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chapter 19: General Observations on Congress - Viscount James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 1 
The American Commonwealth, with an Introduction by Gary L. McDowell, 2 vols (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995).
Part of: The American Commonwealth, 2 vols.
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General Observations on Congress
After this inquiry into the composition and working of each branch of Congress, it remains for me to make some observations which apply to both houses, and which may tend to indicate the features that distinguish them from the representative assemblies of the Old World. The English reader must bear in mind three points which, in following the details of the last few chapters, he may have forgotten. The first is that Congress is not, like the parliaments of England, France, and Italy, a sovereign assembly, but is subject to the Constitution, which only the people can change. The second is, that it neither appoints nor dismisses the executive government, which springs directly from popular election. The third is, that its sphere of legislative action is limited by the existence of nearly fifty governments in the several states, whose authority is just as well based as its own, and cannot be curtailed by it.
I. The choice of members of Congress is locally limited by law and by custom. Under the Constitution every representative and every senator must when elected be an inhabitant of the state whence he is elected. Moreover, state law has in many and custom practically in all states, established that a representative must be resident in the congressional district which elects him.1 The only exceptions to this practice occur in large cities where occasionally a man is chosen who lives in a different district of the city from that which returns him; but such exceptions are extremely rare.2 This restriction, inconvenient as it is both to candidates, whose field of choice in seeking a constituency it narrows, and to constituencies, whom it debars from choosing persons, however eminent, who do not reside in their midst, seems to Americans so obviously reasonable that few persons, even in the best educated classes, will admit its policy to be disputable. In what are we to seek the causes of this opinion?
Firstly. In the existence of states, originally separate political communities, still for many purposes independent, and accustomed to consider the inhabitant of another state as almost a foreigner. A New Yorker, Pennsylvanians would say, owes allegiance to New York; he cannot feel and think as a citizen of Pennsylvania, and cannot therefore properly represent Pennsylvanian interests. This sentiment has spread by a sort of sympathy, this reasoning has been applied by a sort of analogy, to the counties, the cities, the electoral districts of the state itself. State feeling has fostered local feeling; the locality deems no man a fit representative who has not by residence in its limits, and by making it his political home, the place where he exercises his civic rights, become soaked with its own local sentiment.
Secondly. Much of the interest felt in the proceedings of Congress relates to the raising and spending of money. Changes in the tariff may affect the industries of a locality; or a locality may petition for an appropriation of public funds to some local public work, the making of a harbour, or the improvement of the navigation of a river. In both cases it is thought that no one but an inhabitant can duly comprehend the needs or zealously advocate the demands of a neighbourhood.
Thirdly. Inasmuch as no high qualities of statesmanship are expected from a congressman, a district would think it a slur to be told that it ought to look beyond its own borders for a representative; and as the post is a paid one, the people feel that a good thing ought to be kept for one of themselves rather than thrown away on a stranger. It is by local political work, organizing, canvassing, and haranguing, that a party is kept going: and this work must be rewarded.
A perusal of the chapter of the Federalist, which argues that one representative for thirty thousand inhabitants will sufficiently satisfy republican needs, suggests another reflection. The writer refers to some who held a numerous representation to be a democratic institution, because it enabled every small district to make its voice heard in the national Congress. Such representation then existed in the state legislatures. Evidently the habits of the people were formed by these state legislatures, in which it was a matter of course that the people of each township or city sent one of themselves to the assembly of the state. When they came to return members to Congress, they followed the same practice. A stranger had no means of making himself known to them and would not think of offering himself. That the habits of England are different may be due, so far as the eighteenth century is concerned, to the practice of borough-mongering, under which candidates unconnected with the place were sent down by some influential person, or bought the seat from the corrupt corporation or the limited body of freemen. Thus the notion that a stranger might do well enough for a borough grew up, while in counties it remained, till 1885, a maxim that a candidate ought to own land in the county—the old law required a freehold qualification somewhere3 —or ought to live in, or ought at the very least (as I once heard a candidate, whose house lay just outside the county for which he was standing, allege on his own behalf) to look into the county from his window while shaving in the morning.4 The English practice might thus seem to be an exception due to special causes, and the American practice that which is natural to a free country, where local self-government is fully developed and rooted in the habits of the people. It is from their local government that the political ideas of the American people have been formed; and they have applied to their state assemblies and their national assembly the customs which grew up in the smaller area.5
These are the best explanations I can give of a phenomenon which strikes Europeans all the more because it exists among a population more unsettled and migratory than any in the Old World. But they leave me still surprised at this strength of local feeling, a feeling not less marked in the new regions of the Far West than in the venerable commonwealths of Massachusetts and Virginia. Fierce as is the light of criticism which beats upon every part of that system, this point remains uncensured, because assumed to be part of the order of nature.
