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were, in the year 1913, elected by the popular party in the United States, to fill the two highest offices in their gift. Had it been even then generally known, that they had entertained and expressed such opinions as we have quoted, we incline to doubt whether they would have met with so high a reward for their services. The vibration of the pendulum was, however, at the moment of the Convention, at one extreme with the whole country, from which it has since been passing gradually to the other. " The members most lenacious of republicanism,” Mr. Hamilton observed, “ loud as any in declaiming against the cries of democracy.” If we compare their doctrive, then, with that now prevalent in both of the political parties of our day, and notice the eager contention going on between them as to which shall be most democratic, in name as well as in conduct, we can then form a tolerably accurate idea of the change that has come over public opinion in the interval.
In truth the word democracy, as it was then understood, was never a favorite with any class of statesmen in the earliest period of our national government, not excepting even Mr. Jefferson himself. They had seen enough of unbridled popular strength, to be convinced that the voice of the majority was not always a safe immediate rule of action; and it was hence the great object of the proposed form of government, so to divide power into many portions, and to combine opposite movements, as to insure a deliberation, skill, and weight of personal character, ample enough to guide the destinies of the country prosperously. This result, which they were aiming to bring about, they loved to denominate a republic, and not a democracy; a republic, which whilst it should faithfully adhere to the general principle of reflecting the popular will, when conveyed through prescribed channels, was to be carefully guarded from experiencing the evil consequences attending the momentary Auctuations of popular feeling, and the unsteadiness and contradictory action which they occasion. It was to be the realization of ihat beau idéal of government, a union of systematic energy with the largest practicable individual liberty. Thus far the operation of the system has fully realized all the expectations of its framers, but we must confess, that we do not regard as a very favorable symptom for the future, the prevailing disposition, on al sides, to change the name by which its founders preferred to call it.
We have already remarked the diversity of opinion that existed among the members of the Convention, upon the theory of government in the abstract. This difference, which extended on one side from the admiration of a monarchy to that of the simplest form of representing a people, and on the other from the advocates of a perfect centralization of power to the furthest practicable distribution of it among confederated States, so far from producing its ordinary effect to paralyze action, had, in this instance, a tendency to improve and mature the object which all had equally a desire to secure.
The reason was, that, however opposed the gentlemen might be in opinion, they were all under the influence of the right spirit. There were some, it is true, who seceded from the Convention, and others who declined to sign the form of constitution that was ultimately recommended, but in this conduct they appear to have been directed by scruples, honestly entertained, that they were exceeding their powers, and not by any factious or unworthy motives whatsoever. Several of those who refused their signature, were afterwards among the warmest defenders of the system, when submitted to the ratifying Conventions of the States. Mere demagogues were a class of persons unknown in that body. And it follows, that the speeches we read bear the simple, business-like character, that becomes statesmen and their occupation. The curse of our present mode of legislation, addresses to constituents to operate upon a popular election, was not then felt; a misfortune which, if it must be regarded as having been avoided by keeping the doors closed, we feel slightly tempted to regret was ever entailed upon us by the adoption of an opposite practice. Much of the debating was conducted in that tone, just enough elevated to keep it above the familiarity of conversation, and yet not to prevent the rapid interchange of ideas, which is the most effective of despatch in deliberative bodies, but which the taste for elaborate harangues has now gone far to put out of fashion. It is probable, that the style of declamation has very much improved under the change, but we fear this advantage has been gained at the cost, not seldom, of good sense, and sound logic, and relevancy of purpose. There is but a single instance of a long, discursive speech, that of Luther Martin, which, for that reason, neither Mr. Madison nor Judge Yates inclined to report in full, but which, if we may judge of its substance by his report to the Legislature of Maryland of the doings of the Convention, must have been a very different sort of diffuseness from that which now bears the name.
Various as were the sentiments upon government of the different members, this did not prevent them from cordially acquiescing in a distinct and very reasonable practical proposition. Mr. Madison tells us, in a note, that
"An independence of the three great departments of each other, as far as possible, and the responsibility of all to the will of the community, seemed to be generally admitted as the true basis of a well constructed government.”
It would be difficult to name any thing that could have been better than this for the starting point of the Convention. When it had been once agreed upon, nothing remained but to arrange the details by which the action of the proposed system was to be defined. In this process, it is evident, from the result, that almost every shade of belief had some effect in modifying its provisions, and that thus, by a fusion of portions of these contrary doctrines into a common mass, the Constitution, like the shield forged for Æneas, came out much the better for the variety and the mixture of ingredients of which it was composed.
