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zens, remain within their own domestic walk, un- not exist, in the other sense it does exist, and is
The honorable gentleman from Massachusetts
H. OF R.]
[AUGUST, 1789. necessarily follows. I think the representative, men and public measures, whose voice, if we notwithstanding the insertion of these words, would descend to listen to it, would give would be at liberty to act as he pleased; if he de-knowledge superior to what could be acquirei clined to pursue such measures as he was directed amidst the cares and bustles of a public life ; let to attain, the people would have a right to refuse us then adopt the amendment, and encourage him their suffrages at a future election.
the diffident to enrich our stock of knowledge Now, though I do not believe the amendment with the treasure of their remarks and obserwould bind the representatives to obey the in- vations. structions, yet I think the people have a right Mr. Madison.-I think the committee acted both to instruct and bind them. Do gentlemen prudently in omitting to insert these words in the conceive that on any occasion instructions would report they have brought forward; if, unfortube so general as to proceed from all our constitu- nately, the attempt of proposing amendments ents? If they do, it is the sovereign will ; for gen-should prove abortive, it will not arise from the tlemen will not contend that the sovereign will want of a disposition in the friends of the Constipresides in the Legislature. The friends and pa- tution to do what is right with respect to securing trons of this Constitution have always declared the rights and privileges of the people of America, that the sovereignty resides in the people, and but from the difficulties arising from discussing that they do not part with it on any occasion; to and proposing abstract propositions, of which the say the sovereignty vests in the people, and that judgment may not be convinced.' I venture to they have not a right to instruct and control their say, that if we confine ourselves to an enumerarepresentatives, is absurd to the last degree. They tion of simple, acknowledged principles, the ratimust either give up their principle, or grant that fication will meet with but little diffeulty. the people have a right to exercise their sove- Amendments of a doubtful nature will have a reignty to control the whole Government, as well tendency to prejudice the whole system; the proas this branch of it. But the amendment does position now suggested partakes highly of this not carry the principle to such an extent, it only nature. It is doubted by many gentlemen bere; declares the right of the people to send instruc- it has been objected to in intelligent publications tions; the representative will, if he thinks proper, throughout the Union; it is doubted by many communicate his instructions to the House, but members of the State Legislatures. In one sense how far they shall operate on his conduct, he will this declaration is true, in many others it is cerjudge for himself.
tainly not true; in the sense in which it is true. The honorable gentleman from Georgia (Mr. we have asserted the right sufficiently in what Jackson) supposes that instructions will tend to we have done; if we mean nothing more than generate factions in this House; but he did not this, that the people have a right to express and see how it could have that effect, any more than communicate their sentiments and wishes, we the freedom of debate had. If the representative have provided for it already. The right of freeentertains the same opinion with his constituents, dom of speech is secured; the liberty of the press he will decide with them in favor of the measure is expressly declared to be beyond the reach of if other gentlemen, who are not instructed on this this Government; the people may therefore pube point, are convinced by argument that the mea- licly address their representatives, may privately sure is proper, they will also vote with them; advise them, or declare their sentiments by petic consequently, the influence of debate and of in- tion to the whole body; in all these ways they struction is the same.
may communicate their will. If gentlemen mean The gentleman says further, that the people to go further, and to say that the people have a have the right of instructing their representatives; right to instruct their representatives in such a if so, why
not declare it? Does he mean that it sense as that the delegates are obliged to conform shall lie dormant and never be exercised? If so, to those instructions, the declaration is not true may result
from a declaration in the Constitution vote, to violate the Constitntion ; is he at liber be encouraged to come forward with their instructed to patronise certain measures
, and from formation for the Legislature. We cannot, I ap-stituents, he is convinced that they will endange prehend, be too well informed of the true state
, the public good ; is he obliged to sacrifice
his dire condition, and sentiment of our constituents, and judgment to them? Is he absolutely bound be taining information. I hope we shall
never shut refuses, will his vote be the less valid, or the content derived from the petitions and instructions of our is due to the laws of the Union ? If his vote maps think that all the wisdom of this country is con- right is this in the Constitution, to instructia de unambitious of distinctions from their fellow-ciri- order, if the pleases 2 a In this sense the right des heard of and unseen, possessing all the advantages provided largely for. resulting from a watchful observance of public
Amendments to the Constitution.
