Front Page Titles (by Subject) Speech on Choosing the Members of the Senate by Electors; Delivered, on the 31st December, 1789, in the Convention of Pennsylvania, Assembled for the Purpose of Reviewing, Altering, and Amending the Constitution of the State. a - Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1
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Speech on Choosing the Members of the Senate by Electors; Delivered, on the 31st December, 1789, in the Convention of Pennsylvania, Assembled for the Purpose of Reviewing, Altering, and Amending the Constitution of the State. a - James Wilson, Collected Works of James Wilson, vol. 1 
Collected Works of James Wilson, edited by Kermit L. Hall and Mark David Hall, with an Introduction by Kermit L. Hall, and a Bibliographical Essay by Mark David Hall, collected by Maynard Garrison (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007). Vol. 1.
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The Introduction, Collector’s Foreword, Collector’s Acknowledgments, Annotations, Bibliographical Essay are the copyright of Liberty Fund 2007. The Bibliographical Glossary in volume 2 is reprinted by permission of the copyright holders the President and Fellows of Harvard College 1967.
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Speech on Choosing the Members of the Senate by Electors; Delivered, on the 31st December, 1789, in the Convention of Pennsylvania, Assembled for the Purpose of Reviewing, Altering, and Amending the Constitution of the State.a
Well assured I am, that the subject now before the convention must appear to honourable members, for whom I have much regard, under an aspect very different from that, in which it makes its approaches to me. Indeed it has not always appeared to myself in precisely the same light, in which I now view it. One reason may be, that I have not formerly been accustomed to contemplate it from the point of sight, at which I now stand, and from which it is my duty, enjoined by the strongest ties, to make the most attentive and accurate observations. I have considered it as a subject of speculative discussion. I have taken of it such a slight and general survey, as one person would take of the estate of another, without any expectation that it, or one similar to it, would ever become his own. On such a vague and superficial examination, I have not studied or investigated its inconveniences or defects.
The very respectable senate of Maryland, chosen by electors, furnishes with letters of recommendation every institution, to which it bears even a distant resemblance. The moderation, the firmness, the wisdom, and the consistency, which have characterized the proceedings of that body, have been of signal benefit to the state, of whose government it forms a part; and have been the theme of just applause in her sister states. It is by no means surprising, that a favourable opinion has been entertained concerning the principles and manner of its constitution.
But now that the question relative to those points comes before us, in the discharge of our high trust, we must devest ourselves of every prepossession, which we may have hitherto indulged; and must scrutinize the subject closely, strictly, deeply, and minutely. It is incumbent upon us to weigh well, 1. Whether the qualities, that so deservedly appreciate the senate of Maryland, may not be secured to a senate, formed and organized upon very different and more eligible principles. 2. Whether the principles, upon which that senate has been formed and organized, are applicable to the plan laid before the convention.
It is admitted, on one side, that the electors should be chosen by the same persons, by whom it is contended, on the other side, that the senators should be chosen. The only question, then, is, whether an intermediate grade of persons, called electors, should be introduced between the senators and the people.
I beg leave to state to the house the light, in which this subject has appeared to me, on an examination which I may venture to style attentive; and to make some remarks, naturally resulting, in my opinion, from the views I have taken of it on different sides.
When I am called upon to appoint other persons to make laws for me, I do it because such an appointment is of absolute necessity; for the citizens of Pennsylvania can neither assemble nor deliberate together in one place. When I reflect, that the laws which are to be made may affect my own life, my own liberty, my own property, and the lives, liberties, properties, and prospects of others likewise, who are dearest to me, I consider the trust, which I place in those for whom I vote to be legislators, as the greatest that one man can, in the course of the business of life, repose in another. I know none, indeed, that can be greater, except that, with which the members of this convention are now honoured; and which happens not but once, and often not once, in the successive revolutions of numerous centuries. But I console myself, that the same trust, which is committed by me, is also committed by others, who are as deeply interested in its exercise as I am. I console myself further, that those, to whom this trust is committed, are the immediate choice of myself, and of those others equally interested with myself.
