Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER VI.

VI.-TWO CHAMBERS, OR THE SENATE AND HOUSE

OF REPRESENTATIVES.

It is generally admitted that the distribution of lawmakers into two chambers is beneficial. If the two chambers be composed of the same kind of men, elected in the same way, even then there are advantages to be derived from the legislative power being deposited in two distinct bodies of men. Legislation is delayed, and a chance given for more thorough investigation of the bills passed by both houses. When the approval of two distinct bodies of men is to be secured, a full, free discussion of the measures proposed is likely to arise, and thus precipitation avoided, and the people can be heard from for or against the measure

Small bodies are usually better for deliberation, and not subject to the sway of passion, as are large assemblies, but this objection to a single large chamber is obviated by the use of committees.

The utility of two chambers is demonstrated by the fact that constitutions of recent formation provide for two legislative bodies; and it is now almost universally admitted that two chambers do tend to prevent rash, hasty legislation, and to secure for the laws the endorsement of two distinct deliberative assemblies.

History furnishes us with accounts of the doings of second or higher chambers, corresponding with our

Senate, and their nature may be studied with profit. Rome had its Senate, Venice had its Council of Ten, Austria its Aulic Council, and England its House of Lords, while constitutions of more modern date usually provide for a second chamber, and form it of men of different qualifications from those who compose the first, or popular house. Thus, to the common advantages of a second chamber are added elements which represent the nation more fully and fairly than would even two bodies similarly composed.

The United States Senate was formed, not so much for the advantage of having a second chamber, as for preserving by it the equality of the States in the Federal Union. The Constitution speaks of the Representatives being elected “in” the States, but the Senators are said to be chosen "for” the States. The jealousy of State sovereignty runs through the entire Constitution, and, I may add, through the entire history of this nation. So jealously did the friends of State sovereignty guard the individuality of the States, that the Constitution forbids any amendment to be made depriving a State of its equal representation in the Senate.*

Moreover, the Senate was the department of the government which was viewed with peculiar favor by the Federal Convention. The friends of a strong government stopped not at the favors that the States rights party wished for the Senate, but Hamilton wished the tenure of the Senatorial office to be like that of the Federal judiciary-during good behavior, or what is the same thing, for life.

* Art, y.

A Representative need be only twenty-five years of age and seven years a citizen; a Senator, thirty years of age and nine years a citizen. The small States having obtained a defence from all aggression from the larger States, as well as the national government, by their equality in the Senate, which can by no amendment be changed, then yielded powers to the general government, which only a Senate representing States could have obtained.

The term of office being six years, giving stability and strength to the Senate, the judicial power to try all impeachments, a share in the executive power by its advice and consent in appointments, and the power to join in making and concluding treaties, by giving its advice and consent, show the superior confidence in which the people held that body. *

The interests of the States have been by it carefully guarded, while the good of the nation has not been neglected. Its treaties may have been unpopular, yet in time the people have usually approved of its

To our Senate, men are accustomed to look not so much for a body intent on guarding the interests of the States, as for a class of men distinguished for wisdom, patriotism and integrity. There Webster and Hayne discussed with equal zeal and earnestness the doctrine of nullification; Calhoun denied the surrender of sovereignty to the Federal government by the States or by the people; Clay expounded the powers of Congress, and Sumner plead for the rights of man. History has taught State pride and national honor alike to go to the Senate for their champions, and as the Roman Senate organized the forces that achieved the conquest of the world and was esteemed the corner stone of the Roman Republic, so our Senate, in the eyes of foreign nations, is held to be the most stable part of our government and the sole arbiter of foreign affairs. The Roman Senate was not composed of men elected by a popular vote, but of men chosen by the Censors. Every five years the censors revised the list of Senators, nor was the choice of Senators by the censors arbitrary. A line of promotion prepared men for the Senatorial order, and gave Rome her eminent statesmen. Let a man become eminent in the British House of Commons, and the Lords welcome him as a peer. Thus, nature's aristocracy in England protect and defend her hereditary aristocracy, and the Lords boast of their Eldons, Broughams and Pitts. Our Senators, being chosen by State Senators and Representatives, are honored and trusted by a class of men who are presumed to be acquainted with the men of ability and worth throughout the State.

measures.

* Art. i., sec. 3.

While mere popularity may secure for a man a seat in the House, the Senate is usually reached by qualities of a more solid nature.

The Representatives * are chosen “ by the people of the several States," and hold office for only two years. A vacancy in the House is filled by the tedious process of a writ of election issued by the State executive to the people of the unrepresented district, whereas a vacancy in the Senate is filled by an appointment by the Governor of the State until the Legislature thereof

* Art. i., sec.

« ZurückWeiter »