Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1

Document 12

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, South Carolina House of Representatives

18 Jan. 1788Elliot 4:302--4

There will be no necessity, as the honorable gentleman has strangely supposed, for all the freeholders in the state to meet at Charleston to choose five members for the House of Representatives; for the State may be divided into five election districts, and the freeholders in each election district may choose one representative. These freeholders need not all meet at the same place in the district; they may ballot in their particular parishes and counties on the same day, and the ballots may be thence carried into a central part of the district, and opened at the same time; and whoever shall appear to have a majority of the votes of the freeholders of the whole district will be one of the five representatives for this state. But if any state should attempt to fix a very inconvenient time for the election, and name (agreeably to the ideas of the honorable gentleman) only one place in the state, or even one place in one of the five election districts, for the freeholders to assemble to vote, and the people should dislike this arrangement, they can petition the general government to redress this inconvenience, and to fix times and places of election of representatives in the state in a more convenient manner; for, as this house has a right to fix the times and places of election, in each parish and county, for the members of the House of Representatives of this state, so the general government has a similar right to fix the times and places of election, in each state, for the members of the general House of Representatives. Nor is there any real danger to be apprehended from the exercise of this power, as it cannot be supposed that any state will consent to fix the election at inconvenient seasons and places in any other state lest she herself should hereafter experience the same inconvenience; but it is absolutely necessary that Congress should have this superintending power, lest, by the intrigues of a ruling faction in a state, the members of the House of Representatives should not really represent the people of the state, and lest the same faction, through partial state views, should altogether refuse to send representatives of the people to the general government. The general government has not the same authority with regard to the members of the Senate. It would have been improper to have intrusted them with it; for such a power would, in some measure, have authorized them to fix the times and places when and where the state legislatures should convene, and would tend to destroy that necessary check which the general and state governments will have on each other. The honorable gentleman, as if he was determined to object to every part of the Constitution, though he does not approve of electing representatives immediately by the people, or at least cannot conceive how it is to be effected, yet objects to the constitution of the Senate, because the senators are to be elected by the state legislatures, and not immediately by the people. When the Constitution says the people shall elect, the gentleman cries out. "It is chimerical!--the election will be merely virtual." When the Constitution determines that the state legislatures are to elect, he exclaims, "The people's rights are invaded!--the election should be immediately by them, and not by their representatives." How, then, can we satisfy him, as he is determined to censure, in this Constitution, that mode of election which he so highly approves in the old Confederation? The reason why our present state Constitution, made in 1778, changed the mode of electing senators from the mode prescribed by our first constitution, passed in 1776, was because, by the first, the senators were elected by this house, and therefore, being their mere creatures, they could not be supposed to have that freedom of will as to form a proper check on its proceedings; whereas, in the general Constitution, the House of Representatives will be elected immediately by the people, and represent them and their personal rights individually; the Senate will be elected by the state legislatures, and represent the states in their political capacity; and thus each branch will form a proper and independent check on the other, and the legislative powers will be advantageously balanced.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1, Document 12
The University of Chicago Press

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

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