we had provided that the governor, lieutenant-governor, &c., should be elected in one way, and representatives in another. Now they see, distinctly, that the present amendment is to remove that objection, and destroy all reasonable ground of opposition. This is the explanation of the affair.
I am opposed to the plurality system, but I say if the people want it, let them have it. If they want the majority rule, let them have it. I have no faith in the plurality principle myself, and I agree with the gentleman for Wilbraham, (Mr. Hallett,) who has declared here, that, whenever the government is chosen by any number