CHAPTER 12|Document 7
One of the People23 Nov. 1776Pennsylvania Evening Post
But these wise patriots, that are (as they pretend) for no unnecessary alterations in our old form of government, have never in all their papers and proposals left their favourite innovation out of sight. A Legislative Council is their hobby horse. Something like a House of Lords they will have, where wisdom will forever reign. For in the fourth direction, the Representatives are instructed to use their endeavours to divide the supreme legislative power in such a manner as shall produce wise, just, and well digested counsels, and thus secure the state from the fatal influence of hasty, incorrect, passionate and prejudiced determinations. That is, let us have a Legislative Council for the better sort--an Upper and Lower House like some of our neighbours; that this wise Upper House, consisting of choice spirits, all sons of Solon and Lycurgus, may secure the state from the fatal influence of hasty, incorrect, passionate and prejudiced determinations, which is all we can reasonably expect from the Lower House, consisting chiefly of farmers and mechanics, while we in the other House will be famed for wise, prudent, just and well judged counsels.
But let it be remembered that we can expect no good, but tyranny and confusion from this Council.
Where could we more reasonably expect wise and well digested counsels than in the British House of Lords? There they have the dignitaries of the church, and the hereditary wisdom of all the nobility. With these Lords Spiritual and Temporal, the Judges of the kingdom are gravely seated on their wool packs, to contribute their share of jurisprudence and wisdom. Yet these demy gods were never counted wiser, nor more favorable to liberty than the House of Commons. Until that venerable body was ruined by bribery and corruption, they were the most respectable branch of that admired Constitution. They were brave, prudent and eloquent, they were the guardians of liberty, the glory of Britain, and an honor to mankind; the Upper House oft gave them trouble; but seldom prevented them from taking wrong measures; for it must be confessed that they were men, and have sometimes gone astray.
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But if we had once got this Legislative Council established, which is to be famous for wisdom and well digested counsels, what struggles will be made to get a seat amongst them? For who would bear to sit in the Lower House, to share their ignominy, and to be teazed and harrassed with their hasty, incorrect, passionate, and prejudiced determinations? But may we not in time expect that these sons of wisdom will think it hard to submit to yearly elections by the ignorant vulgar? Will they not make a bold push to hold their seats for three or seven years, or even during life, as their wise predecessors in the House of Lords? And will they not make a push for places and pensions to support their dignity? If the Lower House opposes their measures, they will be reproached for their passion and prejudice, and be told that they were not chosen to check or dictate to them, but to be led and guided by their betters, the Upper House. If the Lower House can be brought to listen to the wisdom of their lordly masters, we have done with annual elections. They will be triennial or septennial, and every leader must have a place of honor, or profit, or an annuity for life for betraying the state. It may be said, that there is no danger of these evils. But we know that what has happened in Britain may happen in America. Power is encroaching, and deaf to the cries of humanity, and regardless of the rights of mankind.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago