« ForrigeFortsett »
§ 90. WE come next to the organization and powers of the Senate, which are provided for in the third section of the first article of the Constitution. § 91. We have already had occasion to refer, in a brief manner, to the general reasoning, by which the division of the legislative power between two distinct branches has been justified in the actual organization of free governments. And here seems the proper place to enter somewhat more at large, into the reasonings, by which the establishment of the Senate of the United States was supported as an independent branch of the national government. In order to justify the existence of a Senate with co-ordinate powers, it was said, first, that it was a misfortune incident to republican governments, though in a less degree than to other governments, that those, who administer it, may forget their obligations to their constituents, and prove unfaithful to their important trust. In this point of view, a Senate, as a second branch of the legislative assembly, distinct from, and dividing the pow. er with a first, must be in all cases a salutary check on the government. It doubles the security to the people by requiring the concurrence of two distinct bodies, in chemes of usurpation or perfidy ; whereas the ambition or corruption of one would otherwise be sufficient. This precaution, it was added, was founded on such clear principles, and so well understood in the United States, that it was superfluous to enlarge on it. As the improbability of sinister combinations would be in proportion to the dissimilarity in the genius of the two bodies, it must be politic to distinguish them from each other by every circumstance, which would consist with a due harmony in all proper measures, and with the genuine principle: of republican government.
§ 92. Secondly. The necessity of a Senate was not less indicated by the propensity of all single and numerous assemblies to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions, and to be seduced by factious leaders into intemperate and pernicious resolutions. Examples of this sort might be cited without number, and from proceedings in the United States, as well as from the history of other nations. A body, which is to correct this infirmity, ought to be free from it, and consequently ought to be less numerous, and to possess a due degree of firmness, and a proper tenure of office.
§ 93. Thirdly. Another defect, to be supplied by a Senate, lay in the want of a due acquaintance with the objects and principles of legislation. A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the objects of the government ; secondly, a knowledge of the means, by which those objects can be best attained. It was suggested, that in the American governments too little attention had been paid to the last; and that the establishment of a Senate, upon a proper basis, would greatly increase the chances of fidelity, and of wise and safe legislation. What (it was asked) are all the repealing, explaining, and amending laws, which fill and disgrace our voluminous codes, but so many monuments of deficient wisdom; so many impeachments exhibited by each succeeding, against each preceding, session ; so many admonitions to the people of the value of those aids, which may be expected from a well-constituted Senate 2
§ 94. Fourthly. Such a body would prevent too great a mutability in the public councils, arising from a rapid succession of new members; for, from a change of men, there must proceed a change of opinions, and from a change of opinions, a change of measures. Such instability in legislation has a tendency to diminish respect and confidence abroad, as well as safety and prosperity at home. It has a tendency to damp the ardor of industry and enterprise; to diminish the security of property; and to impair the reverence and attachment, which are indis pensable to the permanence of every political instit tion.
§ 95, Fifthly. Another ground, illustrating the utility of a Senate, was suggested to be the keeping alive of a due sense of national character. In respect to foreign nations, this was of vital importance; for in our intercourse with them, if a scrupulous and uniform adherence to just principles was not observed, it must subject us to many embarrassments and collisions. It is difficult to impress upon a single body, which is numerous and changeable, a deep sense of the value of national character. A small portion of the praise, or blame, of any particular measure, can fall to the lot of any particular person; and the peri od of office is so short, that little responsibility is felt, and little pride is indulged, as to the course of the government.
§ 96. Sixthly. It was urged, that, paradoxical as it might seem, the want, in some important cases, of a due responsibility in the government arises from that very frequency of elections, which, in other cases, produces such responsibility. In order to be reasonable, responsibility must be limited to objects within the power of the responsible party; and in order to be effectual, it must relate to operations of that power, of which a ready and proper judgement can be formed by the constituents. Some measures have singly an immediate and sensible operation; others again depend on a succession of well-connected schemes, and have a gradual, and perhaps unobserved operation. If, therefore, there be but one Assembly, chosen for a short period, it will be difficult to keep up the train of proper measures, or to preserve the proper connexion between the past and the future. And the more numerous the body, and the more changeable its component parts, the more difficult it will be to preserve the personal responsibility, as well as the uniform action, of the successive members, to the great objects of the public welfare.
§ 97. Lastly. A Senate, duly constituted, would not only operate as a salutary check upon the Representatives, but occasionally upon the people themselves, against their own temporary delusions and errors. The cool, deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of their rulers. But there are particular moments in public affairs, when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures, which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of a body of respectable citizens, chosen without reference to the exciting cause, to check the misguided career of public opinion, and to suspend the blow, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind. It was thought to add great weight to all these considerations, that history has informed us of no long lived republic, which had not a senate. Sparta, Rome, Carthage were, in fact, the only states, to whom that character can be applied. $98. It will be observed, that some parts of the foregoing reasoning apply to the fundamental importance of an actual division of the legislative power; and other parts to the true principles, upon which that division should be subsequently organized, in order to give full effect to the constitutional check. Some parts go to show the value of a Senate ; and others, what should be its structure, in order to insure wisdom, experience, fidelity, and dignity in its members. All of it, however, instructs us, that, in order to give it fair play and influence, as a co-ordinate branch of government, it ought to be less numerous, more select, and more durable, than the other branch ; and be chosen in a manner, which should combine, and represent, different interests, with a varied force. How far these objects are attained by the Constitution, will be better seen, when the details belonging to each department are successively examined. § 99. The first clause of the third section is—“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.” § 100 First, the nature of the representation and vote
in the Senate. Each State is entitled to two Senators, and each Senator is entitled to one vote. Of course, there is a perfect equality of representation and vote of the States in the Senate. In this respect it forms a marked contrast to the House of Representatives. In the latter, the representation is in proportion to the population of each State, upon a given basis; in the former, each State, whether it be great or be small, is, in its political capacity, represented upon the footing of equality with every other, as it would be in a Congress of Ambassadors, or in an Assembly of Peers. The only important difference between the vote in the Senate, and that in the old Continental Congress under the Confederation, is, that in the latter, the vote was by States, each having but one vote, whereas, in the Senate, each Senator has one vote. So that, although the Senators represent States, they vote as individuals; thus combining the two elements of individual opinion, and of State representation. A majority of the Senators must concur in every vote ; but the vote need not be that of a majority of the States, since the Senators from the same State, may vote on different sides of the same question. The Senators from fifteen States may divide in their votes; and those from eleven, may concur in their votes, and thus give a decisive majority. § 101. It is obvious, that this arrangement could only arise from a compromise between the great and the small States, founded upon a spirit of amity, and mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of situation of the United States rendered indispensable. There was, for a long time, a very animated struggle in the Convention, between the great and the small States, on this subject; the latter contending for an equality of representation in each branch of the Legislature ; the former for a representation in each, proportionate to its population and importance. In the discussions, the States were so nearly balanced, that their union in any plan of government, which should provide for a perfect equality, or an inequal. ty, of representation in both Houses, became utterly hope less. A compromise became indispensable. The smal