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Amendment to the Constitution.


been alternately at variance with themselves and with each other, and sometimes so scattered that no two of them could agree; at other times, all were entirely lost. These are the most irresistible arguments, the strongest circumstances, to show how dangerous it is to attempt any alteration in the Constitution; and that, as has been urged on a former occasion, every comma has its meaning. You cannot strike out a word from one section, without inflicting a wound upon some other. So nicely has it been woven together, that no thread can be spared. Every principle it contains is a keystone, and no one of them can be removed without endangering the edifice. No man can tell how these amendments may operate-how they enfeeble and shackle other parts of the Constitution-or what other alterations they may render necessary. Look at this paper now. and recollect what it has been. At different times it has as

ourselves about. No inconvenience is even pre-stitution. The favorers of the amendments have tended to have been experienced under those provisions of the Constitution, as they now stand; yet we, in the plenitude of our wisdom, are about to recommend to the several State Legislatures an alteration of them; and so every successive Congress, which will no doubt in the same ratio as the present be more wise, more learned, more enlightened, and more patriotic, than their predecessors, will improve upon our example, until the Constitution shall be entirely regenerated. But the gentleman from Vermont (Mr. BRADLEY) now tells us and I believe correctly-that these amendments, though not before contemplated, result necessarily from the introduction of the designating principle into the Constitution. Does not this show us, most clearly, the danger of meddling with the Constitution at all? Out of the single amendment proposed by the gentleman from New York, (Mr. CLINTON,) that of designating the person voted for as President, and the person voted for assumed different shapes-at one time proposing but Vice President, these two other very important changes have already grown-have forced themselves upon our consideration; and another of still greater importance immediately presents itself, which gentlemen on all sides seem to think must shortly follow-that of abolishing entirely the office of Vice President. Several honorable members have told us that their minds have long been made up on this subject; that they had long since seen the necessity of introducing this change in the mode of electing a President and Vice President; but never before saw its operation upon other parts of the Constitution, or that any other alterations must be the necessary consequence of its adoption. The honorable mover of this subject, from New York, who, according to his own account, had been two years maturing it in his mind, and who pressed the immediate adoption of it, with even more than his usual eloquence, had never before seen the bearing of his own resolution upon the Constitution, and was himself one of the first to vote for striking out part, and to second a motion of a gentleman from Vermont, (Mr. BRADLEY,) who I do not now see in his place, for a very important amendment to another part, of it. Indeed, sir, after all the deep deliberation bestowed upon it by the learned mover, the resolution, as at first introduced, provided very carefully for an impossible case, that in the nature of things could never happen-that of two candidates, upon the designating plan of election, having each a majority of the whole number of votes for President. Added to all this, sir, recollect the awkward and embarrassed situation of the Senate for a week past on this subject. Every step we have taken has involved us in new difficulties. We have several times been so completely lost in the mazes of our own amendments as to be under the necessity of adjourning. in order to have them printed, that we might see what we had done; and no sooner were they laid before us, than they directed our eyes to some other part of the Constitution where an unexpected injury had been sustained; and all this has arisen from the attempt to introduce the designating principle into the Con-pared for the application.