So far as the restriction to residents in a state is concerned it is intelligible. The senator was originally a sort of ambassador from his state. He is chosen by the legislature or collective authority of his state. He cannot well be a citizen of one state and represent another. Even a representative in the House from one state who lived in another might be perplexed by a divided allegiance, though there are groups of states, such as those of the Northwest, whose great industrial interests are substantially the same. But what reason can there be for preventing a man resident in one part of a state from representing another part, a Philadelphian, for instance, from being returned for Pittsburgh, or a Bostonian for Pittsfield in the west of Massachusetts? In Europe it is not found that a member is less active or successful in urging the local interests of his constituency because he does not live there. He is often more successful, because more personally influential or persuasive than any resident whom the constituency could supply; and in case of a conflict of interests he always feels his efforts to be owing first to his constituents, and not to the place in which he happens to reside.
The mischief is twofold. Inferior men are returned, because there are many parts of the country which do not grow statesmen, where nobody, or at any rate nobody desiring to enter Congress, is to be found above a moderate level of political capacity. And men of marked ability and zeal are prevented from forcing their way in. Such men are produced chiefly in the great cities of the older states. There is not room enough there for nearly all of them, but no other doors to Congress are open. Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, could furnish six or eight times as many good members as there are seats in these cities. As such men cannot enter from their place of residence, they do not enter at all, and the nation is deprived of the benefit of their services. Careers are moreover interrupted. A promising politician may lose his seat in his own district through some fluctuation of opinion, or perhaps because he has offended the local wire-pullers by too much independence. Since he cannot find a seat elsewhere he is stranded; his political life is closed, while other young men inclined to independence take warning from his fate. Changes in the state laws would not remove the evil, for the habit of choosing none but local men is rooted so deeply that it might probably long survive the abolition of a restrictive law, and it is just as strong in states where no such law exists.6
II. Every senator and representative receives a salary at present fixed at $7,500 per annum, besides an allowance (called mileage) of 20 cents (10d.) per mile for travelling expenses for one journey to and from Washington, $1,500 for clerk hire, and a sum for stationery. The salary is looked upon as a matter of course. It was not introduced for the sake of enabling working men to be returned as members, but on the general theory that all public work ought to be paid for.7 The reasons for it are stronger than in England or France, because the distance to Washington from most parts of the United States is so great, and the attendance required there so continuous, that a man cannot attend to his profession or business while sitting in Congress. If he loses his livelihood in serving the community, the community ought to compensate him, not to add that the class of persons whose private means put them above the need of a lucrative calling, or of compensation for interrupting it, is comparatively small even now, and hardly existed when the Constitution was framed. Cynics defend the payment of congressmen on another ground, viz., that “they would steal worse if they didn’t get it,” and would make politics, as Napoleon made war, support itself. Be the thing bad or good, it is at any rate necessary, so that no one talks of abolishing it. For that reason its existence furnishes no argument for its introduction into a small country with a large leisured and wealthy class. In fact, the conditions of European countries are so different from those of America that one must not cite American experience either for or against the remuneration of legislative work. I do not believe that the practice works ill by preventing good men from entering politics, for they feel no more delicacy in accepting their $7,500 than an English duke does in drawing his salary as a secretary of state. It may strengthen the tendency of members to regard themselves as mere delegates, but that tendency has other and deeper roots. It contributes to keep up a class of professional politicians, for the salary, though small in comparison with the incomes earned by successful merchants or lawyers, is a prize to men of the class whence professional politicians mostly come. But those European writers who describe it as the formative cause of that class are mistaken. That class would have existed had members not been paid, would continue to exist if payment were withdrawn. On the other hand, the benefit which Europeans look for from the payment of legislators, viz., the introduction of a large number of representative working men, has hitherto been little desired and even less secured. Few such persons appear as candidates in America; and until recently the working class did not deem itself, nor think of acting as, a distinct body with special interest.8
