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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 133 of 191)
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to a representative on that floor, there must be
fractions left in most of the States, larger in
some and smaller in others. This inequality,
however it might be regretted, had its cause in
the constitution itself. It had been so sensibly
felt when the ratio of representation was estab-
lished by the first Congress, that they had at-
tempted to remedy it by allowing to such of
the States as had very large residuary fraictions
an additional representative. The then Presi-
dent of the United States, General Washing-
ton, alter mature consideration, and after de-
taining the bill in his hands until the last day
allowed for his decision upon it, sent it back to
Congress with his veto, and the reasons of it;
which, were two, viz., that no common divisor
would give to the States the number of repre-
sentatives allowed them by the bill ; and that
the proposed number of representatives was
greater than one for every 30,000 ; and that,
therefore, the bill was unconstitutional. The
House had acquiesced in this construction, and
reported accordingly a new bill, the effect of
which was that each State lost its supernu-
merary fraction. This early exposition of the
constitution had been afterwards regarded as
settled, and had been acted on ever since. The,
constitution imposed but two limitations on
this matter : the one was, that no State should
have more representatives than one for every
30,000 inhabitants ; and, on the other hand,
that every State should be entitled to one rep-
resentative. The effect was that the greatest
number of representatives at this time could
be no more than 397 ; the smallest, 24. The
committee had recommended a number which
they considered a just medium between these
two extremes. It would give a House of such
dimensions, that, on the one hand, the people
would not be deprived of an adequate repre-
sentation, and, on the other, the numbers of



H. OF E.]

.Apportionment Bill.

[JANOAIIT, 1832.

members would not be such as to render the
House multitudinous, unwieldy, and incon-
venient. In 1790, the number fixed on as en-
titled to a representative had been 30,000 ; in
1800, 33,000 ; in 1810, 35,000 ; and in 1820,
40,000. The bill now reported proposed 48,000.
This was a greater augmentation than had
taken place in forty years. Looking to the
unavoidable inequality of the operation of any
ratio they could propose, the committee had
also considered the effect of various ratios in
leaving the unrepresented fractions in the dif-
ferent States ; and, after maturely considering
and comparing the difficulties, they had come
to the conclusion that 48,000 distributed the
fractions as equally among the States as any other
number which could be fixed upon. The ag-
gregate amount of all the fractions left by this
arrangement would be 547,483. The commit-
tee had had no criteria from which to judge to
what number of members the House would be
most likely to assent. There existed a variety
of opinions, whose advocates were in favor of
a House more or less numerous. If resort
should be had to experience, many were of
opinion that the number of the existing House
was quite large enough, and might very con-
veniently be continued. He had, himself, at
first, agreed in this opinion ; but he had subse-
quently been induced to coincide with a major-
ity of the committee in the opinion that there
ought to be"some proportion observed between
the increase and wide-spread population of the
country, and its representation in that House.

Mr. Craig, of Virginia, moved to amend the
bill by striking out the words "forty-eight"
wherever they occurred, so as to leave the
number blank.

Mr. Jaevis, of Maine, moved to amend the
amendment of Mr. CEAia, by inserting the
words " seventy-five," ■^hich was negatived.

The question now recurring on the motion
of Mr. Ceaig to strike out the words " forty-

The debate was now resumed with great
•spirit and animation, and was continued by the
following gentlemen: Messrs. Polk, Daniel,
Adams, Wiokliffe, Oeaig, Tatloe, Vinton,
and MoDuFFiB ; when

The Committee rose, and reported progress.

Mr. "WioKLiFFB moved that the Committee of
the Whole on the state of the Union be dis-
charged from the further consideration of the
bill, and that it be recommitted to the com-
mittee who had reported it, with instructions
to report it in blank ; but

The Spbakeh pronounced such a motion at
this time out of order, unless by the unanimous
consent of the House.

Whereupon, the House adjourned.