one alteration; at another, four or five. Thus, one alteration will beget the necessity for another, and so we shall have to go on in this work ad infinitum, as the regular series of cause and effect. It may be said that this second amendment, so far as it goes to extend the powers of the Senate in the election of the Vice President, if adopted, may prove advantageous to the smaller States. I grant the possibility, but such advantage is too casual, too remote and unimportant, to induce me, as a Representative from one of the smaller States, to vote for any alteration in the Constitution. It is the true interest of the smaller States, especially, to preserve sacred and untouched the Constitution, and not be weakening it by alterations-expecting temporary advantages that may or may never arise; and which, if attained, would be littlewould be less than insignificant-compared with the infinite importance of this instrument to those States, as it stands at present. Their independence, nay, their very existence, as States, hangs upon their preservation of it. They could never get such another, and they should be the last to tamper with it: when they do so, they risk their only stake. And now let me entreat gentlemen representing the twelve smaller States in the Senate (for it is here, and here only, they are felt in the Government) to weigh well their amendments before, by their affirmative votes, they do an act that may encroach upon the Constitutional rights of those States. I know well that, with some of the States, it is the highest source of mortification that the Constitution has placed the larger and smaller ones so nearly upon an equality in certain respects. The pride of some of the larger States will, for instance, never submit that, by any possible contingency, the State of Delaware, of Rhode Island, of Vermont, or New Hampshire, should have an equal voice with them in the choice of a President, as in case of an election by the House of Representatives. This is an evil that must be cured; and if alterations shall prove insufficient, a more effectual remedy, I fear, will be prescribed, the moment that the national pulse can be pre

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So far, Mr. President, as human wisdom, or rather human frailty, might be permitted to judge of the future from the past and the present, I should think it no act of rashness to foretell that the next alteration attempted, will be to destroy the influence of the smaller States in this branch of the Legislature, not directly by expunging that provision of the Constitution which gives to each State an equal representation upon this floor, for that cannot be done with the consent of every State, but indirectly in conformity with the idea of the gentleman from Kentucky, (Mr. BRECKENRIDGE,) expressed the other day, by shortening the period for which Senators shall be elected, and which, in effect, will amount to the same thing. I know too well the weight and influence of the gentleman from Kentucky in this Government at present, to treat lightly what he says upon a subject of such magnitude, and must consider the charge of aristocracy, which he has been pleased to bring against the Senate as the denunciation of this body. Indeed, sir, I shall not be surprised to hear at the next session, that the people are prepared for the change, or even that some of the smaller States have recommended it, for such is at present the infatuated confidence of many of them in those who, I fear, are encompassing their ruin, that they seem to be constantly acting under instructions, and to have resigned both themselves and the Constitution to the guardianship of others. The gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. TAYLOR,) in order to lull our fears and divert our attention from the threat uttered by him to the smaller States, has very artfully called the alarm sounded on that subject by my honorable friend from New Jersey, (Mr. DAYTON,) at one time a stratagem, and at another an ambuscade; and asked, how he, as a general, could lay an ambuscade so unconcealed, so exposed to the enemy? Sir, we resort to no stratagems or ambuscades, our opposition is public, and our movements undisguised; and it was on the part of my friend only a prompt attack upon an ambuscade laid by the gentleman from Virginia himself, who has been entrusted with the chief command in this campaign, and which by him had been incautiously too soon uncovered; whilst gentler means succeed so well, threats are unnecessary, and might be dangerous. I was not a little surprised, Mr. President, to hear an honorable member from Ma ryland, (Mr. SMITH,) after reminding us that he belonged to a small State, come out on this occasion the mighty champion of the large ones, and whilst exhibiting himself to the greatest possible advantage in this new and enviable character, calling upon my friend from Massachusetts before me, (Mr. ADAMS,) to know why he, representing a large State, had been pleased to give himself any concern about the interests of the small States, intimating that such conduct concealed views not intended to be discovered, or, in the courtly language of the day, that it was stratagem; I wonder it had not been an ambuscade too. The honorable member from Virginia (Mr. TAYLOR) has prudently attempted to conceal again the ambuscade that had been so much annoyed


by the fire of my friend from New Jersey, endeavoring to soften down and explain away an expression used by him, and which, by very natural construction, was considered a threat to the smaller States; the gentleman has indeed told us since that he intended no threat, and we are bound to accept his explanation. I mean not to scrutinize his meaning, especially after what the honorable member has said; but let us see how far the gentleman from Maryland was correct, when he declared that his friend from Virginia had used no language that could amount to a threat to the smaller States. If, sir, the language, I will say the menacing language of the gentleman from Virginia used on this subject, taken according to its common import, was not sufficient to rally and unite the smaller States, then the rancor of party has stifled more noble sentiments, we are a house divided against itself, and our day has passed.