But, by the plan before you, I am now called upon to delegate this trust in a manner, and to transfer it to a distance, which I have never experienced before—I am called upon, not to appoint legislators of my own choice, but to impower others to appoint whomsoever they shall think proper, to be legislators over me, and over those nearest to me in the different relations of life—I am called upon to do this, not only for myself, but for thousands of my constituents, who have confided to me their interests and rights in this convention.—I am called upon to do this for my constituents, and for myself, for the avowed purpose of introducing a choice, different from that which they or I would make. I say different; because, if the people and the electors would choose the same senators, there cannot be even a shadow of pretence for acting by the nugatory intervention of electors. I am called upon to do this, not only for the purpose of introducing a choice of senators different from that which the people would make; but for the additional purpose of introducing a new state of things and relations hitherto unknown between the people and their legislators. On the principles of representation, as hitherto understood and practised, there was a trust, and one of the most intimate and important kind, between the people and their representatives, and a responsibility of the latter to the former. On the plan reported, that trust and that responsibility will certainly be weakened: it is doubtful whether they will not be wholly destroyed. Can a trust subsist without some mutual agreement or consent? Can responsibility, resulting from an election, operate in behalf of those who do not choose? Suppose one of the citizens, who chose an elector, who chose a senator, to expostulate with that senator concerning some part of his senatorial conduct; might not the senator retort upon him—Sir, I know not you in this business: I was not chosen a senator by you: I was chosen by——. To them I am ready to account for what I have done. You chose them my electors: if any thing is amiss, you will please to look to them for satisfaction. For, give me leave to tell you, that I know not you nor the other people of your district in my conduct as a senator: neither you nor they chose me. The constitution, sir, supposes that neither they nor you would have chosen me, if you had been indulged with a choice; for the constitution supposes an election made by electors to be very different indeed from that which would be made by the people.—What answer could be made to this?
But if this must be styled a trust, it is certainly one of a new and of a very extraordinary nature. It may subsist not only without the will or knowledge of those from whom it originates; but, on the principles of this plan, it may subsist against their will declared in the most publick and explicit manner. Suppose a senator to behave altogether to the dissatisfaction of a district, for which he is appointed: suppose the people unanimously inclined to remove him at the next election. Can they do it? No. Suppose them to give the most unequivocal instructions to the electors for this purpose: the electors may choose him, the instructions notwithstanding: and the senator may brave them and tell them that he will legislate for them, and make them feel all the effects of his legislative power, in spite of their unavailing efforts to the contrary.
Sir, I will consider well—I will ponder long—before I consent that legislators be introduced in a shape so very questionable. I am placed in a new situation. Permit me to view it again. I am called upon to transfer a right—the right of immediate representation in the legislature—a right which I have hitherto retained unalienated—a right which has never, heretofore, been transferred by the citizens of Pennsylvania. Certainly, sir, this new situation requires that I should make a solemn pause—look around me, and reflect what my constituents and I have been, and what we are likely to be.
Many honourable members of this convention are, I presume, in the same predicament with myself; both as it respects their constituents, and as it respects themselves. On every account, it is proper to weigh this subject well.
Those who advocate the plan of electors must do so, either to avoid inconveniences which cannot be avoided, or to obtain advantages which cannot be obtained, in an election by the people themselves. We are, therefore, naturally led to institute a comparison between the two modes of election; and to estimate and balance the qualities and consequences of each.
The subject is of high and extensive importance in the theory and practice of government; and well deserves a full, a patient, and a candid investigation.
The works of human invention are progressive; and frequently are not completed, till after a slow and lengthened series of gradual improvements, remotely distant from one another both in place and in time. To the theory and practice of government this observation is applicable with peculiar justness and peculiar force. In this science, few opportunities have been given to the human mind of indulging itself in easy and unrestrained investigation: still fewer opportunities have offered of verifying and correcting investigation by experiment. An age—a succession of ages elapses, before a system of jurisprudence rises from its first rude beginnings. When we have made a little progress, and look forward, a few eminences in prospect are fondly supposed the greatest elevation we shall be obliged to ascend. But these, once gained, disclose, behind them, new and superiour degrees of excellence yet unattained. In beginning and continuing the pursuit of those arduous paths, through which this science leads us, the tracts, which we explore, point to others, which yet remain to be explored.
If the discoveries in government are difficult and slow; how much more arduous must it be to attain, in practice, the advantage of those discoveries, after they have been made! Of some governments, the foundation has been laid in necessity; of others, in fraud; of others, in force; of how few, in deliberate and discerning choice! If, in their commencement, they have been so unpropitious to the principles of freedom, and to the means of happiness; shall we wonder that, in their progress, they have been equally unfavourable to advances in virtue and excellence?
