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OF A SPEECH DELIVERED IN THE CONVENTION OF MASSACHUSETTS AS-
We are at length arrived at the discussion of those questions, which it was easy to foresee would be attended with the most serious interest and difficulty — questions, which, indeed, were the principal causes of assembling this convention. Nor do I regret it. The great powers of eloquence and argumentation, which have already been displayed in the debate, I trust will do good here, and ultimately reach the bomes of our constituents. I cannot hope, after the very ample discussion, which the subject has undergone, to add much to the arguments, and shall content myself with such illustrations of my own views, as have not been completely presented by others.
If it were necessary for my purpose, I might say, with the gentleman from Worcester, that I come here pledged to no man or set of men, or to any settled course of measures. I come merely, as the delegate of one town, to cooperate with other gentlemen, the delegates of other towns, in such measures, as the public good may require; and in their wisdom and discretion I place entire confidence. I might add, also, what my eloquent colleague has already remarked, that, upon this particular topic, and upon the grounds which we take, we are not in a situation even to be suspected of interested motives. The county of Essex is safe at present, and would have a fair and equal representation in the Senate, whether the principle of population or that of valuation were adopted as a basis. If population were assumed as a basis, and no restriction were interposed, it is highly probable, that the county of Essex might
This is a mere sketch, taken principally by the reporter, and was not written out at large by the speaker.
hereafter be a loser; but upon the principle of valuation it could never be a gainer, since it would now bave the whole number, to which it could ever be entitled. But I throw away all parrow considerations of this kind, and consider myself as a delegate of the Commonwealth, bound to consult for the interests of the whole, and to form such a constitution as shall best promote the interests of our children and of all posterity.
It is necessary for us, for a moment, to look at what is the true state of the question now before us. The proposition of my friend from Roxbury is, to make population the basis for apportioning the Sepate; and this proposition is to be followed up, as the gentleman, with the candor and frankness, wbich have always marked bis character, has intimated, by another, to apportion the House of Representatives in the same manner. The plan is certainly entiiled to the praise of consistency and uniformity. It does not assume in one house a principle, which it deserts in another. Those, who contend, on the other hand, for the basis of valuation, propose nothing new; but they stand upon the letter and spirit of the present constitution.
Here, then, there is no attempt to introduce a new principle in favor of wealıb into the constitution. There is no attempt to discriminate between the poor and the rich. There is no atteinpt to raise the pecuniary qualifications of the electors, or the elected; to give to the rich man two votes, and to the poor man but one. The qualifications are to remain as before ; and the rich and the poor, and the biyh and the low, are to meet at the polls upon the same level of equality. And yet, much bas been introduced into the debate about the rights of the rich and the poor, and the oppression of the one by the elevation of the other. This distinction between the rich and poor, I must be permitted to say, is an odious distinction, and not founded in the merits of the case before us. that the poor man is not to be deprived of his rights, any more than the rich man; nor have I as yet heard of any proposition to that effect; and if it should come, I should feel myself bound to resist it. The poor man ought to be protected in his rights, not merely of life and liberty, but of his scanty and hard earnings. I do not deny, that the poor man may possess as much patriotism as the rich; but it is unjust to suppose, that he necessarily possesses more. Patriotism and poverty do not necessarily march hand in hand; nor is wealth that monster, which some imaginations bave depicted, with a heart of adamant, and a sceptre of iron, surrounded with
scorpions, stinging every one within its reach, and planting its feet of oppression upon the needy and the dependent. Such a representation is not just with reserence to our country. There is no class of very rich men in this happy land, whose wealth is fenced in by hereditary titles, by entails, and by permanent elevation to the highest offices. Here, there is a gradation of property from the highest to the lowest, and all feel an equal interest in its preservation. If, upon the principle of valuation, the rich man, in a district, which pays a high tax, votes for a larger number of senators, the poor man in the same district enjoys the same distinction. There is not, then, a conflict, but a harmony of interests between them. Nor under the present constitution has any discontent or grievance been seriously felt from this source.