III. A congressman’s tenure of his place, though tending to grow longer, is still usually short. Senators are sometimes returned for two, four, or (in a few of the older states) even for five successive terms by the legislatures of their states, although it may befall even the best of them to be thrown out by a change in the balance of parties, or by the intrigues of an opponent. But a member of the House can seldom feel safe in the saddle. If he is so eminent as to be necessary to his party, or if he maintains intimate relations with the leading local wire-pullers of his district, he may in the Eastern and Middle, and still more in the Southern states, hold his ground for four or five Congresses, i.e., for eight or ten years. Few do more than this. In the West a member is fortunate if he does even this. Out there a seat is regarded as a good thing which ought to go round. It has a salary. It sends a man, free of expense, for two winters and springs to Washington and lets him and his wife and daughters see something of the fine world there. Local leaders cast sheep’s eyes at the seat, and make more or less open bargains between themselves as to the order in which they shall enjoy it. So far from its being a reason for reelecting a man that he has been a member already, it was, and is still in parts of the West, a reason for passing him by, and giving somebody else a turn. Rotation in office, dear to the Democrats of Jefferson’s school a century ago, still charms the less educated, who see in it a recognition of equality, and have no sense of the value of special knowledge or training. They like it for the same reason that the democrats of Athens liked the choice of magistrates by lot. It is a recognition and application of equality. An ambitious congressman is therefore forced to think day and night of his renomination, and to secure it not only by procuring, if he can, grants from the federal treasury for local purposes, and places for the relatives and friends of the local wire-pullers who control the nominating conventions, but also by sedulously “nursing” the constituency during the vacations. No habit could more effectually discourage noble ambition or check the growth of a class of accomplished statesmen. There are few walks of life in which experience counts for more than it does in parliamentary politics. It is an education in itself, an education in which the quick-witted Western American would make rapid progress were he suffered to remain long enough at Washington. At present he is not suffered, for nearly one-half of each successive House has usually consisted of new men, while the old members are too much harassed by the trouble of procuring their reelection to have time or motive for the serious study of political problems. This is what comes of the notion that politics is neither a science, nor an art, nor even an occupation, like farming or storekeeping, in which one learns by experience, but a thing that comes by nature, and for which one man of common sense is as fit as another.9
IV. The last-mentioned evil is aggravated by the short duration of a Congress. Short as it seems, the two years’ term was warmly opposed, when the Constitution was framed, as being too long.10 The constitutions of the several states, framed when they shook off the supremacy of the British Crown, all fixed one year, except the ultrademocratic Connecticut and Rhode Island, where under the colonial charters a legislature met every six months, and South Carolina, which had fixed two years. So essential to republicanism was this principle deemed, that the maxim “where annual elections end tyranny begins” had passed into a proverb; and the authors of the Federalist were obliged to argue that the limited authority of Congress, watched by the executive on one side, and the state legislatures on the other, would prevent so long a period as two years from proving dangerous to liberty, while it was needed in order to enable the members to master the laws and understand the conditions of different parts of the Union. At present the two years’ term is justified on the ground that it furnishes a proper check on the president by interposing an election in the middle of his term. One is also told that these frequent elections are necessary to keep up popular interest in current politics, nor do some fail to hint that the temptations to jobbing would overcome the virtue of members who had a longer term before them. Where American opinion is unanimous, it would be presumptuous for a stranger to dissent. Yet the remark may be permitted that the dangers originally feared have proved chimerical. There is no country whose representatives are more dependent on popular opinion, more ready to trim their sails to the least breath of it. The public acts, the votes, and speeches of a member from Oregon or Texas can be more closely watched by his constituents than those of a Virginian member could be watched in 1789.11 And as the frequency of elections involves inexperienced members, the efficiency of Congress suffers.
V. The numbers of the two American houses seem small to a European when compared on the one hand with the population of the country, on the other with the practice of European states. The Senate has 96 members against the British House of Lords with over 600, and the French Senate with 300. The House has 443 against the British House of Commons with 670, and the French and Italian chambers with 584 and 508 respectively.