Let us ransack the records of history: in all our researches, how few fair instances shall we be able to find, in which a government has been formed, whose end has been the happiness of those for whom it was designed? how few fair instances shall we be able to find, in which such a government has been administered with a steady direction towards that end?
To these considerations, we must add others, which show still further the numerous and strong obstacles, that lie in the way of improvement in jurisprudence. Government founded on improper principles, and directed to improper objects, has a powerful and pernicious bias both upon those who rule, and those who are ruled. Its bias upon the first will occasion no surprise: its bias upon the second, however surprising, is not, perhaps, less efficacious, whether we consider their sentiments or their conduct. Thus the principles of despotism become the principles of a whole nation, blinded and degraded by its destructive influence. Power, splendour, influence, prejudice, fashion, habit, pride, and meanness, are all arranged to countenance and support those principles.
When we revolve, when we compare, when we combine the remarks we have been now making; when we take a slight glance of others that might be offered; we shall be at no loss to account for the slow and small progress, that, after a long lapse of ages, has been made in the science and practice of government.
This progress has been peculiarly slow and small in the discovery and improvement of the interesting doctrines and rules of election and representation. If government, with regard to other subjects, may be said, as with propriety it has been said, to be still in its infancy; we may well consider it, with regard to this subject, as only in its childhood. And yet this is the subject, which must form the basis of every government, that is, at once, efficient, respectable, and free. The pyramid of government—and a republican government may well receive that beautiful and solid form—should be raised to a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence, be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and the affections of the people at large are the only basis, on which a superstructure, proposed to be at once durable and magnificent, can be rationally erected.
Representation is the chain of communication between the people, and those to whom they have committed the exercise of the powers of government. If the materials, which form this chain, are sound and strong; I shall not be very anxious about the degree to which they are polished. But, in order to impart the true republican lustre to freemen, I know no means more efficacious, than to invite and admit them to the rights of suffrage, and to enhance, as much as possible, the value of that right.
I well know how shamefully this right, all-important as it is, has been neglected—I well know how often we have seen the election ground, thinly frequented, or almost deserted, bear mournful testimony to the indolence or to the indifference of the electors. I well know by what frivolous causes they have sometimes been induced to forego the enjoyment of the noblest right of men. But we will indulge the fond conjecture, that this supineness has been owing neither to defect nor degeneracy in the minds and principles of our citizens, nor to ignorance or disregard of the exalted rank, to which, as citizens of a free commonwealth, they are entitled. It has been occasioned, we flatter ourselves, by the narrow point of view, in which the right of election, before the revolution, was considered; and by the few objects, to which the exercise of it was directed. Before that event, the doctrine and the exercise of authority by representation was confined in Pennsylvania, as in England, to one branch of one of the great powers, into which we have seen government divided: and over even that branch a double negative was held suspended by two powers, neither of them professing to derive their authority from the people. Our surprise will be diminished, and our reprehension will be softened, by reflecting, that, in this dependent situation, the ardour of citizenship was probably damped as well as confined. Habits, once formed and become familiar, are not soon or easily laid aside. Our customs do not always or immediately vary in proportion to the variation of their causes. Indifference to elections, once less important, has continued, though their importance has been amazingly increased. But this, we hope, will not be the case long. The magnitude of the right will, we trust, secure, in future, the merited attention to the exercise of it.
What is the right of suffrage, which we now display, to be viewed, admired, and enjoyed by our constituents? Is it to go to an obscure tavern in an obscure corner of an obscure district, and to vote, amidst the fumes of spiritous liquors, for a justice of the peace? There, indeed, no lesson would probably be learned, but that of low vice; no example would probably be shown, but that of illiberal cunning. Is it even to choose the members of one part of a legislature, the patriotick counsels and efforts of which part are liable, at every moment, to be controlled and frustrated by the negatives of other powers, independent of the authority, and indifferent, perhaps unfriendly, to the interests of the people? Here, indeed, there might be room for lessons of frigid caution, and timid prudence. It might not be thought advisable to elect a representative of bold, undissembled, and inflexible virtue: he might be obnoxious to his superiours in the other line; and, instead of averting, might provoke the exercise of their overruling power.
Of much higher import—of much more improving efficacy, is that right, which is now the object of our contemplation. It is a right to choose, in large and respectable assemblies, all the legislative, and many of the executive officers of the government; it is a right to choose those, who shall be invested with the authority and with the confidence of the people, and who may employ that authority and that confidence for the noblest interests of the commonwealth, without the apprehension of disappointment or control.