[H. OF R
asks if the sovereignty is not with the people at at large are not authorized under it to vote upon large. Does he inter that the people can, in de the law, nor did I ever hear that any man required tached bodies, contravene an act established by it. Why, then, are we called upon to propose the whole people? My idea of the sovereignty amendments subversive of the principles of the of the people is, that the people can change the Constitution, which were never desired ? Constitution if they please; but while the Consti Several members now called for the question, tution exists, they must conform themselves to its and the Chairman being about to put the same: dictates. But I do not believe that the inhabitants Mr. GERRY.—Gentlemen seem in a great hurry of any district can speak the voice of the people; to get this business through. I think, Mr. Chairso far from it, their ideas may contradict the sense man, it requires a further discussion; for my part, of the whole people; hence the consequence that I had rather do less business and do it well
, than instructions are binding on the representative is precipitate measures before they are fully unof a doubtful, if not a dangerous nature. I do not derstood. conceive, therefore, that it is necessary to agree The honorable gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. to the proposition now made; so far as any real Madison) stated that if the proposed amendments good is to arise from it, so far that real good is pro- are defeated, it will be by the delay attending the vided for; so far as it is of a doubtful nature, so discussion of doubtful propositions; and he defar it obliges us to run the risk of losing the whole clares this to partake of that quality. It is natural, system.
sir, for us to be fond of our own work. We do Mr. Smith, of South Carolina.--I am opposed not like to see it disfigured by other hands. That to this motion, because I conceive it will operate honorable gentleman brought forward a string of as a partial inconvenience to the more distant propositions; among them was the clause now States. If every member is to be bound by in- proposed to be amended: he is no doubt ready for structions how to vote, what are gentlemen from the question, and determined not to admit what the extremities of the continent to do? Members we think an improvement. The gentlemen who from the neighboring States can obtain their in- were on the committee, and brought in the report, structions earlier than those from the Southern have considered the subject, and are also ripe for ones, and I presume that particular instructions a decision. But other gentlemen may crave a will be necessary for particular measures; of con- like indulgence. Is not the report before us for sequence, we vote perhaps against instructions on deliberation and discussion, and to obtain the sense their way to us, or we must decline voting at all. of the House upon it; and will not 'gentlemen But what is the necessity of having a numerous allow us a day or two for these purposes, after they representation? One member from a State can have forced us to proceed upon them at this time? receive the instructions, and by his vote answer I appeal to their candor and good sense on the all the purposes of many, provided his vote is occasion, and am sure not to be refused; and I allowed to count for the proportion the State ought must inform them now, that they may not be surto send; in this way the business might be done prised hereafter, that I wish all the amendments at a less expense than having one or two hundred proposed by the respective States to be considered. members in the House, which had been strongly Gentlemen say it is necessary to finish the subject, contended for yesterday.
in order to reconcile a number of our fellow-citiMr. Stone. I think the clause would change zens to the Government. If this is their principle, the Government entirely; instead of being a Go- they ought to consider the wishes and intentions vernment founded upon representation, it would which the convention has expressed for them; if be a democracy of singular properties.
they do this, they will find that they expect and I differ from the gentleman from Virginia, wish for the declaration proposed by the honorable (Mr. Madison,) if he thinks this clause would gentleman over the way, (Mr. Tucker,) and, of not bind the representative; in my opinion, it consequence, they ought to agree to it; and why would bind him effectually, and I venture to assert, it, with others recommended in the same way, without diffidence, that any law passed by the Le- were not reported, I cannot pretend to say; the gislature would be of no force, if a majority of committee know this best themselves. the members of this House were instructed to the The honorable gentleman near me (Mr. STONE) contrary, provided the amendment became part says, that the laws passed contrary to instruction of the Constitution. What would follow from will be nugatory. And other gentlemen ask, if this? Instead of looking in the code of laws their constituents instruct them to violate the passed by Congress, your Judiciary would have to Constitution, whether they must do it. Sir, does collect and examine the instructions from the not the Constitution declare that all laws passed various parts of the Union. It follows very clearly by Congress are paramount to the laws and confrom hence, that the Government would be altered stitutions of the several States. If our decrees are from a representative one to a democracy, where- of such force as to set aside the State laws and in all laws are made immediately by the voice of constitutions, certainly they may be repugnant to the people.
any instructions whatever, without being injured This is a power not to be found in any part of thereby. But can we conceive that our conthe earth except among the Swiss cantons; there stituents would be so absurd as to instruct us to the body of the people vote upon the laws, and violate our oath, and act directly contrary to the give instructions to their delegates. But here we principles of a Government ordained by themhave a different form of Government; the people I selves? We must look upon them to be abso
H. OF R.)
[AUGUST, 1780 lutely abandoned and false to their own interests, or seven time on a question ? I wish, sir, this to suppose them capable of giving such instruc-subject discussed coolly and dispassionately, bat tions.