Thuesdat, January 12.
Colonizing Free Negroes.
Mr. Jenubb moved the following resolu-

Resolved, That a committee be appointed to in-
quire into the expediency oft making, an' appropria-
tion for the purpose of removing from the United
States and her territories, the free people of coloi!,
and colonizing them on the coast of Africa or else-

In supporting the resolution, Mr. Jenifee
observed that the State of Maryland was
deeply interested in the subject of the resolu-
tion, inasmuch as she possessed a greater actual
amount of the population referred to than any
other State in the Union. Virginia, he be-
lieved, stood next, in this respect ; and Dela-
ware, in proportion to her whole population,
had possibly stiU more than either. Maryland
felt severely the evils resulting from the pres-
ence of a population of this description ; and if
there existed within the power of the Govern-
ment a constitutional remedy, she believed it
ought to be applied for her relief. If there
was any subject in which that State might be
said to feel a more lively interest than in almost
any other, it was this. It was expedient, and
very desirable, that if any legislation took * '
place on this subject, it should be had at as
early a period as possible. The Legislatures of
several of the States were now in session, and
some of them would be looking to the General
Government for its co-operation. If, on delib- '
eration, it should be concluded that there was
no provision in the constitution, and no means
in the hands of the Government, then the
States would have to look to their own re- ■ ■
sources ; and they ought to know this as early
as practicable. He had proposed a Select Com-
mittee on this subject, only because there was
no standing committee to whom it seemed to

Mr. Speight said that the subject embraced
in the resolution was one of great importance,
and he wished the gentleman would consent to
defer the reference for a few days. It was one
on which he had himself received many com-
munications from his constituents, and he was
desirous that some further time might be
allowed him before any action of the House
was insisted upon. Mr. S. said be was in favor
of the policy which dictated the resolution,
and, could he be satisfied that the General
Government possessed the power referred to,
he should be very glad to see such a measure
adopted. He would suggest to the gentleman
from Maryland the expediency of postponing
the measure until Monday next. He wished
the gentleman distinctly to understand that he
was not against the resolution, but was in favor
of the principle contained in it.

Mr. Jenifee thereupon agreed to the post-

Wednesday, January 18.

Apportionment Bill.

The House then, on motion of Mr. Polk,

went into a Committee of the Whole on the

state of the Union, Mr. Hoffman in the chair,



January, 1832.]

AppvrHomment Bill.

[H. OF K.

and took up the apportionment bill. The ques-
tion was on the amendment moved by Mr.
HxiBBAED, to strike out 48,000, and insert
44,000, so as to make the latter the ratio.

Mr. DoiTBLBDAT Said that he rose merely to
correct a false impression that appeared to pre-
vail in respect to the fractions. If gentlemen
would investigate this subject, they would, per-
haps, find, they had less reason to complain of
the fractions left their respective States, than
they had supposed. They would then be pre-
pared to vote on principle, and we should find
less difficulty in passing a bill. He was not
partial to a ratio of 48,000 ; it would leave his
State a large fraction — a fraction of more than
41,000. But if even that number suited a maj
jority of the House, he presumed the State of
New York would not complain. We had
heard that Virginia and Maryland would have
large fractions by which they would suffer in-
justice. "Well, what ought to be their frac-
tions? At a ratio of 48, 000,. the aggregate of
fractions would be 547,483, which, divided
amongst the twenty-four States, would give an
average of 22,812. The fraction of Virginia
would be 21,843, and that of Maryland, 13,503.
Virginia would be favored about 1,000, and
Maryland about Y,000. These would be fa-
vored States. If gentlemen were determined
their States should have no fractions at all, or
even less than the average fractions, it would
be evident that no ratio whatever could unite
a majority of votes, and, of course, we could
not pass a hill.

Mr. Grennbll, of Massachusetts, was in
favor of the amendment which proposed to fix
the ratio of representation at 44,000. That
ratio would give a House of Representatives,
consisting of 259 members, and more numerous
by 46, than the present. In briefly assigning
the reasons for the vote he should give on this
question, it was not his purpose, he said, to call
the. attention, of the committee to any minute
calculation of the effect of various ratios.
Every practical calculation of that sort, on
ratios as high as 60,000, seemed to have been
laid before the House, and must be familiar to
the members.