The Legislative department of the government, which is provided for by the first article of the Constitution, appears to have been by far the most difficult portion of the work to bring into form, as it is the one by which, in point of fact, the powers of all three of the departments are measured and regulated. For inasmuch as this is the source of organization, it is the seat of the force which sets in motion the Executive and the Judiciary. In modelling that department, there was great danger of falling into errors of opposite kinds. It might, for example, have been made too powerful for the safety of the respective States, or for the strength of the coordinate branches. We think experience has gone far to prove the skill by which these opposite kinds of risk were made to balance one another. It appears to us the best part of the instrument, as it is now understood in its amended form ; far better, indeed, than the organization of the Executive department.
The mode in which the President should be elected, the powers which he should exercise when chosen, and the term of time during which any single individual should exercise VOL. LIII. NO. 112.
those powers, were topics thoroughly debated in the Convention. The result of their deliberations was the second Article of the Constitution. It is well worth the trouble to notice the degree of satisfaction which this part of their labors gave them. It was mentioned in “ The Federalist” as little open to objection, and therefore needing no defence; and it met with very gentle treatment in the ratifying Convention, when almost every
other of the Constitution was subjected to the most violent attacks. Yet scarcely a feature of the whole system was earlier discovered to need remodelling ; not one has been constantly attended with so great difficulties in practice, or threatens so much even now to disturb, if not ultimately to overturn, the whole edifice of government to which it belongs.
The original section which provided for the election of a President and Vice-President, would have been an excellent one, if it had only been predicated upon an accurate estimate of human nature. As it was not, it failed. It is very clear, both from the section itself and the temper of the debates, that there was no intention on the part of the framers of the Constitution to make the election of President an issue between individuals as candidates before the people. The intermediate agency of a body of Electors, themselves to be chosen by the people, was called into being to prevent it. That these Electors were designed to have and exercise a certain degree of discretion in the choice of individuals, is manifest not only in the care exercised to prevent concerted movements between the colleges, and in the provision by which no distinction was to be made in the votes for President and Vice-President, but also by the opinions frequently expressed in the volumes before us, that there would seldom be elections made by the Electors, by reason of the scattering of the votes, no single individual being likely very often to receive the suffrages of a majority of Electors. tice under the Constitution has not corresponded to any such design. The Electors have, for the most part, performed an office merely mechanical, which might be dispensed with entirely without essential injury to the instrument, simply by counting the votes of the majority of each State in the United States, as equal to the number of its Senators and Representatives in Congress, and then adding together these several numbers. Could the original idea have been executed, we
The pracWe now
should have much preferred it. But the effect of it would have been, vastly to increase the consequence of the Electoral Colleges, by imposing upon them an immense responsibility. Unluckily, it contemplated a sort of Saturnian reign, when men would cease to be more than moderately ambitious, when parties were not to contend with each other for the mere possession of power, and when the people would be more willing to give their confidence in advance to the agents selected by persons of their own choice, than they commonly prove to be. Such results were not destined to be among the materials of our experience, so far as we have yet learned it. The fourth election, held under the third article as it originally stood, convinced every one that it was not merely impracticable, but also dangerous. It was consequently amended into the shape in which it now stands. understand by the provision, that Electors are persons expected to have little or no discretion in performing their duty, but on the contrary, to do a prescribed act, with no greater advantage to the country than would follow, if the people were to do it themselves, unless it may be considered an advantage, that federal numbers give to the slaveholding States a greater relative weight in deciding the election, than they would enjoy if the votes of free white male citizens throughout the Union were to be counted. So far as the framers of the Constitution may have intended to raise up a check over the tendency to popular heats and violence in the election of President, they must be considered as having utterly failed.
It must, however, be admitted, that our experience of the effects of this important part of the Constitution, has been small in comparison with what it may be in future. It is far from improbable, that the difficulty of effecting any election by the Electors, may increase, with the spread of the country and the equality of local influence among many candidates, to so great an extent, as to make the House of Representatives in fact the Electoral College. Of the fatal effects of this upon the public morals, should it occur, who can doubt ? We will not, however, at this time, dwell upon a mere contingency, but rather pass on to a question more immediately interesting. We mean, that of the reëligibility of the President. No topic was more fully discussed in the Convention than this. The argument on both sides was pressed with acuteness and ability, and yet the decision was favorable to