The Americans, however, doubt whether both their houses have not already become too large. They began with 26 in the Senate, 65 in the House, numbers then censured as too small, but which worked well, and gave less encouragement to idle talk and vain display than the crowded halls of today. The inclination of wise men is to try to diminish further increase when the number of 400 has been reached, for they perceive that the House already suffers from disorganization, and fear that a much larger one would prove unmanageable.12
VI. American congressmen are more assiduous in their attendance than the members of most European legislatures. The great majority not only remain steadily at Washington through the session, but are usually to be found in the Capitol, often in their chamber itself, while a sitting lasts. There is therefore comparatively little trouble in making the quorum of one-half,13 except when the minority endeavours to prevent its being made, whereas in England the House of Lords, whose quorum is three, has seldom thirty peers present, and the House of Commons often finds a difficulty, especially during the dinner hour, in securing its modest quorum of forty.14 This requirement of a high quorum, which is prescribed in the Constitution, has doubtless helped to secure a good attendance. Other causes are the distance from Washington of the residences of most members, so that it is not worth while to take the journey home for a short sojourn, and the fact that very few attempt to carry on any regular business or profession while the session lasts. Those who are lawyers, or merchants, or manufacturers, leave their work to partners; but many are politicians and nothing else. In Washington, a city without commerce or manufactures, political or semi-political intrigue is the only gainful occupation possible; for the Supreme Court practice is conducted almost entirely by lawyers coming from a distance. The more democratic a county is, so much the more regular is the attendance, so much closer the attention to the requests of constituents which a member is expected to render.15 Apart from that painful duty of finding places for constituents which consumes so much of a congressman’s time, his duties are not heavier than those of a member of the English Parliament who desires to keep abreast of current questions. The sittings are neither so long nor so late as those of the House of Commons; the questions that come up not so multifarious, the blue books to be read less numerous, the correspondence (except about places) not more trublesome. The position of senator is more onerous than that of a member of the House, not only because his whole state, and not merely a district, has a direct claim upon him, but also because, as one of a small body, he incurs a larger individual responsibility, and sits upon two or more committees instead of on one only.
VII. The want of opportunities for distinction in Congress is one of the causes which make a political career unattractive to most Americans.16 It takes a new member at least a session to learn the procedure of the House. Full dress debates are rare, newspaper reports of speeches delivered are curt and little read. The most serious work is done in committees; it is not known to the world, and much of it results in nothing, because many bills which a committee has considered are perhaps never even voted on by the House. A place on a good House committee is to be obtained by favour, and a high-spirited man might find it hard to secure it. Ability, tact, and industry make their way in the long run in Congress, as they do everywhere else. But in Congress there is, for most men, no long run. Only very strong local influence, or some remarkable party service rendered, will enable a member to keep his seat through two or three successive Congresses. Nowhere therefore does the zeal of a young politician sooner wax cold than in the House of Representatives. Unfruitful toil, the toil of turning a crank which does nothing but register its own turnings, or of writing contributions which an editor steadily rejects, is of all things the most disheartening. It is more disheartening than the nonrequital of merit; for that at least spares the self-respect of the sufferer. Now toil for the public is usually unfruitful in the House of Representatives, indeed in all houses. But toil for the pecuniary interests of one’s constituents and friends is fruitful, for it obliges people, it wins the reputation of energy and smartness, it has the promise not only of a renomination, but of that possible seat in the Senate which is the highest ambition of the congressman. Power, fame, perhaps even riches, sit upon that pinnacle. But the thin spun life is usually slit before the fair guerdon has been found. Few young men of high gifts and fine tastes look forward to entering public life, for the probable disappointments and vexations of a life in Congress so far outweigh its attractions that nothing but exceptional ambition or a strong sense of public duty suffices to draw such men into it. Law, education, literature, the higher walks of commerce, finance, or railway work, offer a better prospect of enjoyment or distinction.
Inside Washington, the representative is dwarfed by the senator and the federal judges. Outside Washington he enjoys no great social consideration,17 especially in the Northern states, for in the South his position retains some of its old credit. His opinion is not quoted with respect. He seems to move about under a prima facie suspicion of being a jobber, and to feel that the burden of proof lies on him to show that the current jests on this topic do not apply to him. Rich men therefore do not seek, as in England, to enter the legislature in order that they may enter society. They will get no entree which they could not have secured otherwise. Nor is there any opportunity for the exercise of those social influences which tell upon members, and still more upon members’ wives and daughters, in European legislatures. It may of course be worth while to “capture” a particular senator, and for that purpose to begin by capturing his wife. But the salon plays no sensible part in American public life.