Sir, said: Mr. G., I prefer the ratio proposed
by the amendment to any above it that has
been mentioned, in the bill, or in debate ; be-
cause it will not reduce the present number of
representatives on this floor from any State in
the Union. Nor will it, in my apprehension,
swell the numbers of this House to an incon-
venient size for the transaction of the public
business. I acknowledge myself an advocate
for a numerous House of Eepresentatives, as
being most consistent with the genius and de-
sign of this Government. Is it not constituted
to reflect the popular will ? But the perfection
of the representative principle is only found
where the public agents exhibit, most truly, the
sentiments, wishes, feelings, and interests of
.the whole people. This great object is most
completely attained by forming a numerous

House on a comparatively small ratio. On such
a body of representatives, the people will im^
press their own character. But the higher you
raise the ratio, the further you remove the
member from his constituents, from their int-«rr
course and sympathies, and the further you de-
part from the true principle of representation.
If this be so, said Mr. G., how can a body of
representatives be said to reflect the character
and will of the people, when, either from the
extent of their districts, or the great number
of their constituents, they can hardly be sup-
posed to understand their sentiments or inter-
ests ? On the other h~and, how, in such a state
of things, is the member to make known to
them, clearly and effectually, the measures, the
men, and the policy of their Government?
The representative stands, in some sort, be-
tween the Government and his constituents,
the medium of communication and action.
They desire to hold him to a fair responsibility
for his public acts. This necessary estrange-
ment, of which I speak, between members and
the people they may have been chosen to rep-
resent, will open the way for demagogues, by
arts and imposition, to excite the popular jeal-
ousy, and supplant the representative in their -
favor and confidence.

But, sir, I find some support for my position,
in the fact stated by my honorable colleague,
(Mr. Adams,) that the first House of Eepre-
sentatives under the constitution, which con-
sisted of 65 members, bore the same propor-
tion to the population of the country, which
the number given by the amendment to the bill
bears to our present population. I am glad to
find the coincidence ; for I love to revert to
that glorious period, and to the men of that
period. I fear we are fast departing from their
safe examples, and discarding their lessons of
political wisdom.

When the people accepted the constitution,
they supposed they discovered great security
for then- dear-bought rights, in the provision for
a body of representatives chosen by them-
selves. It was their chief hope. To them
alone were they willing to confide the power of
originating laws by which they were to be
taxed. No matter whence they derived the
hint for this wise and cautious provision, I
refer to the fact, simply as illustrating the pol-
icy of the people of that time, in constructing
that branch of the National Legislature, which,
by its members, issuing from among them-
selves, would alone be competent to carry out
their purposes, speak their language, sustain
their spirit, and embody their character. An-
other fact gives some testimony to the point in
question. By the constitution, 30,000 was es-
tablished as the first ratio of representation.
This was a startling feature. It was opposed in
many of the State conventions. In that of
Massachusetts, many considered 30,000 people
as too great a number to be represented by one
individual, But still it was finally judged that
the House of Eepresentatives, as it vas then



H. OF R.]

Apportionmeht Bill.

[Jandaky, 1832.

constituted, in numbers and in powers, might
be a just counterpoise to the Executive Depart-
ment of the Government. Sir, the people are
slow to change their sentiments of political ex-
pediency ; and I venture! the assertion, that the
same jealous care for a full popular representa-
tion still pervades the nation. And could the
sense of the people themselves be collected,. on
this momentous question, it would be decisive
in favor of it.