After reproaching us with our weakness, the gentleman proclaimed in the language of triumph, (for I will give his very words as noted down by myself and others at the time,) "Let the smaller States beware how they rouse the resentment of the larger ones. What," asked he, "must become of them in such a collision ?" And is this no threat? Sir, I answer, we might sink; but it is to avoid this very collision that I resist, with my feeble efforts, the present measure. We are now safely entrenched behind the barriers of the Constitution, and shall we ourselves demolish this great bulwark of our defence? Shall we not rather make our stand here, whilst the means of protection and resistance are within our power? Ambition is insatiable; the more we give up the more will be demanded of us, and every inch of ground we yield, the less tenable does the rest become. The honorable member from Virginia has told us, that the present mode of electing the President and Vice President was the road to Monarchy. I have often, sir, heard it intimated, that the Government of the United States had a tendency to Monarchy, a doctrine I could never accede to, (I mean as the Government is at present organized.) I speak and judge from things as they now present themselves; what effect these many speculative changes that are at present taking place in the Constitution may have, I know not, I presume not to foretell. But one thing was, years since, foretold and denied, and I now call it up to the recollection of gentlemen on the other side of the House, not to upbraid or offend them— but short-sighted man feels a kind of pleasure, (it is indeed though, Mr. President, on this occasion a melancholy one,) in having foretold truly the events of futurity. It was foretold that the Constitution would not suit those who were coming into power; that it was obnoxious to them, or to to their leaders, which is in effect the same, and that the moment they should lay their hands upon it, if they could not get rid of it entirely under the pretence of amending and altering, they would fritter it away, until but the shadow, the empty shadow, should remain. How far the proceedings of this session, which is the first that the


Amendment to the Constitution.


really believe themselves? Why will gentlemen talk of the danger of confusion-threaten us with it, when the whole confusion arises from the acts of gentlemen themselves? We have listened here with patience for weeks together to the arguments of gentlemen; they have had every fair opportunity to give their opinions, and it is now time to come to a conclusive vote. We hear nothing now but a repetition in fine dressed words of what we have heard from day to day for weeks; and for what purpose? to excite our fears, fears which it is our wish to guard against in reality.

Gentlemen tell us, first, they suppose the people may not elect a President and Vice President. Upon what ground do they pretend to believe this possible? Are the people so disgusted with their liberties; are they so little attentive to their rights-are they tired of a Government that every day makes them more happy? No, sir.

present majority ever consisted of two-thirds of both branches of the Legislature, will go to justify this prediction, I will leave the world and the consciences of those honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House to judge. But such was the anxiety on this subject, that scarcely had we convened before the long wished for, hallowed work, was commenced, and the order of almost every day since has been a resolution to alter the Constitution. If, sir, the Constitution was suf fered to remain as it is, I have no idea, from my acquaintance with the people of this country, and from the nature of our civil institutions, that any set of men, entrusted with the management of our public affairs, could ever, by a system of measures tending to such an end, succeed in the subversion of our rights and liberties. The people watch their servants with a jealous eye. If they err at all, it is on this side, and this is the safe side. No, Mr. President, what we have most to fear to our Government, and our liberties, must come from another and a very different source, from the licentiousness of democracy. This is what Republican Governments have forever to guard against; this is the vortex in which they are most likely to be swallowed up. God grant it may never be the case with ours, and I fear nothing else. By the licentiousness of democracy, I mean no imputation or offence to any portion of this community; I refer not to the political sentiments of any honorable gentlemen, or to the sentiments of their constituents-but to that wild infuriated But it is said that some of us are governed by spirit that we have seen in France, under the a fear that the people may not have a choice in prostituted name of liberty, anarchizing the world, the election of Vice President. If it will afford and rioting in the destruction of everything dear gentlemen any satisfaction, I tell them that it is and valuable to society; and after having sported my wish that the people should elect the Vice itself in all the wantonness of excess with the President as well as the President. I say, I do not terrors, the crimes, the miseries and the murders understand the principle of minorities governing of mankind, has seated a Corsican adventurer majorities. The law of the minority is not the upon the high and dignified throne of the Bour-law of the Constitution, and it is not the law for me. bons-has riveted the manacles of tyranny upon a great, a brave, but a deluded people, and is now reclining in the shade of a military despotism.