The country does not go to Congress to look for its presidential candidates as England looks to Parliament for its prime ministers. The opportunities by which a man can win distinction there are few. He does not make himself familiar to the eye and ear of the world. Congress, in short, is not a focus of political life as are the legislatures of France, Italy, and England. Though it has become more powerful against the several states than it was formerly, though it has extended its arms in every direction, and sometimes encroached upon the executive, it has not become more interesting to the people, nor strengthened its hold on their respect and affection.
VIII. Neither in the Senate nor in the House are there any recognized leaders. There is no ministry, no ex-ministry leading an opposition, no chieftains at the head of definite groups who follow their lead, as the Irish Nationalist members in the British Parliament follow Mr. Parnell, and a large section of the Left in the French and German chambers followed M. Clemenceau and Dr. Windthorst. So too, there did not exist, until 1900, a regularly working agency for securing either that members shall be apprised of the divisions to be expected, or that they should vote in those divisions in a particular way.
To anyone familiar with the methods of the English Parliament this seems incomprehensible. How, he asks, can business go on at all, how can each party make itself felt as a party with neither leader nor whips?
I have mentioned the whips. Let me say a word on this vital, yet even in England little appreciated, part of the machinery of constitutional government. Each party in the House of Commons has, besides its leaders, a member of the House nominated by the chief leader as his aide-de-camp, and called the whipper-in, or, for shortness, the whip. The whip’s duties are (1) to inform every member belonging to the party when an important division may be expected, and if he sees the member in or about the House, to keep him there until the division is called; (2) to direct the members of his own party how to vote; (3) to obtain pairs for them if they cannot be present to vote; (4) to “tell,” i.e., count the members in every party division; (5) to “keep touch” of opinion within the party, and convey to the leader a faithful impression of that opinion, from which the latter can judge how far he may count on the support of his whole party in any course he proposes to take. A member in doubt how he shall vote on a question with regard to which he has no opinion of his own, goes to the whip for counsel. A member who without grave cause stays away unpaired from an important division to which the whip has duly summoned him is guilty of a misdemeanour only less flagrant than that of voting against his party. A ministerial whip is further bound to “keep a house,” i.e., to secure that when government business is being considered there shall always be a quorum of members present, and of course also to keep a majority, i.e., to have within reach a number of supporters sufficient to give the ministry a majority on any ministerial division.18 Without the constant presence and activity of the ministerial whip the wheels of government could not go on for a day, because the ministry would be exposed to the risk of casual defeats which would destroy their credit and might involve their resignation. Similarly the opposition, and any third or fourth party, find it necessary to have their whip, because it is only thus that they can act as a party, guide their supporters, and bring their full strength to bear on a division. Hence when a new party is formed, its first act, that by which it realizes and proclaims its existence, is to name whips, to whom its adherents may go for counsel, and who may in turn receive their suggestions as to the proper strategy for the party to adopt.19 So essential are these officers to the discipline of English parliamentary armies that an English politician’s first question when he sees Congress is, “Where are the whips?” his next, “How in the world do you get on without them?”
The answer to this question is threefold. Whips are not so necessary at Washington as at Westminster. A sort of substitute for them has been devised. Congress does to some extent suffer from the inadequacy of the substituted device.20
A division in Congress has not the importance it has in the House of Commons. There it may throw out the ministry. In Congress it never does more than affirm or negative some particular bill or resolution. Even a division in the Senate which involves the rejection of a treaty or of an appointment to some great office, does not disturb the tenure of the executive. Hence it is not essential to the majority that its full strength should be always at hand, nor has a minority party any great prize set before it as the result of a successful vote.