hope we shall have no more reiterations or tedious If this amendment is introduced into the Con- discussions ; let gentiemen try to expedite public stitution, I do not think we shall be much troubled business, and their arguments will be conducted in with instructions ; a knowledge of the right will a laconic and consistent manner. As to the busioperate to check ́a spirit that would render in-ness of instruction, I look upon it as inconsistent struction necessary.
with the general good. Suppose our constituents The honorable gentleman from Virginia asked, were to instruct us to make paper money; na will not the affirmative of a member who votes gentleman pretends to say it would be unconstirepugnant to his instructions bind the community tutional, yet every honest mind must shudder at as much as the votes of those who conform the thought. How can we then assert that is There is no doubt, sir, but it will; but does this structions ought to bind us in all cases not contend to show that the constituent has no right to trary to the Constitution ? instruct? Surely not. I admit, sir, that instruc Mr. LIVERMORE was not very anxious whether tions contrary to the Constitution ought not to the words were inserted or not, but he had a great bind, though the sovereignty resides in the people. deal of doubt on the meaning of this whole amend
The honorable gentleman acknowledges that the ment; it provides that the people may meet and sovereignty vests there; if so, it may exercise its consult for the common good. Does this mean a will in any case not inconsistent with a previous part of the people in a township or district
, or does contract. The same gentleman asks if we are to it mean the representatives in the State Legisgive the power to the people in detached bodies latures? If it means the latter, there is no occato contravene the Government while it exists. sion for a provision that the Legislature may inCertainly not; nor does the proposed proposition struct the members of this body. extend to that point; it is only intended to open In some States the representatives are chosen for them a convenient mode in which they may by districts. In such case, perhaps, the instrueconvey their sense to their agents. The gentle- tions may be considered as coming from the disman therefore takes for granted what is inadmis- trict; but in other States, each representative is sible, that Congress will always be doing illegal chosen by the whole people. In New Hampshire things, and make it necessary for the sovereign to it is the case ; the instructions of any particular declare its pleasure.
place would have but little weight, but a LegislaHe says the people have a right to alter the tive instruction would have considerable influence Constitution, but they have no
right to oppose the upon each representative. If, therefore, the words Government. if, while the Government exists
, mean that the Legislature may instruct
, he prethey have no right to control it, it appears they sumed it would have considerable effect
, though have divested themselves of the sovereignty over he did not believe it binding. Indeed, he was in: the Constitution. Therefore, our language, with clined to pay a deference to any information he our principles, must change, and we ought to say might receive from any number of gentlemen, that the sovereignty existed in the people previous even by a private letter'; but as for full binding to the establishment of this Government. This force, no instructions contained that quality
. will be ground for alarm indeed, if it is true; They could not, and ought not to have it, because but I trust, sir, too much to the good sense of different parties pursue different measures; and it my fellow-citizens ever to believe that the doc- might be expedient, nay, absolutely necessary, to trine will generally obtain in this country of sacrifice them in mutual concessions. freedom.
The doctrine of instructions would hold better Mr. Vining.-If
, Mr. Chairman, there appears in England than here, because the boroughs and on one side too great an urgency to despatch this corporations might have an interest to pursue business, there appears on the other an unneces- totally immaterial to the rest of the Kingdom; in sary delay and procrastination equally improper that case, it would be prudent to instruct their and unpardonable. I think this business has been members in Parliament. already well considered by the House, and every Mr. GERRY wished the Constitution amended gentleman in it; however, I am not for an un- without his having any hand
in it; but if he mas seemly expedition.
interfere, he would do his duty. The honorable The gentleman last up has insinuated a reflec- gentleman from Delaware had given him an ex tion upon the committee for not reporting all the ample of moderation and laconic and consistent amendments proposed by some of the State
con- debate that he meant to follow; and would just ventions. I can assign a reason for this. The observe to the worthy gentleman last up, that sex committee conceived some of them superfluous or eral States had proposed the amendment, and dangerous, and found many of them so contradic- among the rest New Hampshire. tory that it was impossible to make any thing of There was one remark which escaped him them; and this is a circumstance the gentleman when he was up before. The gentleman front Is it not inconsistent in that honorable member ment would
change the nature of the Governing day reiterating the same train of arguments, and always
heard that it was a democracy; but per demanding the attention of this
body by rising six haps he was misled, and the honorable gentleman
Amendments to the Constitution.