Mr. COCKE.-The gentleman last up has, to be sure, in a well studied speech, as often times before, sounded the tocsin of alarm, and called in even the aid of prophecy to enforce his fears. But, sir, this Senate has been so much accustomed to these false alarms, that it appears to me the only danger we are in is that of going wide of the subject, and taking up our time with matters of imagination, instead of sticking to matter of fact. The object of this amendment to the Constitution is only one thing, one plain and simple principle, to enable the people to discriminate in the choice of their fellow-citizens for the offices of President and Vice President. Gentlemen tell us of large and small States, but is this amendment more in favor of the large than small; is this not such an amendment as will induce the large States to promote the election by the people? Is it not such an amendment as will prevent that corruption which so many gentlemen on all sides apprehend, if it goes into the House of Re presentatives? Where is the use of gentlemen sounding an alarm of danger which they do not

They then tell us that they do not wish that the election should go into the House of Representatives; and then that that House may not elect; and then our very honorable selves are recommended to make up all deficiencies! Do gentlemen doubt themselves, or can they compel Congress to pass such a law as they require for the election of a dictator, without a voice from the people? If gentlemen fear that the people will not elect, and that the other House will not elect, with equal reason they may fear that the other House would not make the law they wish for.

How gentlemen can pretend to advocate the Constitution, and talk of the minority giving law, is to me very surprising; they say too the Constitution is very sacred to them, and it should not be altered; so it is too, every word, sacred to me; but among its most sacred parts, I find that the Constitution provides for its own alteration and amendment; not indeed by a minority, but by a large majority in both Houses, and by a much larger majority of States. Gentlemen are not willing that a majority should elect a Vice President, but they are not willing that three-fourths of the States should amend the Constitution; they pass by the open door on the right hand to get in at a private passage.

Mr. WHITE to order-the gentleman is not surely using any arguments of mine; they are of his own making.

Mr. COCKE. The gentleman from Delaware thinks the minority should govern-that is his argument, however he may disguise it. I think the majority should govern; I like to speak outI do not wish to have a man put upon us contrary to our wishes. What! shall the majority abandon the right of choosing a man whose opinions are conformable to theirs, and suffer a man of princi

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ples hostile to theirs to be put upon them? I am, sir, for a government of the people, whether well born or born by accident; I am for a government not of checks and balances, but one that will not suffer a bad check upon good principles.

But we are once more told of a Gallic Cæsar, and our fears are to be provoked this way too-but this more than the rest of alarms will not do; we fear no Cæsar, foreign or domestic. We have indeed seen the day when we were near getting a President not of our choice; but because we have escaped from the danger and the intrigue of that day, are we to take no precaution against such measures again. It is to guard against such danger we wish to amend this Constitution. But gentlemen tell us we have not given it a fair trial. I think we have, and found it defective. Here we have been a week and upwards, laboring and bewildered in every kind of discussion, and what have we come to? exactly where we set out. Not one of us has altered our opinions-we have argued and listened and done nothing. Why? Because gentlemen have been attempting impossibilities; there is no such thing as moving either side from their principles. One side thinks the minority should give the law; we think with the Constitution the right is in the majority, and we will submit to no other law. I am for the amendment, and for a discrimination.

Mr. PLUMER said that he had generally contented himself with expressing his opinion by a silent vote, but on a question which affected the rights of the smaller States, (one of which he had the honor to represent,) he requested the indulgence of the Senate to a few observations.

