Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

small body of but thirty-four members. They did not, for years, increase at all. For five years the Senators sat with closed doors. They did not legislate, as now, in competition with the House, but employed their time with appointments and treaties, and concurrence with the popular branch, and in conferences with the President and his Cabinet. It has been well said that the Senators regarded themselves then as ambassadors from sovereign States. Centralized nationalism was most obnoxious to them. Senators in those days frequently asked their legislatures for instructions.

The functions and complexion of the Senate have undergone so great a change that, like the Federal Supreme Court, the members busy themselves, with honorable exceptions, in interfering with the freedom and independence of the several States; and the House of Representatives, which represent the whole people, and up to 1842 was composed of members elected by the States at large, have become the custodian of the reserved rights, the general guardian and peerless champion of each and all of the sovereign States! The people now declare from their Congressional districts that ours is not a nation at all.

Why should not Senators be elected by numbers? It would gradually help to destroy State autonomy. It would break down the barriers that guard minorities. The smaller States would first suffer, then the larger. Numbers are already represented in the House. Florida, in 1891, unanimously rejected the proposition to make Senators elective by direct vote of the people. In brief, it would terminate the States in council, which was intended to be a conservative check on numbers in the House, and so impair the treaty-making and ratifying power.

George Reid of Delaware moved that Senators should hold their office during good behavior. Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, seconded Reid, but it failed. The deputy from Delaware then desired to make the senatorial term nine years, one-third triennially retiring. That also failed. It was the desire of the antinationalists to limit the terms of Senators, and make them obey State instructions, so as to prevent misrepresentation in the States in council, but it failed. Six years makes the senatorial term too long, especially after the people of a State politically repudiate the party of a Senator.

An effort is still (1895) being made to elect Senators by a direct vote of the people of the States, with a view to make bribery and corruption impossible. It is fallacious. The present system is not at fault. The fault is with the leaders who manufacture legislatures. If the "places of choosing Senators " be altered, partisans will dominate the State polls by a congressional "elections law." Senators are State officers, not officers of the United States. Said ex-Senator George F. Edmunds:

"The Senate always has been, and always will be, so long as constituted through election by the legislatures of the States, what John Adams called 'the sheet anchor of the Republic' On the whole, it has been of invaluable service in the good government of this country. This attack upon the Constitution, and the House provision for the election of the Senators directly by the people, is an immense delusion, and an attempted disturbance of conservative balance, as the Senate is the feature that the makers of the Constitution intended to have most pronounced effect. The quality of men selected through popular vote is much more likely to reduce the quality of the body, as is perfectly obvious to any person who is at all read in the political history of this or other countries.

"In one or two States it may be possible to secure two or three men to vote for a particular Senator by means of purchase, which is a particularly bad thing; but it must be remembered that the men who manage that sort of thing can control the primaries to choose delegates to a State convention more certainly than the members of any State legislature ever elected, and that the people may generally be relied upon to vote for the party nominee, good or bad. If the States of the Union have a wise regard for their own State independence and safety, they will preserve the election in their own legislative body as they preserve the making of laws."

Is the Governor of a State superior to a Senator?

Both in dignity and in power. In 1891 the writer hereof thus defined the relative positions of Governor and Senator: Governor Hill, in leaving the gubernatorial chair, steps down considerably. The Governor of a State is far superior to a Senator of the United States. He is the first agent of a sovereign commonwealth and its people. He represents both the State as a corporation and the people as corporators. As Senator a man represents the State as a corporation, because the Representatives in Congress represent the people of the State. A Senator divides honor and power with his colleague. Thus Hill must divide with Hiscock, just as if the State as an entirety was divided into two senatorial halves.

The question is asked, Is not Hill, while completing his term as Governor, occupying two offices? The answer is, No; because he cannot be a Senator until he takes the prescribed senatorial oath. The filing of credentials is a simple preliminary to the taking of that oath.

[graphic]

It is noised about that the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the Senate at Washington will debate how long a Senator-elect can hold a State office after Congress has been convened. It would be a silly debate; for although the Senate can constitutionally judge of the qualifications of its members, that body cannot decide the other question. The decision rests with the State, which has an undeniable right to elect another man in place of a Senator-elect who persistently keeps away from Congress; and then the Senate can inquire into the qualifications of one or both, for they stand as contestants.

A Governor of a State, in the absence of a legislature, can appoint himself to fill a temporary vacancy as Senator, providing he resigns the gubernatorial office after the act, and the Senate would be powerless to prevent him taking his seat.

Such is the independence of the State, and such the limitation of the general government.

How should treaties be made?

In the name of the United States, every State of the Union being separately mentioned as here

« ForrigeFortsett »