This, surely, must have a powerful tendency to open, to enlighten, to enlarge, and to exalt the mind. I cannot sufficiently express my own ideas of the dignity and value of this right. In real majesty, an independent and unbiassed elector stands superiour to princes, addressed by the proudest titles, attended by the most magnificent retinues, and decorated with the most splendid regalia. His sovereignty is original: theirs is only derivative.
The benign influence flowing from the possession and exercise of this right deserves to be fully and clearly pointed out. The man who enjoys the right of suffrage on the extensive scale which we have marked, will naturally turn his attention to the contemplation of publick men and publick measures. The inquiries he will make, the information he will receive, and his own reflections on both will afford a beneficial and amusing employment to his mind. I am far from insinuating that every citizen should be an enthusiast in politicks, or that the interests of himself, his family, and those who depend on him for their comfortable situation in life, should be absorbed in Quixote speculations about the management or the reformation of the state. But there is surely a golden mean in things; and there can be no real incompatibility between the discharge of one’s publick and that of his private duty. Let private industry receive the warmest encouragement; for it is the basis of publick happiness. But must the bow of honest industry be always bent? At no moment shall a little relaxation be allowed? That relaxation, if properly directed, may prove to be instructive as well as agreeable. It may consist in reading a newspaper, or in conversing with a fellow citizen. May not the newspaper convey some interesting intelligence, or contain some useful essay? For all newspapers are not dedicated to the demon of slander. May not the conversation take a pleasing and an improving turn? Many hours, I believe, are every where spent in talking about the unimportant occurrences of the day or in the neighbourhood; and, perhaps, the frailties or the involuntary imperfections of a neighbour form too often one of the sweet but poisonous ingredients of the discourse. Would it be any great detriment to society or to individuals, if other characters, and with different views, were brought upon the carpet?
At every election, a number of important appointments must be made. To do this, is, indeed, the business of a day. But it ought to be the business of much more than a day to be prepared for doing it well. When a citizen elects to office—give me leave to repeat it—he performs an act of the first political consequence. He should be employed, on every convenient occasion, in making researches after proper persons for filling the different departments of power; in discussing, with his neighbours and fellow citizens, the qualities that should be possessed by those who fill the several offices; and in acquiring information, with the spirit of manly candour, concerning the manners, and history, and characters of those, who are likely to be candidates for the publick choice. A habit of conversing and reflecting on these subjects, and of governing his actions by the result of his deliberations, will form, in the mind of the citizen, a uniform, a strong, and a lively sensibility to the interests of his country. The same causes will produce a warm and an enlightened attachment to those, who are best fitted and best disposed to support and advance those interests.
By these means, and in this manner, pure and genuine patriotism—that kind, which consists in liberal investigation and disinterested conduct—is produced, cherished, and strengthened in the mind: by these means, and in this manner, the warm and generous emotion glows and is reflected from breast to breast.
Investigations of this nature would be useful and improving not to their authors only: they would be so to their objects likewise. The love of honest and well-earned fame is deeply rooted in honest and susceptible minds. Can there be a stronger incentive to the energy of this passion, than the hope of becoming the object of wellfounded and distinguishing applause? Can there be a more complete gratification of this passion, than the satisfaction of knowing that this applause is given—that it is given upon the most honourable principles, and acquired by the most honourable pursuits? To souls truly ingenuous, indiscriminate praise, misplaced praise, flattering praise, interested praise have no bewitching charms. But when publick approbation is the result of publick discernment, it must be highly pleasing to those who give, and to those who receive it.
Let us now review a little the steps we have trod: let us reconsider the ground we have passed over, and the observations we have made. Have I painted the rights of election in colours too flattering?—Have I placed their importance in a light too strong?—Have I described their influence in language, or in sentiments, that have been exaggerated? I presume that I have not.
If, then, the remarks which I have made, and the deductions which I have drawn, will bear—and I trust they will bear—the test of strict and sober scrutiny; what is the result necessarily flowing from the whole? It is undeniably this—that the rights of suffrage, properly understood, properly valued, properly cultivated, and properly exercised, is a rich mine of intelligence and patriotism—that it is an abundant source of the most rational, the most improving, and the most endearing connexion among the citizens—and that it is a most powerful, and, at the same time, a most pleasing bond of union between the citizens, and those whom they select for the different offices and departments of government.