was right in distinguishing it by some other ap- | was an absolute necessity for adopting the amendpellation; perhaps an aristocracy was a term bet-ment. It was stricily compatible with the spirit ter adapted to it.
and the nature of the Government; all power vests Mr. SEDGWICK opposed the idea of the gentle in the people of the United States; it is, therefore, man from New Hampshire, that the State Legis- a Government of the people, a democracy. If it lature had the power of instructing the members were consistent with the peace and tranquilliof this House ; he looked upon it as a subornation ty of the inhabitants, every freeman would have a of the rights of the people to admit such an au- right to come and give his vote upon the law; but, thority. We stand not here, said he, the repre- inasmuch as this cannot be done by reason of sentatives of the State Legislatures, as under the the extent of territory, and some other causes, the former Congress, but as the representatives of the people have agreed that their representatives shall great body of the people. The sovereignty, the exercise a part of their authority. To pretend to independence, and the rights of the States are in- refuse them the power of instructing their agents, tended to be guarded by the Senate; if we are to appears to me to deny them a right. One gentlebe viewed in any other light, the greatest security man asks how the instructions are to be collected. the people have for their rights and privileges is Many parts of this country have been in the prac. destroyed.
tice of instructing their representatives; they But with respect to instructions, it is well wor- found no difficulty in communicating their sense. thy of consideration how they are to be procured. Another gentleman asks if they were to instruct It is not the opinion of an individual that is to us to make paper money, what we would do. I control my conduct; I consider myself as the rep- would tell them, said he, it was unconstitutional; resentative of the whole Union. An individual alter that, and we will consider on the point. Unmay give me information, but his sentiments may less laws are made satisfactory to the people, they be in opposition to the sense of the majority of will lose their support, they will be abused or done the people. If instructions are to be of any effi- away; this tends to destroy the efficiency of the cacy, they must speak the sense of the majority of Government. the people, at least of a State. In a State so large It is the sense of several of the conventions as Massachusetts it will behoove gentlemen to that this amendment should take place; I think consider how the sense of the majority of the it my duty to support it, and fear it will spread freemen is to be obtained and communicated. Let an alarm among our constituents if we decline to us take care to avoid the insertion of crude and do it. undigested propositions, more likely to produce Mr. Wadsworth.-Instructions have frequentacrimony than that spirit of harmony which we ly been given to the representatives of the United ought to cultivate.
States; but the people did not claim as a right Mr. LIVERMORE said that he did not understand that they should have any obligation upon the repthe honorable gentleman, or was not understood resentatives; it is not right that they should. In by him; he did not presume peremptorily to say troublesome times, designing men have drawn the what degree of influence the Legislative instruc- people to instructthe representatives to their harm; tions would have on a representative. He knew the representatives have, on such occasions, refusit was not the thing in contemplation here; and ed to comply with their instructions. I have what he had said respected only the influence it known, myself, that they have been disobeyed, would have on his private judgment.
and yet the representative was not brought to acMr. Ames said there would be a very great in-count for it; on the contrary, he was caressed and convenience attending the establishment of the re-elected, while those who have obeyed them, doctrine contended for by his colleague. Those contrary to their private sentiments, have ever States which had selected their members by dis- after been despised for it. Now, if people contricts would have no right to give them instruc- sidered it an inherent right in them to instruct tions, consequently the members ought to with their representatives, they would have undoubtdraw; in which case the House might be reduced edly punished the violation of them. I have no below a majority, and not be able, according to idea of instructions, unless they are obeyed ; a disthe Constitution, to do any business at all. cretional power is incompatible with them.
According to the doctrine of the gentleman The honorable gentleman who was up last says, from New Hampshire, one part of the Govern- if he were instructed to make paper money, he ment would be annihilated; for of what avail is it would tell his constituents it was unconstitutional. that the people have the appointment of a repre- I believe that is not the case, for this body would sentative, if he is to pay obedience to the dictates have a right to make paper money; but if my of another body ?
constituents were to instruct me to vote for such Several members now rose and called for the a measure, I would disobey them, let the consequestion.
