BLTC Press Titles


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Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States

by Joseph Story

Excerpt:

1 Journ. of Convention, 10th July, 165, 166,107, 171,172, 179, 216. a Journ. of Convention, 159, note. But see The Federalist, No. 55. 3 Confederation, Art. 5.

a mere league of states, to a government in any degree national.1 And accordingly it formed, as it should seem, the basis of what was called the New-Jersey Plan.* This rule of apportionment met, however, with a decided opposition, and was negatived in the convention at an early period, seven states voting against it, three being in its favour, and one being divided.3

§ 631. Another principle might be, to apportion the representation of the states according to the relative property of each, thus making property the basis of representation. This might commend itself to some persons, because it would introduce a salutary check into the legislature in regard to taxation, by securing, in some measure, an equalization of the public burthens, by the voice of those, who were called to give most towards the common contributions. 4 That taxation ought to go hand in hand with representation, had been a favourite theory of the American people. Under the confederation, all the common expenses were required to be borne by the states in proportion to the value of the land within each state.5 But it has been already seen, that this mode of contribution was extremely difficult and embarrassing, and unsatisfactory in practice, under the confederation.6 There do not, indeed,

1 Journ. of Convention, HI, 153, 159.

2 Mr. Patterson's Plan, Journ. of Convention, 123; 4 Elliot's Debates, (Yates's Minutes,) 74; Id. 81; Id. 107 to 113, 116 ; 2 Pitk. Hist. 228, 229,232.

3 Journ. of Convention, llth June, 111. See also Id. 153, 154; 4 Elliot's Debates, (Yates's Minutes,) 68.

* 4 Elliot's Debates, (Yates's Minutes,) 68, 69 ; Journ. of Convention, llth June, 111; Id. 5th July, 158; Id. llth July, 169.

5 Confederation, Art. 8.

6 Journals of Congress, 17th Feb. 1783, vol. 8, p. 129 to 133 ; Id. 27th Sept. 1785, vol. 10, p. 328; Id. 18th April, 1783, vol. 8, p. 188 ; 1 Elliot's Debates, 56; 2 Elliot's Debates, 113; 1 Tuck. Black. Comm. App. 235, 236, 243 to 246 ; The Federalist, No. 30; Id. No. 21.

VOL. II. 14

seem to be any traces in the proceedings of the convention, that this scheme had an exclusive influence with any persons in that body. It mixed itself up with other considerations, without acquiring any decisive preponderance. In the first place, it was easy to provide a remedial check upon undue direct taxation, the only species, of which there could be the slightest danger of unequal and oppressive levies. And it will be seen, that this was sufficiently provided for, by declaring, that representatives and direct taxes should be apportioned by the same ratio.

§ 632. In the next place, although property may not be directly aimed at, as a basis in the representation, provided for by the constitution, it cannot, on the other hand, be deemed to be totally excluded, as will presently be seen. In the next place, it is not admitted, that property alone can, in a free government, safely be relied on, as the sole basis of representation. It may be true, and probably is, that in the ordinary course of affairs, it is not the interest, or policy of those, who possess property, to oppress those, who want it. But, in every well-ordered commonwealth, persons, as well as property, should possess a just share of influence. The liberties of the people are too dear, and too sacred to be entrusted to any persons, who may not, at all times, have a common sympathy and common interest with the people in the preservation of their public rights, privileges, and liberties. Checks and balances, if not indispensable to, are at least a great conservative in, the operations of all free governments. And, perhaps, upon mere abstract theory, it cannot be justly affirmed, that either persons or property, numbers or wealth, can safely be trusted, as the final repositaries of the delegated powers of government.1 By apportioning influence among each, vigilance, caution, and mutual checks are naturally introduced, and perpetuated.


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