Front Page Titles (by Subject) Note to Chapter 4: WHAT THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION OWES TO THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SEVERAL STATES - The American Commonwealth, vol. 1
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Note to Chapter 4: WHAT THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION OWES TO THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SEVERAL STATES - 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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Note to Chapter 4
WHAT THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION OWES TO THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SEVERAL STATES
The following statement of the provisions of the federal Constitution which have been taken from or modelled upon state constitutions, is extracted from a valuable article by Mr. Alexander Johnston in the New Princeton Review for September 1887:
“The name ‘Senate’ was used for the Upper House in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and Virginia; and the name ‘House of Representatives,’ for the Lower House, was in use in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, as well as in Pennsylvania and Vermont.
“The rotation, by which one-third of the Senate goes out every two years, was taken from Delaware, where one-third went out each year, New York (one-fourth each year), Pennsylvania (one-third of the council each year), and Virginia (one-fourth each year). The provisions of the whole fifth section of Art. i., the administration of the two Houses, their power to decide the election of their members, make rules and punish their violation, keep a journal, and adjourn from day to day, are in so many state constitutions that no specification is needed for them.
“The provision that money-bills shall originate in the House of Representatives is taken almost word for word from the Constitutions of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, as is the provision, which has never been needed, that the President may adjourn the two Houses when they cannot agree on a time of adjournment. The provision for a message is from the Constitution of New York. All the details of the process of impeachment as adopted by the Convention may be found in the Constitutions of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, even to the provision in the South Carolina system that conviction should follow the vote of two-thirds of the members present. (It should be said, however, that the limitation of sentence in case of conviction to removal from office and disqualification for further office-holding is a new feature.) Even the much-praised process of the veto is taken en bloc from the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, and the slight changes are so evidently introduced as improvements on the language alone as to show that the substance was copied.
“The adoption of different bases for the two Houses—the House of Representatives representing the States according to population, while the Senate represented them equally—was one of the most important pieces of work which the Convention accomplished as well as the one which it reached most unwillingly. All the States had been experimenting to find different bases for their two Houses. Virginia had come nearest to the appearance of the final result in having her Senate chosen by districts and her representatives by counties; and, as the Union already had its ‘districts’ formed (in the States), one might think that the Convention merely followed Virginia’s experience. But the real process was far different and more circuitous. There were eleven States represented in the Convention, New Hampshire taking New York’s place when the latter withdrew, and Rhode Island sending no delegates. Roughly speaking, five States wanted the ‘Virginia plan’ above stated; five wanted one House as in the Confederation with State equality in it; and one (Connecticut) had a plan of its own to which the other ten States finally acceded. The Connecticut system since 1699, when its legislature was divided into two Houses, had maintained the equality of the towns in the Lower House, while choosing the members of the Upper House from the whole people. In like manner its delegates now proposed that the States should be equally represented in the Senate, while the House of Representatives, chosen from the States in proportion to population, should represent the people numerically. The proposition was renewed again and again for nearly a month until the two main divisions of the Convention, unable to agree, accepted the ‘Connecticut compromise,’ as Bancroft calls it, and the peculiar constitution of the Senate was adopted.
“The President’s office was simply a development of that of the governors of the States. The name itself had been familiar; Delaware, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, had used the title of President instead of that of Governor. In all the States the governor was commander-in-chief, except that in Rhode Island he was to have the advice of six assistants, and the major part of the freemen, before entering upon his duties. The President’s pardoning power was drawn from the example of the States; they had granted it to the governors (in some cases with the advice of a council) in all the States except Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Georgia, where it was retained to the legislature, and in South Carolina, where it seems to have been forgotten in the Constitution of 1778, but was given to the governor in 1790. The governor was elected directly by the people in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, and indirectly by the two Houses in the other eight States; and in this nearly equal division we may, perhaps, find a reason for the Convention’s hesitation to adopt either system, and for its futile attempt to introduce an electoral system, as a compromise. The power given to the Senate of ratifying or rejecting the President’s appointments seems to have been an echo of New York’s council of appointment; the most strenuous and persistent efforts were made to provide a council to share in appointments with the President; the admission of the Senate as a substitute was the furthest concession which the majority would make; and hardly any failure of details caused more heart-burnings than the rejection of this proposed council for appointments.
“The President’s power of filling vacancies, by commissions to expire at the end of the next session of the Senate, is taken in terms from the Constitution of North Carolina.
“Almost every State prescribed a form of oath for its officers; the simple and impressive oath of the President seems to have been taken from that of Pennsylvania, with a suggestion, much improved in language, from the oath of allegiance of the same State. The office of vice-president was evidently suggested by that of the deputy, or lieutenant-governor (in four States the vice-president) of the States. The exact prototype of the office of vice-president is to be found in that of the lieutenant governor of New York. He was to preside in the Senate, without a vote, except in case of a tie, was to succeed the governor, when succession was necessary, and was to be succeeded by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
“The provisions for the recognition of inter-State citizenship, and for the rendition of fugitive slaves and criminals, were a necessity in any such form of government as was contemplated, but were not at all new. They had formed a part of the eighth article of the New England Confederation of 1643. Finally the first ten amendments, which were tacitly taken as a part of the original instrument, are merely a selection from the substance or the spirit of the Bills of Rights which preceded so many of the State constitutions.
“The most solid and excellent work done by the Convention was its statement of the powers of Congress (in § 8 of Art. i.) and its definition of the sphere of the Federal judiciary (in Art. iii.). The results in both of these cases were due, like the powers denied to the States and to the United States (in § § 9 and 10 of Art. i.), to the previous experience of government by the States alone. For eleven years or more (to say nothing of the antecedent colonial experience) the people had been engaged in their State governments in an exhaustive analysis of the powers of government. The failures in regard to some, the successes in regard to others, were all before the Convention for its consideration and guidance.
“Not creative genius, but wise and discreet selection was the proper work of the Convention; and its success was due to the clear perception of the antecedent failures and successes, and to the self-restraint of its members.