Article 1, Section 2, Clause 1
Address of General Assembly of New York to Lt. Governor George Clarke7 Sept. 1737J. Gen. Assembly Colony of New York 1:706--7 1764
Persons that are fairly and freely chosen, have only right to represent the People, and are most likely to do the most effectual, as well as the most acceptable Service to the Publick: Whereas those who have recourse to Frauds and unbecoming Arts, to procure themselves to be raised to those Stations, must be under the Government of narrow and selfish Views, unworthy any Representation of a free People, and will no doubt basely submit to the same detestable Measures, to continue themselves (by any Means) in the Exercise of a Trust unjustly acquired. It is by such as these, that the Liberties of the most free People have been in various Ages of the World, undermined and subverted: And it is to prevent this, as much as we may, that we gave Leave to bring in the Bill, for regulating of Elections.
The Mischief that is by it endeavoured to be prevented, has been but too generally practised, and the many Laws of that Kind, both in England and the Plantations, that have had the Royal Assent in different Reigns, proves that our Kings did not at any Time think, that Bills of that Nature, were Attempts upon their royal and just Prerogatives, but just and necessary to secure the Liberties of their Subjects; which it always was and ever will be their Honour, as well as their true Interest, to preserve and maintain.
As it is absolutely necessary in the Nature of Things, that Elections of Representatives should be free, otherwise they cannot with any Propriety of Speech be called Elections, so it seems equally necessary for the Safety of the People, that they should be frequent, for which Reason, we gave Leave to bring in a Bill for that Purpose.
No Government can be safe without proper Checks upon those intrusted with Power, and the wisest Governments where the Chief Magistrates were Elective, took especial Care, that it should not continue long, in the same Hands, Experience having taught them, that Men, how much so ever esteemed, had really not Virtue enough for so great a Trust, and generally used it ill when they had it.
The Experience of England has shewn, that long Parliaments have been dangerous to their Choosers, as well as to their Kings, and whatever Advantages may be hoped from any Set of Men properly disposed to come into particular Measures, the Success has seldom (if ever) answered the Expectation; for Men being Men, and as such changeable, according to the different Appearances of Things by which they have been affected; it has not seldom been found, that those very Men on whom was the greatest Dependence, have acted a quite contrary Part from what has been expected from them; and therefore in our Mother Country, frequent Parliaments, were antiently judged necessary to preserve that just Ballance of Power, without which, the State and Constitution it self could not long be preserved. This the Legislature of England saw, when they enacted trianeal Parliaments, and though for evident and good Reasons, that Term has been there since that Time prolonged, yet that they should be often elected, seems to be a Point agreed upon as a Thing in itself necessary. If it may be lawful to compare small Things with great, this Country has not been without its Uneasiness, at the long Continuance of an Assmbly; which your Honour found it necessary, for his Majesty's Honour and the Interest and Prosperity of the Province to dissolve; for doing of which, we in the Name of our Constituents return you our Thanks, and doubt not that above nineteen Twentieths of the People of this Colony, heartily join with us in doing so. By that Dissolution, you gave the Country an Opportunity of a new Choice, which they and the Assembly themselves, had long and earnestly desired, and often in vain attempted to procure. . . .
Though none can have more warm and hearty Affections for the Interest of our Country than we have, or would do more for its Service according to our Knowledge and Abilities; yet from what we have observed in others, we have some Reason to distrust ourselves, and fear a long Continuance in Assembly, will render us, as unfit to answer the Ends of our Choice, as it has done others before us. We doubt not from your late Conduct, that you have seen and observed the Inconvenience of long Assemblies, and are fully persuaded of the Necessity and Use of frequent Elections, as the most likely Way of inducing them to act as becomes them to do. Frequent Elections is what all our neighbouring Charter Governments enjoy, and the Benefits conceived to accrue by such a Constitution, has been the great, if not the only Cause of the superior Numbers of Inhabitants in those Colonies; and we believe the want of it, no small Inducement to Numbers of our own to remove; it has been a Constitution indulged to most of the King's Plantations in America, and (as we conceive) not found to be prejudicial to his Majesty's Service, or destructive of his just Prerogatives; and therefore, we hope your Honour's Assent to this Bill, will be readily given when it comes before you.
The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 2
The University of Chicago Press
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