Questions, however, arise in which some large party interest is involved. There may be a bill by which the party means to carry out its main views of policy or perhaps to curry favour with the people, or a resolution whereby it hopes to damage a hostile executive. In such cases it is important to bring up every vote. Accordingly at the beginning of every Congress a caucus committee is elected by the majority, and it becomes the duty of the chairman and secretary of this committee (to whom, in the case of a party bill supported by the majority, there is added the chairman of the committee to which that bill has been referred, necessarily a member of the majority) to act as whips, i.e., to give notice of important divisions by sending out a “call” to members of the party, and to take all requisite steps to have a quorum and a majority present to push through the bill or resolution to which the party stands committed. Mutatis mutandis (for of course it is seldom an object with the minority to secure a quorum), the minority take the same course to bring up their men on important divisions. In cases of gravity or doubt, where it is thought prudent to consult or to restimulate the party, the caucus committee convokes a caucus, i.e., a meeting of the whole party, at which the attitude to be assumed by the party is debated with closed doors, and a vote taken as to the course to be adopted.21 By this vote every member of the party is deemed bound, just as he would be in England by the request of the leader conveyed through the whip. Disobedience cannot be punished in Congress itself, except of course by social penalties; but it endangers the seat of the too independent member, for the party managers at Washington will communicate with the party managers in his district, and the latter will probably refuse to renominate him at the next election. The most important caucus of a Congress is that held at the opening to select the party candidate for the speakership, selection by the majority being of course equivalent to election. As the views and tendencies of the Speaker determine the composition of the committees, and thereby the course of legislation, his selection is a matter of supreme importance, and is preceded by weeks of intrigue and canvassing.
This process of “going into caucus” is the regular American substitute for recognized leadership, and has the advantage of seeming more consistent with democratic equality, because every member of the party has in theory equal weight in the party meeting. It is used whenever a line of policy has to be settled, or the whole party to be rallied for a particular party division. But of course it cannot be employed every day or for every bill. Hence when no party meeting has issued its orders, a member is free to vote as he pleases, or rather as he thinks his constituents please. If he knows nothing of the matter, he may take a friend’s advice, or vote as he hears some prominent man on his own side vote. Anyhow, his vote is doubtful, unpredictable; and consequently divisions on minor questions are uncertain. This is a further reason, added to the power of the standing committees, why there is a want of consistent policy in the action of Congress. As its leading men have comparatively little authority, and there are no means whereby a leader could keep his party together on ordinary questions, so no definite ideas run through its conduct and express themselves in its votes. It moves in zigzags.
The freedom thus enjoyed by members on minor questions has the interesting result of preventing dissensions and splits in the parties. There are substances which cohere best when their contact is loose. Fresh fallen snow keeps a smooth surface even on a steep slope, but when by melting and regelation it has become ice, cracks and rifts begin to appear. A loose hung carriage will hold together over a road whose roughness would strain and break a more solid one. Hence serious differences of opinion may exist in a congressional party without breaking its party unity, for nothing more is needed than that a solid front should be presented on the occasions, few in each session, when a momentous division arrives. The appearance of agreement is all the more readily preserved because there is little serious debating, so that the advocates of one view seldom provoke the other section of their party to rise and contradict them; while a member who dissents from the bulk of his party on an important issue is slow to vote against it, because he has little chance of defining and defending his position by an explanatory speech.
The congressional caucus has in troublous times to be supplemented by something like obedience to regular leaders. Mr. Thaddeus Stevens, for instance, led with recognized authority the majority of the House in its struggle with President Andrew Johnson. The Senate is rather more jealous of the equality of all its members. No senator can be said to have any authority beyond that of exceptional talent and experience; and of course a senatorial caucus, since it rarely consists of more than forty persons, is a better working body than a House caucus, which may exceed two hundred.22
The European reader may be perplexed by the apparent contradictions in what has been said regarding the party organization of Congress. “Is the American House after all,” he will ask, “more or less a party body than the British House of Commons? Is the spirit of party more or less strong in Congress than in the American people generally?”
For the purpose of serious party issues the House of Representatives is nearly as much a party body as the House of Commons. A member voting against his party on such an issue is more certain to forfeit his party reputation and his seat than is an English member. But for the purpose of ordinary questions, of issues not involving party fortunes, a representative is less bound by party ties than an English member, because he has neither leaders to guide him by their speeches nor whips by their private instructions.23 The apparent gain is that a wider field is left for independent judgment on nonpartisan questions. The real loss is that legislation becomes weak and inconsistent. This conclusion is not encouraging to those who expect us to get rid of party in our legislatures. A deliberative assembly is, after all, only a crowd of men; and the more intelligent a crowd is, so much the more numerous are its volitions; so much greater the difficulty of agreement. Like other crowds, a legislature must be led and ruled. Its merit lies not in the independence of its members, but in the reflex action of its opinion upon the leaders, in its willingness to defer to them in minor matters, reserving disobedience for the issues in which some great principle overrides both the obligation of deference to established authority and the respect due to special knowledge.