But, said Mr. G., a numerous popular repre-
sentation has not only been regarded, through
all our history, as a favorite feature of our re-
publican system, most consonant with its spirit
and design, and as most of all reflecting the
character of the country, but it must ever
remain the safest depository of power. It is a
common complaint, that the tendency of power,
in a free Government, is to the hands of a
few. If an aristocratic influence shall ever
arise, under any Administration of this Govern-
ment, here, in this Hall of the people's repre-
sentatives, must be found the remedy, the
counteracting power. Could a numerous House
ever be subjected to such control! Sir, it
would be detested and repelled by the charac-
teristic jealousy, independence, and firmness of
a popular representation. I see other reasons
for a rigid adherence to this cardinal principle
in our Government. The time may come when
Executive influence will be •brought to bear
upon this House, to awe it into subserviency,
or corrupt, its action. It may be attempted to
be exercised among the members, not, perhaps,
by direct assaults upon their integrity, but by
the arts, and flatteries, and favors which ambi-
tion knows so well how to employ. In such
times, where is the people's first reliance ? In
a small body of representatives? No, sir;
they would find safety in numbers.

Mr. Chairman, I am the more confirmed in
my opinion on this subject, when I consider
the great powers vested by the constitution and
laws in the Executive of this Government, and
fhe patronage in his power to bestow. Having
the power of nomination (which may, in some
future period, and with a subservient Senate,
be equivalent to the power of appointment) of
cabinet oflBoers, Ministers to foreign courts, of
officers in the army and the navy ; appoint-
ments to the almost countless offices and em-
ployments connected with the Indian Depart-
ment, and the sales of the public domain —
Holding, I say, this prodigious amount of patron-
age, would it be marvellous, if some Executive,
in future time, with a view to carry some fa-
vorite measure through a very limited Hou^e
of Eepresentatives, should dispense a share of
this patronage among the friends of its meas-
ures ? Would attempts like this ever be made
.to bring over the mEyority of a large House ?
Which could be, most easily bought up ? It
was intended by the constitution that power
should be so distributed among the several de-
partments of this Government, that no one
should ever acquire an undue weight and influ-

ence, and that neither' should be depressed.
But, sir, have we not, for years, witnessed an
undue accumulation of power in the hands of
the Executive, and in the Executive and Sen-
ate? The treaty-making power alone is of
amazing extent, in their possession. With, all its
train of incidental influences. And some have
feared that it might be attempted to be exer-
cised in derogation of the legislative power.
To guard as fat as possible against the abuse of
any or all of these powers, this country wants
the vigilance, firmness, and integrity, which
could be combined in a full and numerous
House of Eepresentatives. In every view,
therefore, a large House presents decided ad-
vantages ; and if my reasoning be not decep-
tive, is less liable to bad inflnences^-more safe
for the people, and for the constitution.

It has been sometimes asked by the advo-
cates of a small House, how we would limit
the numbers ; and what rule shall be adopted
for that purpose. Sir, I answer, as the popu-
lation of the country increases, I would en-
large the representation here until it should be
apparent that an additional number would pro-
duce embarrassment and inconvenience in legis-
lation. It should not be so large as to be un-
wieldy in action, nor yet so small as to reflect
imperfectly the character of the country. Has
any evil resulted from the increase of numbers
here ? What.is the experience of the country
on this subject? Is there in this House less
despatch of business, than in some earlier pe-
riods of the Government ? Less wise delibera-
tion? Less decorum of debate? Have the
sessions of Congress in late years been pjo-
tracted beyond the period occupied by them
when the numbers of this House were less?
If this were so, the reason would be found not
in the delay produced by excessive numbers
here, but in the new interests and multiplied
objects of legislation that are constantly rising
up throughout our widely extended country.

Mr. Chairman, I see and deprecate the ten-
dency, in this country, to adopt the habits,
manners, and sentiments of the old Govern-
ments of Europe. It becomes us to hold back,
to rest upon the republican plainness of our
national character, and the political doctrines
of earlier times. It would be strange', indeed,
if, while England and Prance, and the latter
under the guidance of the illustrious Lafayette,
are endeavoring to perfect their representative
systems, the people of this enlightened coun-
try should be found adopting a course of pol-
icy in reference to our own, illiberal and

Sir, I have expressed the wish that the ratio
which is to determine the representation here
for the next ten years should be such that each
State should retain at least its present number
on this floor. I will not deny that it would be
to me a matter of deep regret that the State
from which I come should be deprived of one
representative in Congress. Such will be the
case, if the ratio be fixed at forty-eight thou-



Januakt, 1882.]

