Obrázky stránek



general proposition, no one acquainted with the subject will dispute, although there may be localities which are exceptions.

The stain of that disgraceful corruption which has been proved to exist in many

of smaller boroughs will, it is to be hoped, very soon be wiped from our constitutional system by the removal of some of the baser elements, and the addition to the constituencies of some that may be purer and better, and for which we have been sufficiently warned not (for the present, at least,) to look lower in the social scale. We

may thus hope to continue to attain the great end of an elective system, namely, the finding the best men to govern the country.

The almost equally disgraceful practice of intimidation, once largely resorted to in the counties, has so much given way before the increased enlightenment and independence of

* It is said that a beginning has been made in some electoral districts in the State of New York to break through this system of managing the elections. It is heartily to be wished that it may become general, and that independence, property, highmindedness, honour, cultivation, wisdom, and moral worth, will henceforward have more weight in the scale, as against mere numbers or those who use them.

the constituencies, that, as a general rule, they have no longer any need to raise the timid

cry for the shelter of the ballot. The stigma of public reprobation is rapidly putting an end to the few lingering attempts at that species of oppression.

The only other points relative to the Houses of the Legislature of the United States which Mr. Justice Story touches upon, and which require a passing notice, are, that the time of their assembling is appointed for the first Monday in December in every year; and that, according to the fifth and sixth sections of the first article of the Constitution, it appears that the powers, rights, duties, and privileges of each House are in no important particulars different from those of our own Houses of Parliament.



The sixth section of the first article of the Constitution provides that “ The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the United States' Treasury.”

The arguments urged at the time of introducing this clause, referred to the ancient practice of England; the last known case of a Member of Parliament having received

wages ” from his constituents being that of Andrew Marvell, M.P. for Hull, in the first Parliament after the Restoration. Mr. Justice Story also recapitulates the various reasons which seemed to justify the introduction of

the practice into the Legislature of the United States; but the inclination of his own opinion evidently is that the highest dignity, independence, and ability in the discharge of legislative functions can be more certainly obtained without pecuniary compensation than by means of it. He adverts to the fact that “ the practice of England abundantly showed that compensation was not necessary to bring into public life the best talents and virtues of the nation.” *

And whatever may have been the presumed necessity or policy of such a practice in the infancy of the institutions of the United States, when their population was comparatively scanty, and the means of acquiring an honourable independence much more restricted—(although the numbers possessing the opportunities of high mental cultivation were, even then, not few)-the same considerations cannot now apply to an adult nation, teeming with wealth and overflowing with intelligence; and it appears to be not improbable, from the current of public discus

$$ 853. 855.

sion upon this, by far the most delicate and disagreeable subject to touch upon in the whole range of their institutions, that the dissatisfaction openly expressed at the details, if not yet very openly directed against the principles of their present practice in this particular, will gather strength, and, before many years are passed, produce some important modifications of it.

The scale of payment to members has undergone various alterations. By an Act of 22nd of September, 1789, which continued in force to March, 1795, the payment was, to both senators and representatives, six dollars per working day, i.e. during their actual attendance on their legislative duties, and six dollars for every twenty miles travelled to and from the place of the meeting of Congress. In 1795 the payment to senators was raised to seven dollars; in March, 1796, it was again fixed at six dollars for both. In March, 1816, it was enacted that, “instead of the daily compensation now allowed by law, there shall be paid annually to the senators,

« PředchozíPokračovat »