If these things are so; why should this right, so valuable and important, the cause of so many blessings, moral, intellectual, and political, be weakened—why should it be interrupted by the interjection of electors? Reasons irresistibly cogent will certainly be urged and supported, before such a measure will be adopted by the members of this convention.
It has been already mentioned, that those who advocate the plan of electors must do so, either to avoid inconveniences which cannot be avoided, or to obtain advantages which cannot be obtained, in an election by the people. What inconveniences will be avoided?
Will the meetings of the people be less frequent, less troublesome, or less expensive in choosing electors than in choosing senators? In respect both of frequency and of trouble they will be precisely the same. In respect of expense, the inconvenience will be increased by choosing electors; for it will be but reasonable that an allowance be made to them for their time, their trouble, and their services. In these respects, therefore, no inconvenience will be avoided, but an inconvenience will be incurred, by choosing electors.
Will inconveniences respecting the objects of choice attend elections by the people, and be avoided in elections by electors? What are those inconveniences?
Will the choice of the people be less valid than the choice of electors? That will not be pretended, since the electors themselves will derive all their authority from the people.
Will the choice of the people be less honourable than the choice of electors? In republican governments, the people are the fountain of honour as well as of power.
Will the choice of the people be less disinterested than the choice of electors? Interest will probably be consulted in both choices: but, in the first, the interests of the individuals, added together, will form precisely the aggregate interest of the whole; whereas, in the last, the interests of the electors, added together, will form but a small part of the interests of the whole; and that small part may be altogether unattached, nay, it may be altogether repugnant, to the remainder.
Will the choice of the people be less impartial than the choice of electors? The answer to this question is determined by the answer to the last. An impartial choice, in the case before us, is a choice that embraces the interests of the whole; a partial choice is that which embraces the interests only of a part. A choice by the people is most likely to suit the first description: a choice by electors is most likely to suit the last.
Will the choice of the people be made with less solicitude and fewer precautions for their common advantage than the choice of electors? If every individual among the people attends to his own advantage; the common advantage, which is the joint result of the whole, will be provided for. But every elector may be very attentive to his own advantage; and yet the common advantage may be left wholly unprovided for.
Will the choice of the people be less wise than the choice of electors? We have already seen that it will not be less valid, nor less honourable, nor less disinterested, nor less impartial, nor less for the common advantage: having seen all this, we may pronounce the presumption to be violent, that it will not be less wise. Upon this presumption we shall leave the matter for the present.
Permit me to observe, in the mean time, that inconveniences unavoidable in elections by the people, but altogether foreign from elections by electors, ought to be shown clearly and undeniably on the other side.
The next inquiry is—what advantages can be obtained in elections by electors, that are unattainable in elections by the people.
This side of the inquiry is, in my view, very much anticipated by the discussion of the other side: indeed it appears to me wholly unproductive. To those who think and speak in favour of electors, it may disclose sources of abundant fertility: to their investigations and discoveries I cheerfully leave it; observing, under this head, that the advantages to be gained, as well as the inconveniences to be avoided, ought to be shown clearly and undeniably on the other side. For if, upon the whole, the balance shall hang in equilibrio; the predilection, for the strong reason already mentioned, will certainly be in favour of a choice by the people themselves, and not by electors.
This predilection ought to operate for another reason, which has not yet been mentioned. It will be cheerfully admitted, that all power is originally in the people: the consequence, unavoidable, is, that power ought to be exercised personally by the people, when this can be done without inconvenience and without disadvantage. In some of the small republicks of Greece, and in the first ages of the commonwealth of Rome, the people voted, even on the passing of laws, in their aggregate capacity. Among the ancient Germans this was also done upon great occasions. “De minoribus consultant principes,” says Tacitus, in his masterly account of Germany, “de majoribus omnes.”1 And from the practices of the ancient Germans, some of the finest maxims of modern government are drawn. If, therefore, no inconvenience will be avoided, and no advantage will be obtained by the plan of electors—and this is the case, so far as we have yet seen—that plan should not be substituted in the place of a choice of senators by the people themselves.
Were we to satisfy ourselves with this partial and incomplete consideration of the subject; I apprehend we should be extremely unwilling to transfer the choice of senators from the people to electors. But if we pursue the examination a little further, we shall find still stronger reasons for this reluctance: for we shall find, I believe, that, by such a transfer, instead of avoiding inconveniences and obtaining advantages, we shall sacrifice advantages for the acquisition of inconveniences.