Apportionment Sill.

[H. OF B,

Band. Is it expedient ? Is it wise to raise it so
high ? For Massaohusetts I ask no favor at the
hands of this Government. I only demand for
her justice. Nor will I, in advocating her
claims, refer the committee to her earlier his-
tory. No, sir, I would speak only of the re-
sources and the great interests of that com-
monwealth, as they stand connected with those
of our common country. And in any view
that I can take of this subject, I can discover
no national considerations that seem to demand
the sacrifice. But her people will acquiesce in
the decision. And though it may aifect her
political iniluence unfavorably, they will be
content to know that no untoward legislation
here can disturb the moral and social condition
by which they are distinguished, nor the wise
and liberal institutions which they cherish as
the fairest inheritance of their Puritan an-

Mr. Allan, of Kentucky, addressed the
House in opposition to the amendment. He
agreed iii -the sentiment expressed by the gen-
tleman from Massaohusetts, (Mr. Adams,) and
the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Mebcee,)
that the question before the House was one of
great importance ; but as to the number of
members which the House ought to contain, he
differed widely from them both. For their ex-
perience, learning, and matured wisdom, he
had long entertained the most profound regard ;
and to be obliged to oppose them, added to his
embarrassment on the present occasion. Thus
far the question had in general been treated as
one of purely an arbitrary nature, and sub-
jected to no certain rule. Two, however, of
the gentlemen from Massachusetts, had pro-
posed to lay down a rule, which he should now
proceed to examine. One of the gentlemen
(Mr. Adams) had reminded the House that the
first Congress contained but sixty-five mem-
bers, since which the population of the coun-
try had increased fourfold; and should the
number " 44 " be adopted, and its results pro-
duce a House of two hundred and fifty-nine
members^ there woijld be exactly the same in-
crease in the number of representatives as had
taken place in the number of the people.
From this statement of fact, Mr. A. said he i;[i-
ferred that the gentleman intended to lay down
this rule, that representation ought to increase
in proportion to the increase of population.
That was the gentleman's rule, and he invited
the House to examine its practical operation,
and the influence which, if adopted, it must
exert on the condition and even on the future
destinies of the country.

The House in forty years would h^ive grown
-from sixty-five to two hundred and fifty-nine
members. According to the same ratio of in-
crease, it must at the end of forty years more
■ contain more than one thousand members, and
in the course of a century the country would
possess an army of four thousand Congress-
men. Should such a principle, or any thing
■like it, prevail, he would ventm-e ;to pronounce:

it impossible to transmit our free institutions
to posterity. Congress now occupied a build-
ing three hundred and fifty feet in length, con-
taining one hundred rooms, and covering an
acre and three-quarters of ground ; but, on the
gentleman's principle, it would require a build-
ing covering ten acres.

The very experienced and learned gentleman
had advanced another argument in opposition
to the number forty-eight. It was, that four
of the States would lose, each, ofle representa-
tive; a result which would not only impair
their relative weight as States, but also that of
the respective sections of the Union to which
they belonged; and thus the balance which
now existed between different portions of the
country would be disturbed. From the prem-
ises laid down, he must say that the same
conclusion did not strike him. How was the
number of the House to be determined ? By
the ratio of representation adopted. But, sup-,
posing the number to be doubled — would that
alter the relative weight of the different States
on that floor? When two scales were equally
poised, should equal weights be added, or equal
weights subtracted from both, the balance
would not be in the least affected ; neither
would that of the Northern and Southern sec-
tions of the Union be altered should each lose
two representatives.

Mr. A- said he would not advocate a proppsi'-
tion to detract the smallest mite from the
weight of any one State, as their weight was
measured by the constitution. But he could
not think there was any thing in the result the
gentleman had stated, of importance sufficient
to justify so radical a movement as the addition,
of forty members, at once, to the members of
that House.

The gentleman from Virginia, in his usual
forcible and lucid manner, had commented on
the relation which this House sustained to*the
other branch of the Legislature, and to the
Executive Department, and had.argued to show

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 133 of 191)