Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1

[Volume 2, Page 252]

Document 6


18 Dec. 1787Storing 4.10.10

By this Federal Constitution, each House is to be the judge, not only of the elections, and returns, but also of the qualifications of its members; and that, without any other rule than such as they themselves may prescribe. This power in Congress, I take to be equal to that of a negative on elections in general. And the freedom of elections being taken away, where is the security or liberty that is reserved to the citizens under this federal government? But as if this were a light thing, and the liberties of the people not sufficiently cramped by their election being thus exposed to a negative, at the pleasure of each House; the Congress are also vested with the power of prescribing, not only the times and manner of holding elections for Senators; but, the times, manner and places of holding elections for Representatives. There is undoubtedly, some interesting and important design in the Congress being, by the Constitution, thus particularly vested with this discretionary power of controuling elections. Will it be urged that, as to such particular times and places for holding elections as may be most convenient for the several States, the Congress will be more competent judges than the citizens themselves, or their respective legislatures? This, surely, will not be pretended. The end then of placing this power in the hands of the Congress, cannot have been, the greater convenience of the citizens who are interested and concerned in those elections. But whatever may have been the design, it is easy to see that a very interesting and important use may be made of this power; and I can conceive of but one reason why it should be vested in the Congress; particularly as it relates to the places of holding elections for Representatives. This power being vested in the Congress, may enable them, from time to time, to throw the elections into such particular parts of the several States where the dispositions of the people shall appear to be the most subservient to the wishes and views of that honourable body; or, where the interests of the major part of the members may be found to lie. Should it so happen (as it probably may) that the major part of the Members of Congress should be elected in, and near the seaport towns; there would, in that case, naturally arise strong inducements for fixing the places for holding elections in such towns, or within their vicinity. This would effectually exclude the distant parts of the several States, and the bulk of the landed interest, from an equal share in that government, in which they are deeply interested.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

Storing, Herbert J., ed. The Complete Anti-Federalist. 7 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

© 1987 by The University of Chicago
All rights reserved. Published 2000