The above remarks answer the second question also. The spirit of party may seem to be weaker in Congress than in the people at large. But this is only because the questions which the people decide at the polls are always questions of choice between candidates for office. These are definite questions, questions eminently of a party character, because candidates represent in the America of today not principles but parties. When a vote upon persons occurs in Congress, Congress gives a strict party vote. Were the people to vote at the polls on matters not explicitly comprised within a party platform (as they do now in states which have adopted the initiative and referendum), there would be much greater uncertainty than Congress displays. The habit of joint action which makes the life of a party is equally intense in every part of the American system. But in England the existence of a ministry and opposition in Parliament sweeps within the circle of party action many topics which in America are left outside, and therefore Congress seems, but is not, less permeated than Parliament by party spirit.
 The best legal authorities hold that a provision of this kind is invalid, because state law has no power to narrow the qualifications for a federal representative prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. And Congress would probably so hold if the question arose in a case brought before it as to a disputed election. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the point has never arisen for determination.
 I have however known of one or two cases in New England and in the city of New York in which persons not resident in the district have been elected. In New York on one occasion it was strongly urged against a candidate that the side of the street in which he lived was not within the ward he was standing for. Sometimes a man moves into a district in order to be chosen there.
 The old law (9 Anne, c. 5) required all members to possess a freehold qualification somewhere. All property qualifications were abolished by statute in 1858. Of the last five prime ministers who have sat in the House of Commons none has represented his place of residence.
 The English habit of allowing a man to stand for a place with which he is personally unconnected would doubtless be favoured by the fact that many ministers are necessarily members of the House of Commons. The inconvenience of excluding a man from the service of the nation because he could not secure his return in the place of his residence would be unendurable. No such reason exists in America, because ministers cannot be members of Congress. In France, Germany, Italy, and in Canada the practice resembles that of England, i.e., many members sit for places where they do not reside, though a candidate residing in the place he stands for has a certain advantage.
It is remarkable that the original English practice required the member to be a resident of the county or borough which returned him to Parliament. This is said to be a requirement at common law (witness the words “de comitatu tuo” in the writ for the election addressed to the sheriff); and was expressly enacted by the statute 1 Henry V. cap. 1. But already in the time of Elizabeth the requirement was not enforced; and in 1681 Lord Chief Justice Pemberton ruled that “little regard was to be had to that ancient statute 1 Henry V. forasmuch as common practice hath been ever since to the contrary.” The statute was repealed by 14 Geo. III cap. 50.—See Anson, Law and Custom of the Constitution, vol. i, p. 83; Stubbs, Constit. Hist., vol. iii, p. 424. Dr. Stubbs observes that the object of requiring residence in early times was to secure “that the House of Commons should be a really representative body.” Mr. Hearn (Government of England) suggests that the requirement had to be dropped because it was hard to find country gentlemen (or indeed burgesses) possessing the legal knowledge and statesmanship which the constitutional struggles of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries demanded.
 When President Garfield was one of the leaders of the House of Representatives it happened that his return for the district in which he resided became doubtful, owing to the strength of the Democratic party there. His friend Mr. John Hay (to whom I owe the anecdote), anxious to make sure that he should somehow be returned to the House, went into the adjoining district to sound the Republican voters there as to the propriety of running Mr. Garfield for their constituency. They laughed at the notion, “Why, he don’t live in our deestrict.” I have heard of a case in which a member of Congress having after his election gone to live in a neighbouring district, was thereupon compelled by the pressure of public opinion to resign his seat.
 In Maryland, a state almost divided into two parts by Chesapeake Bay, it has been the practice that one of the two senators should be chosen from the residents east of the bay, the other from those of the western shore.
 Benjamin Franklin argued strongly in the Convention of 1787 against this theory, but found little support. See his remarkable speech in Mr. John Bigelow’s Life of Franklin, vol. iii, p. 389.
 Payment is the rule in the British self-governing colonies. In France and some at least of the German states (though not in the Reichstag) representatives are paid. In Italy they receive no salary, but a free pass over the railroads.
 In recent years, a tendency to reelect members seems to be growing.
 In the Massachusetts Convention of 1788, when this question was being discussed, “General Thomson then broke out into the following pathetic apostrophe, ‘O my country, never give up your annual elections: young men, never give up your jewel.’ He apologized for his zeal.” —Elliot’s Debates, vol. ii, p. 16.