The political connexion between the people and those whom they distinguish by elective offices, and the reciprocal sensations and engagements resulting from that connexion, I consider as most interesting in their nature, and most momentous in their consequences. This connexion should be as intimate as possible: if possible, it should be indissoluble. Confidence—mutual and endearing confidence—between those who impart power and those to whom power is imparted, is the brightest gem in the diadem of a republick. Let us sedulously avoid every danger of its being broken or lost.
Will there be the same generous emotions of confidence in the body of citizens towards the senators?—Will there be the same warm effusions of gratitude in the senators towards the body of the citizens, if the cold breath of electors is suffered to blow between them? Can the senator say to the people—you are my constituents; for you chose me? Can the people say to the senator—you are our trustee, for you are the object of our choice? Will not these relations, equally delightful and attractive on both sides, be greatly weakened—will not their influence be greatly diminished, by the interposition of electors?
But let us contemplate this subject in a still more serious and important point of view. The great desideratum in politicks is, to form a government, that will, at the same time, deserve the seemingly opposite epithets—efficient and free. I am sanguine enough to think that this can be done. But, I think, it can be done only by forming a popular government. To render government efficient, powers must be given liberally: to render it free as well as efficient, those powers must be drawn from the people, as directly and as immediately as possible. Every degree of removal is attended with a corresponding degree of danger. I know that removals, or at least one removal, is, in many instances, necessary in the executive and judicial departments. But is this a reason for multiplying or lengthening them without necessity? Is it a reason for introducing them into the legislative department, the most powerful, and, if ill constituted, the most dangerous, of all? No. But it is a strong reason for excluding them wherever they can be excluded; and for shortening them as much as possible wherever they necessarily take place. Corruption and putridity are more to be dreaded from the length, than from the strength, of the streams of authority.
On this great subject, I offer my sentiments, as it is my duty to do, without reserve. I think—that all the officers in the legislative department should be the immediate choice of the people—that only one removal should take place in the officers of the executive and judicial departments—and that, in this last department, a very important share of the business should be transacted by the people themselves.
These are, in a few words, the great outlines of the government, which I would choose. I fondly flatter myself that all the parts of it might be safely, compactly, and firmly knit together; and that the qualities of goodness, wisdom, and energy might animate, sustain, and pervade the whole.
And for what should we sacrifice all the valuable connexions, principles, and advantages, which have been mentioned? For electors?—Who are those electors to be? Logicians sometimes describe the subjects of their profound lucubrations negatively as well as positively. Let us borrow a hint from them, on this occasion. Who are those electors not to be? 1. They will be such as the people will think not the fittest to represent them in the most numerous branch of the legislature; for no representatives can be electors. 2. They will be such as the people will think not the fittest to be senators; for no elector can be a senator; and therefore the people will not choose those to be electors, whom they would wish to see in the senate. 3. They will be such as the governour has thought not the fittest for any office in the executive or judicial departments; for persons holding appointments in any of those departments cannot be electors. I was going to say, in the fourth place, that they will be such as will be thought not the fittest for any office under the executive department in future. But here, I find, I am mistaken. For they may hold offices the moment after their election of senators; and I will not assert it to be impossible, that they will acquire their qualifications for those offices by their conduct in that election.
Thus far we have pursued their negative descriptions. The task of expatiating on their positive qualities, I beg leave, for the present, to assign to those who must be supposed to understand them much better. For they must certainly know well the purifying virtues of those political alembicks, through which they wish to see our senators sublimated and refined.
Among the numerous good qualities of the electors, we hope, one will be—that they will be unsusceptible of intrigue or cabal among themselves. A second, we hope, will be—that they will be inaccessible to the impressions of intrigue and cabal from others. A third, we hope, will be—that as the people, by choosing them electors, have intimated decently that they think them not the fittest persons to be senators, they will cultivate the same decent reserve with regard to their brothers, their cousins, their other relations, their friends, their dependents, and their patrons.
[a. ]The debate, in the course of which this speech was delivered, related to the following provisions in the draft of a constitution reported to the convention by a committee appointed for the purpose.
[1. ]Wilson paraphrased Tacitus’s claim “de minoribus consultant principes, de majoribus omnes” (Germani 11.1), which means “while the leading men alone deliberate concerning minor issues, all the people together deliberate about major ones.”