Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4

[Volume 2, Page 293]

Document 11

George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

14, 16 June 1788Papers 3:1078, 1079

[14 June]

I have doubts on another point. The fifth section, of the first article, provides, "that each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may, in their judgment, require secrecy." This enables them to keep the negotiations about treaties secret. Under this veil they may conceal any thing and every thing. Why not insert words that would exclude ambiguity and danger? The words of the confederation, that defective system, are, in this respect, more eligible. What are they? In the last clause of the ninth article it provides, "that congress shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances, or military operations, as in their judgment require secrecy." The proceedings by that system are to be published monthly, except certain exceptions. These are proper guards. It is not so here. On the contrary they may conceal what they please. Instead of giving information, they will produce suspicion. You cannot discover the advocates of their iniquitous acts. This is an additional defect of responsibility. Neither house can adjourn without the consent of the other for more than three days. This is no parliamentary rule. It is untrodden ground, and appears to me liable to much exception.

[16 June]

The senators are chosen for six years. They are not recallable for those six years, and are re-eligible at the end of the six years. It stands on a very different ground from the confederation. By that system they were only elected for one year, might be recalled, and were incapable of reelection. But in the new constitution, instead of being elected for one, they are chosen for six years. They cannot be recalled in all that time for any misconduct, and at the end of that long term may again be elected. What will be the operation of this? Is it not probable, that those gentlemen who will be elected senators will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of our state? They will purchase a good seat in or near the town, and become inhabitants of that place. Will it not be then in the power of the senate to worry the house of representatives into any thing? They will be a continually existing body. They will exercise those machinations and contrivances, which the many have always to fear from the few. The house of representatives is the only check on the senate, with their enormous powers. But by that clause you give them the power of worrying the house of representatives into a compliance with any measure. The senators living at the spot will feel no inconvenience from long sessions, as they will vote themselves handsome pay, without incurring any additional expences. Your representatives [Volume 2, Page 294] are on a different ground, from their shorter continuance in office. The gentlemen from Georgia are six or seven hundred miles from home, and wish to go home. The senate taking advantage of this, by stopping the other house from adjourning, may worry them into any thing. These are my doubts, and I think the provision not consistent with the usual parliamentary modes.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 5, Clauses 1--4, Document 11
The University of Chicago Press

The Papers of George Mason, 1725--1792. Edited by Robert A. Rutland. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.

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