 Of course his conduct in committee is rarely known, but I doubt whether the shortness of the term makes him more scrupulous.
 There is force in the following observations which I copy from the 54th and 57th numbers of the Federalist: “A certain number at least seems necessary to secure the benefits of free consultation and discussion, and to guard against too easy a combination for improper purposes; as on the other hand, the number ought to be kept within a certain limit in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob. . . . In all legislative assemblies, the greater the number comprising them may be, the fewer will be the men who will in fact direct their proceedings. The larger the number, the greater will be the proportion of members of limited information and of weak capacities. Now it is precisely on characters of this description that the eloquence and address of the few are known to act with all their force. In the ancient republics where the whole body of the people assembled in person, a single orator, or an artful statesman, was generally seen to rule with as complete a sway as if a sceptre had been placed in his single hand. On the same principle the more multitudinous a representative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partake of the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people. Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning, and passion the slave of sophistry and declamation. The people can never err more than in supposing that by multiplying their representatives beyond a certain limit they strengthen the barrier against the government of a few. Experience will forever admonish them that, on the contrary, after securing a certain number for the purposes of safety, of local information, and of diffusing sympathy with the whole society, they will counteract their own views by every addition to their representatives.”
It is true that the House of Commons with 670 members has not been found unmanageable. The number present, however, rarely exceeds 450; and there is sitting accommodation on the floor for only 360.
 Though sometimes the sergeant-at-arms is sent round Washington with a carriage to fetch members down from their residences to the Capitol.
 Oliver Cromwell’s House of 360 members, including 30 from Scotland and 30 from Ireland, had a quorum of 60.
 Before the Reform Bill of 1832 there were rarely more than 200 members present in the House of Commons, and it usually sat for two or three hours only in each day. One of the members for Hampshire, about 1820, sat for thirteen years, being in perfect health, and was only thrice in the House. Nor was this deemed a very singular case.
 See also Chap. 58 post, Vol. II.
 A few years ago an eminent Englishman, visiting one of the colleges for women in New England, and wishing to know something of the social standing of the students, remarked, “I suppose you have a good many young ladies here belonging to the best families, daughters of members of Congress and so forth?” The question excited so much amusement that it was repeated to me months afterwards not only as an instance of English ignorance but as a merry jest.
 That which was at one time the chief function of the ministerial whip, viz., to pay members for the votes they gave in support of the government, has been extinct for a century and a half. He is still, however, the recognized organ for handling questions of political patronage, and is therefore called the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury. People who want places for their friends—there are now extremely few—or titles for themselves—these are more numerous and eagerly desired—still address their requests to him, which he communicates to the prime minister with his opinion as to whether the applicant’s public or party services justify the request.
 Even parties formed with a view to particular, and probably transitory issues, appoint one or more of their members as whips, because they could not otherwise act with that effect which only habitual concert gives. Each party has its whips in the House of Lords also, but as divisions there have less political significance their functions are less important.
 I allow the passage which follows to stand unaltered, because it describes the state of things which existed when this book was first written and for some time afterwards. In 1900, however, whips were introduced, the congressional caucus of each party in the House choosing one. The duty of the whip is to canvass his party on all doubtful issues and inform the leaders how many votes can be depended on. The gifts of tact, persuasion, and force are required to fit him for the delicate work of handling the hesitating or the disaffected. [Note to Edition of 1910.]
 An experienced senator told me that the Senate caucus of his party used to meet on an average twice a month, the House caucus less frequently. A leading member of the House said that a “call” would be sent out, on an average, for about six measures in a session, i.e., from ten to twenty times altogether, according to the resistance offered to the measures of the majority. Sometimes a “call” of the majority is signed by the Speaker. General meetings of a party in Parliament are much less common in England.
 At one time the congressional caucus played in American history a great part which it has now renounced. From 1800 till 1824 party meetings of senators and representatives were held which nominated the party candidates for the presidency, who were then accepted by each party as its regular candidates. In 1828 the state legislatures made these nominations, and in 1832 the present system of national conventions (see post, in Vol. II) was introduced.
 For an interesting comparison of party voting in Congress and in the British House of Commons, see Mr. A. Lawrence Lowell’s Government of England.