When I look round, and consider the blessings, which property bestows, I cannot persuade myself, that gentlemen are serious in their views, that it does not deserve our utmost protection. I do not here speak of your opulent and munificent citizens, whose wealth has spread itself into a thousand channels of charity and public benevolence. I speak not of those, who rear temples to the service of the Most High God. I speak not of those, who build your hospitals, where want, and misery, and sickness, the lame, the halt, and the blind, the afflicted in body and in spirit, may find a refuge from their evils, and the voice of solace and consolation, and food, and medicine, and kindness. I speak not of those, who build asylums for the insane ; for the ruins of noble minds; for the broken-hearted and the melancholy ; for those, whom Providence has afflicted with the greatest of calamities, the loss of reason, and, too often, the loss of happiness; within whose walls the screams of the maniac may die away in peace, and the sighs of the wretched be soothed into tranquillity. I speak not of these ; not because they are not worthy of all praise ; but because I would dwell rather on those general blessings, which property diffuses through the whole mass of the community. Who is there, that has not a friend or a relative in distress, looking up to him for assistance ? Who is there, that is not called upon to administer to the sick and the suffering; to those who are in the depth of poverty and distress; to those of his own household, or to the stranger beside the gate ? The circle of kindness commences with the humblest, and extends wider and wider, as we rise to the highest in society ; each person administering in bis own way to the wants of those around him. It is thus, that property becomes the source of comforts of every kind, and dispenses its blessings in every form. In this way it conduces to the public good by promoting private happiness; and every man, from the hun blest, possessing property, to the highest in the state, contributes his proportion to the general mass of comfort. The man without any property may desire to do the same ; but he is necessarily shut out from this most interesting charity. It is in this view, that I consider property as the source of all the comforts and advantages we enjoy ; and every man, from him, who possesses but a single dollar, up to him, who possesses the greatest fortune, is equally interested in its security and its preservation.
Government, indeed, stands on a combination of interests and circumstances. It must always be a question of the highest moment, how the property-holding part of the community may be sustained against the inroads of poverty and vice. Poverty leads to temptation, and temptation often leads to vice, and vice to military despotism. The rights of man are never heard in a despot's palace. The very rich man, whose estate consists in personal property, may escape from such evils, by flying for resuge to some foreign land. But the hardy yeoman, the owner of a few acres of the soil, and supported by it, cannot leave his home without becoming a wanderer on the face of the earth. In the preservation of property and virtue, he has, therefore, the deepest and most permanent interest.
Gentlemen have argued, as if personal rights only were the proper objects of government. But what, I would ask, is life worth, if a man cannot eat in security the bread earned by his own industry? if he is not permitted to transmit to his children the little inheritance, which his affection has destined for their use? What enables us to diffuse education among all the classes of society, but property? Are not our public schools, the distinguishing blessing of our land, sustained by its patronage ?
I will say no more about the rich and the poor. There is no parallel to be run between them, founded on permanent constitutional distinctions. The rich help the poor, and the poor, in turn, administer to the rich. In our country, the highest man is not above the ple; the humblest is not below the people. If the rich may be said to have additional protection, they have not additional power. Nor does wealth here form a permanent distinction of families. Those, who are wealthy to-day, pass to the tomb, and their children divide their estates. Property is thus divided quite as fast as it accumulates. No family can, without its own exertions, stand erect for a long time under
peoour statute of descents and distributions, the only true and legitimate agrarian law. It silently and quietly dissolves the mass, heaped up by the toil and diligence of a long life of enterprise and industry. Property is continually changing, like the waves of the sea. One wave rises, and is soon swallowed up in the vast abyss, and seen no more. Another rises, and having reached its destined limits, falls gently away, and is succeeded by yet another, which, in its turn, breaks, and dies away silently on the shore. The richest man among us may be brought down to the humblest level; and the child, with scarcely clothes to cover his nakedness, may rise to the highest office in our government. And the poor man, while he rocks his infant on his knees, may justly indulge the consolation, that, if he possess talents and virtue, there is no office beyond the reach of his honorable ambition. It is a mistaken theory, that government is founded for one object only. It is organized for the protection of life, liberty, and property, and all the comforts of society; to enable us to indulge in our domestic affections, and quietly to enjoy our homes and our firesides.
It has been said, that the Senate, under the present constitution, is founded on the basis of property. This I take to be incorrect. It is founded on the basis of taxation. It gives no particular privileges to the rich; all have equal rights secured by it. The gentleman from Worcester, to show the injustice and inequality of the present system, has alarmed us with a reference to the town of Hull. Suppose, said he, five of the richest men in Boston should remove to Hull, that removal would enable Hull to have six Senators. Is this the case ? Is Hull a county? Does it constitute a senatorial district ? No; the property, thus carried from Suffolk, would be transferred to the county of Plymouth, and would increase the representation of that county proportionally in the Senate under a new valuation. If, instead of going to Hull, the same persons should remove to Salem, their property would not produce the slightest effect; for Essex, without it, possesses a right to as many Senators, as the constitution allows to any district. The case supposed by the gentleman is so extreme, that it could scarcely be supposed to exist; and, if it did, no such consequences could arise as have been stated.
It has been also suggested, that great property, of itself, gives great influence ; and that it is unnecessary, that the constitution should secure to it more. I have already stated what I conceive to be the true answer; that a representation in the Senate, founded on a valua