He said the Constitution had provided only two methods for obtaining amendments, and both are granted with great caution. If two-thirds of the several State Legislatures apply, Congress shall call a convention who are to propose amendments, which, when ratified by the conventions of three-fourths of the States, will be valid. If this mode is adopted, Congress have nothing to do but to ascertain the fact, whether the necessary number of States require a convention. If they do, a convention must be called. The State Legislatures are only to apply for a convention. They can neither propose nor decide the amendments.

The other mode is, if two-thirds of both Houses of Congress deem it necessary to propose amendments, and three-fourths of the State Legislatures ratify them, they are valid. This is the present mode. The State Legislatures have nothing to do till after Congress has proposed the amendments, and then it is their exclusive province either to ratify or reject them. But they have no authority to direct or even request Congress to propose particular amendments for themselves to ratify. Instructions on this subject are therefore improper. It is an assumption of power, not the exercise of a right. It is an attempt to create an undue influence over Congress. It is prejudging the question before it is proposed by the only authority that has the Constitutional right to move it. If these instructions are obligatory, our votes must be governed, not by the convictions of our own judg


ments, or the propriety and fitness of the measure, but by the mandates of other Legislatures. This would destroy one of the checks that the Constitution has provided against innovation. State Legislatures may, on some subjects, instruct their Senators; but on this, their instructions ought not to influence, much less bind us, to propose amendments, unless we ourselves deem them necessary.

The Senate consists of two members from each State; and in this case, the concurrence of twothirds of all the Senate are necessary. A majority of the Senate constitutes a quorum to do business, but that quorum is a majority of all the Senators that all the States are entitled to elect. This applies with equal force to the term "twothirds of the Senate." But in cases where from necessity a speedy decision is requisite, and where the concurrence of two-thirds is required, the Constitution is explicit in confining that two-thirds to the members present; as in cases of treaties and impeachments; and also a fifth of the members present requesting the yeas and nays. If amendments can be Constitutionally proposed by twothirds of the Senate present, it will follow that twelve Senators, when only a quorum is present, may propose them against the will of twentytwo Senators.

Mr. P. observed, that he had said the Constitution had provided for amendments, but with great caution. In some cases, they cannot, in the nature of things, be ever made. For instance, the equal representation of each State in the Senate cannot be abridged without its own consent. Other parts of the Constitution cannot be amended till after a certain period, to wit: those relating to slaves, and the apportionment of direct taxes. The United States are bound to guarantee to each State a Republican form of government, and to protect each against invasion. Can these stipulations be expunged? They cannot. Because a change here would introduce new principles into the Constitution. That instrument is a compact formed by each individual State with the United States, and it may be difficult to ascertain how far a new principle, introduced into the Constitution, would operate as releasing the dissenting States from the compact. Nothing but imperious necessity can justify the introduction of new principles. The specious term of "amendments," will be falsified by applying it to forms and proceedings, without extending it to the principles and substance of the Constitution.

In an elective government much depends upon public opinion. It is important that the Constitution should be stable and permanent as the standard to direct that opinion. A Constitution frequently changed, cannot command the esteem or veneration of any people. The proposing of amendments has a tendency to infuse a spirit of fickleness and love of novelty into the public mind. One change prepares the way for another. How many constitutions have there, within a few years, been established in France, each of which was thought better than the one that preceded it? Have not their frequent changes ren

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dered everything dear to man so precarious and uncertain, as to induce them to establish a military despotism, in preference to a free Government? Their fate should serve as a solemn warning to us not to change our Constitution, unless compelled by absolute necessity.

It has been said, the people require this amendment; but of this fact we have no evidence.

This amendment affects the relative interest and importance of the smaller States. The Constitution requires the Electors of each State to vote for two men, one of whom to be President of the United States. This affords a degree of security to the small States against the views and ambition of the large States. It gives them weight and influence in the choice. By destroying this complex mode of choice, and introducing the simple principle of designation, the large States can with more ease elect their candidate. This amendment will enable the Electors from four States and a half to choose a President, against the will of the remaining twelve States and a half. Can such a change tend to conciliate and strengthen the Union?