quence be what it would. Mr. Page was sorry to see gentlemen so impa- Mr. SUMTER.—The honorable gentlemen who tient; the more so, as he saw there was very little are opposed to the motion of my colleague, do not attention paid to any thing that was said ; but he treat it fairly. They suppose that it is meant to would express his sentiments if he was only heard bind the representative to conform to his instrucby the Chair. He discovered clearly, notwith- tions. The mover of this question, I presume to standing what had been observed by the most in- say, has no such thing in idea. That they shall genious supporters of the opposition, that there notice them and obey them, as far as is consistent
H. OP R.]
[AUGEST, 1799 and proper, may be very just; perhaps they ought pursued in bringing them forward. There was a to produce them to the House, and let them have committee of eleven appointed; and out of the as much influence as they deserve; nothing fur- number I think there were five who were menther, I believe, is contended for.
bers of the convention that formed the ConstituI rose on this occasion, not so much to make tion. Such gentlemen, having already given any observations upon the point immediately their opinion with respect to the perfection of the under consideration, as to beg the committee to work, may be thought improper agents to bring consider the consequences that may result from forward amendments. Upon the whole
, I think an undue precipitancy and hurry. Nothing can it will be found that we have done nothing but distress me more than to be obliged to notice lose our time, and that it will be better to drop the what I conceive to be somewhat improper in the subject now, and proceed to the organization of conduct of so respectable a body. Gentlemen the Government. will reflect how difficult it is to remove error Mr. SINNICKSON inquired of Mr. Chairman
, when once the passions are engaged in the dis- what was the question before the committee
, for cussion ; temper and coolress are necessary to really the debate had become so desultery, as to complete what must be the work of time. It can- induce him to think it was lost sight of altogether
. not be denied but that the present Constitution is Mr. LAWRENCE was averse to entering on the imperfect; we must, therefore, take time to im- business at first; but since they had proceeded so prove it. If gentlemen are pressed for want of far, he hoped they would finish it." He said, if time, and are disposed to adjourn the session of gentlemen would confine themselves to the quesCongress at a very early period, we had better tion when they were speaking, that the business drop the subject of amendments, and leave it until might be done in a more agreeable manner. He we have more leisure to consider and do the busi- was against the amendment proposed by the genness effectually. For my part, I would rather sit tleman from South Carolina, (Mr. Tocker.) be till this day twelvemonth, than have this all-im-cause every member on this floor ought to conportant subject inconsiderately passed over. The sider himself the representative of the whole people have already complained that the adoption Union, and not of the particular district which of the Constitution was done in too hasty a man- had chosen him; as their decisions were to bind ner; what will they say of us if we press the every individual of the confederated States, it was amendments with so much haste?
wrong to be guided by the voice of a single disMr. Burke. It has been asserted, Mr. Chair-trict, whose interests might happen to clash with man, that the people of America do not require those of the general good; and unless instructions this right. I beg leave to ask the gentleman
from were to be considered as binding, they were alioMassachusetts, whether the Constitution of that gether superfluous. State does not recognise that right, and the gen Mr. MADISON was unwilling to take up any tleman from Maryland, whether their
declaration more of the time of the committee ; but, on the of rights does not expressly secure it to the inhabi- other hand, he was not willing to be silent after tants of that State?' These circumstances, added the charges that had been
brought against the to what has been proposed by the State conven- committee, and the gentleman who introduced tions as amendments to this Constitution, pretty the amendments, by the honorable members of plainly declare the sense of the people to be in each side of him, (Messrs. Sumter and Burke. favor of securing to themselves and to their
pos- Those gentlemen say that we are precipitating Mr. Seney said that the declaration of rights | acting with candor. I appeal to the gentlemen prefixed to the Constitution of Maryland secured who have heard the voice of their country to to every man a right of petitioning the Legisla- those who have attended the debates of the State ture for a redress of grievances, in a peaceable and conventions, whether the amendments now phone orderly
manner. Mr. Burke. I am not positive with respect to the opponents of the Constitution? It was wide the particular expression in the declaration of ed that some security should be given for those tutions of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and
North | taught to believe were in danger. I concurred. Carolina, all of them recognise, in express terms, in the convention of Virginia,
with those gentle the right of the people to give instruction to their men, so far as to agree to a declaration of the representatives
. "I do not mean to insist particu- righis which corresponded with my own jadi satisfied that those that are reported and likely to honor to bring forward before the present Colle be adopted by this House are very far
from giving gress
! I appeal to the gentlemen on this floor when those solid and substantial amendments which the liher those proposed are
not compatible with what syllabub, frothy and full of wind, formed only to people been told that the rights of conscience, the out to a whale, to secure the freight of the ship trial by jury,
were in jeopardy ? that they cousing and its peaceable voyage. In my judgment, the not to adopt the Constitution until those importa people will not be gratified by the mode we have ant rights were secured to them ?