Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1

Document 11

Rufus King, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention

Jan. 1788Life 1:304--5

The time, place, and manner of electing Representatives must in the first instance be prescribed by the State Legislatures, but the Congress may make or alter the regulations on the subject: possibly Mr. Gerry may ground his objection upon this authority's being vested in Congress. We wish to submit our remarks on this clause to your candid consideration. We agree and have always contended that the people ought always to enjoy the exclusive right of appointing their Reps. but we also hold it an important principle, that as it is of consequence to the Freedom of the people that they should possess the right of Election, so it is essential to the preservation and existence of the Government, that the people should be bound to exercise it. For this reason in the Constitution of Massachussets not only the persons are clearly designated and their qualifications ascertained, who may vote for Representatives, but the Genl. Court have a right to compel the Electors to exercise their right of Election and thereby to preserve the Government from Dissolution.

If the time, place and manner of Electing Representatives to the General Court was left entirely to the several Towns in the commonwealth, and if the constitution gave no power to the Genl. Court to require and compel the towns to elect Representatives, there wd. be a manifest defect in the Constitution, which, agreeably to the Course of human affairs, might in a short period subvert the Government. Town after Town from disaffection or other motives might refuse to elect Representatives; counties and larger districts might combine against sending members to the General Court, and in this silent manner the Govt. might be wholly destroyed. If these remarks are just, as applying to this State and prove the propriety of vesting, as the Constitution has done, a power in the Genl. Court to compel the Electors to exercise their right of Election, they are equally just in Relation to Congress, and equally prove the propriety of vesting in that assembly a power to compel the Electors of the federal Representatives to exercise their rights, and for that purpose, if necessary, to make Regulations concerning the time, place and manner of electing members of the H. of Reps.

It may be said that the State Legislatures are more capable of regulating this Subject than the Congress; that Congress may fix improper places, inconvenient Times, and a manner of electing contrary to the usual practice of the several States. It is not a very probable supposition that a law of this nature shd. be enacted by Congress: but let the supposition be ever so probable, as applied to Congress, it is thirteen times more probable that some one of the States may make these inconvenient Regulations as that Congress should enact them. Congress will be interested to preserve the United States entire and to prevent a dismemberment. The individual States may some of them grow rich and powerful; and, as the great members of the antient Confederacies have heretofore done, they may be desirous of becoming wholly independent of the Union, and therefore may either omit to form any Regulations or Laws concerning the Time, place and manner of electing federal Rep. or they may fix on improper places, inconvenient Times, & a manner of electing wholly disagreeable to the people. Should either of these cases take place, and no power be vested in Congress to revise their Laws, or to provide other Regulations, the Union might be dismembered and dissolved without a constitutional power to prevent it. But this revisionary power being vested in Congress, the States will make wise and prudent regulations on the subject of Elections; they will do all that is necessary to keep up a Representation of the People, because they know that in case of omission the Congress will make the necessary provision for this Object. (R. Island was required by Cong. (and refused) to send delegates.)

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King. Edited by Charles R. King. 6 vols. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1894--1900.

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