This amendment has a tendency to render the Vice President less respectable. He will be voted for not as President of the United States, but as President of the Senate, elected to preside over forms in this House. In electing a subordinate officer the Electors will not require those qualifications requisite for supreme command. The office of Vice President will be a sinecure. It will be brought to market and exposed to sale to procure votes for the President. Will the ambitious, aspiring candidate for the Presidency, will his friends and favorites promote the election of a man of talents, probity, and popularity for Vice President, and who may prove his rival? No! They will seek a man of moderate talents, whose ambition is bounded by that office, and whose influence will aid them in electing the President. This mode of election is calculated to increase corruption, promote intrigue, and aid inordinate ambition. The Vice President will be selected from some of the large States; he will have a casting vote in this House; and feeble indeed must his talents be, if his influence will not be equal to that of a member. This will, in fact, be giving to that State a third Senator.

In the Southern States the blacks are considered as property, and the States in which they live are thereby entitled to eighteen additional Electors and Representatives. A number equal to all the Electors and Representatives that four States and a half are entitled to elect. Will you, by this amendment, lessen the weight and influence of the Eastern States in the election of your first officers, and still retain this unequal article in your Constitution? Shall property in one part of the Union give an increase of Electors, and be wholly excluded in other States? Can this be right? Will it strengthen the Union?

This amendment is designed to prevent the evils that occurred at the last Presidential election. That was an extraordinary event; it was a casualty that can seldom happen. Two men had


a majority of all the electoral votes, but neither of them was chosen. But what was the consequence? Why, the House of Representatives in a peaceable manner completed the choice, and that, fourteen days before the President could enter upon the duties of his office. It may be desirable to prevent the choice being carried into the House of Representatives, but this amendment will not do it. It expressly provides for such an event. And if two or more candidates of different parties are carried there, (and if the state of parties should be nearly equal it will happen,) the House must then decide between candidates of different parties.

Mr. P. said that the amendment appeared calculated to give power to the strong; enfeeble and weaken the small States; to lessen the respectability of the Vice President, and not to prevent the evil it was designed to remedy; and therefore that he should vote against it.

Mr. JACKSON. The gentleman last up and another who had preceded him (Messrs. WHITE and PLUMER) bad taken a ground which he did not expect to hear in the elective Senate of a free people. They questioned not only the propriety of the present amendment but of all amendments. This he considered as of no great consequence, but he thought it merited notice, because the dislike of amendments is expressed by gentlemen who wish to have it believed that they are more strongly attached to the Constitution than others; and though the Constitution which they so ardently admire provides expressly for its own amendment. Gentlemen liked the Constitution, but they disliked all amendment, forgetting that as long as human society exists, it must be subject to human frailties; nothing that comes from the head of man can be perfect; and though we may fail to correct imperfections in human institutions, it is our duty to persevere and employ every means which time and experience point out to us, to render our state as secure from evil as possible.

Why is it that gentlemen constantly refer us to France? Do gentlemen, by referring us to that unfortunate country, expect to impress a belief on us that there is any resemblance of situation or circumstances between the two countries ?-or are they so blind as not to see that the state of liberty in that country should be a most earnest motive with us to provide such amendments to our Constitution as may secure us against the danger of usurpation? Our situation has never resembled that of France, but during our Revolution. That nation had not the opportunity of sitting down after the overthrow of her enemies, and forming a free constitution in peace, as we had. It was in the conflicts of faction excited by foreign enemies, that the state of France was changed; but she had been always different from us. France was always one and indivisible. In that country we have seen the conflicts of faction, and the frantic zeal of adherents convulsing the nation; have we not had any similar transactions during our own Revolution? Were there no factions even in our Revolutionary councils? Have

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