SOURCE: CX [Charles Carroll of Carrollton], Dunlap’s Maryland Gazette; or, the Baltimore General Advertiser (April 2, 1776).
To tamper, therefore, in this affair, or try prospects merely upon the credit of supposed arguments or philosophy can never be the part of a wise magistrate, who will bear a reverence to what carries the marks of age; and though he may attempt some improvement for the public good, yet he will adjust his innovation, as much as possible, to the ancient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the constitution.
–Hume’s Essays, Idea of a Perf. Commonwealth
Our present government seems to be approaching fast to its dissolution; necessity during the war will introduce material changes; INDEPENDENCE, the consequence of victory, will perpetuate them. As innovations then must be made, let them be adjusted according to the advice of Mr. HUME, ‘as much as possible, to the ancient fabric.’ Let the spirit of our constitution be preserved; nay, improved by correcting the errors of our old system, and strengthening its soundest and best supports. I shall briefly mention, without the least design of censuring past transactions, or calling blame on any man, what appear to me defects in our present government; and shall attempt with great diffidence to point out the proper remedies.—The following are some of its defects:
The principal offices are too lucrative, and the persons enjoying them are members of the Upper House of Assembly. It is unnecessary, and be thought inordious [sic], to dwell on the mischiefs, which the Public has experienced in consequence of the misunderstanding between the two branches of the legislature, commonly occasioned by a difference of opinion respecting the fees of those offices. Much time has certainly been consumed in debates, and conferences, and messages on that subject, which could have been usefully employed in other matters. Is it proper that the same person should be both Governor, and Chancellor? The Judges of our Provincial Court hold their commissions during pleasure; the duties of their station are most important and fatiguing; the highest truth is reposed in them, yet how inadequate the recompence! The lessening of lucrative offices, and proportion the reward to the service in all; the exclusion of placemen from both Houses of Assembly; the separating the chancellorship from the chief magistracy; and the granting commissions to the judges of the Provincial Court, QUAM DIU SE BENE GESERRIT, with salaries annexed equal to the importance and fatigue of their functions; it is humbly conceived, would be alterations for the better in every instance.
The constitution of the Upper House seems defective also in this particular, That the members are removeable [sic] at the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary. To give to that branch of the legislature more weight, it should be composed of gentlemen of the first fortune and abilities in the Province; and they should hold their seats for life. An Upper House thus constituted would form some counterpoise to the democratical part of the legislature. Although it is confessed, that even then the democracy would be the preponderating weight in the scales of this government. The Lower House wants a more equal representation, to make it as perfect as it should be. At present, one third of the electors sends more delegates to the Assembly than the remaining two thirds. It will not be contended, I presume, that what has always been deemed a capital fault in the English Constitution is not one in ours, formed upon that model? Every writer in speaking of the defects of the former, reckons the unequal representation of the commonality among the principal. The Boroughs are proverbially stiled the rotten part of the constitution, on account of their venality, proceeding from the inconsiderable number of electors in most of them. If the people of this Province are not fairly and equally represented; no doubt, in the new modeling of our constitution, great care will be taken to make the representation as equal as possible. Before I proceed to point out a method for facilitating this desirable reform; I shall state some objections which have been used against the measure, and endeavour to give a satisfactory answer to each of them—
A new representation will offend those counties which now send to the Assembly a greater number of Delegates, than their just proportion; hence divisions will ensue, at all times to be dreaded, but most in the present. Is the proposed alteration just or not! If just, then they only should be esteemed sowers of division, who oppose it. But should such a representation take place, more Delegates would be chosen in some counties, then in others, and should the votes be collected individually on all questions as heretofore practiced, they might frequently be carried against the smaller counties. What is that but saying that the majority would determine every question, the only mode of decision that can with any propriety be adopted? The Colonies vote by Colonies in Congress, therefore counties ought to vote by counties in Convention; and therefore it is useless to alter the representation, or to have more delegates from one country than another. The force of this reasoning, if there be any in it, I could never comprehend. The colonies are separately independent, and to preserve this independency, it may perhaps, be necessary to vote by colonies in Congress, but surely it will not be said that the counties of Maryland are thus independent, or that there are as many little independent principalities in the Province as there are counties? All our counties are subject to the same legislature, which within the territory owning its jurisdiction, is supreme. The inconveniences that may arise from the colonies voting by colonies in Congress must be imputed to the jealousy of Independence; or to use a softer term, to the necessity of securing to each colony its own peculiar government. To reconcile the strength, safety, and welfare of all the United Colonies, with the entire privileges, and full independency of each, requires a much great share of political knowledge, than I am made of. But if this imperfection in the general constitution or confederation of the colonies, can not be remedied, does it follow, that the same imperfection should run through the particular constitutions of every colony, or be retained in that of any one? Different colonies may possibly, in process of time have different interests; and to secure to each Colony its peculiar and local interests; it may be thought most prudent to establish independence of each on a permanent basis. Have the two shores of Maryland, or can they have[,] a difference of interests? Should they be really so distinct, as to warrant the suspicion that the lesser part would be sacrificed to the greater; then are they unfit to be connected under one government; a separation ought to take place, to terminate the competition and rivalship, which this diversity of views and interests would produce; and all the consequent evils of two powerful and opposite factions in the same state. The interests of the two shores are the same; in the imagination of some men a difference may indeed exist, but not in reality. Is the welfare then of the whole Province to be sacrificed to the whims, the caprice, the humours [sic], and the groundless jealousy of individuals, not constituting a twentieth part of the people? Let those, who would oppose an equal representation on a supposed contrariety the IPSE DIXIT of no man, or set of men ought to prevail against a reform of the representative, so consentaneous to the spirit of our constitution.
To come at a fair and equal representation of the whole people, the following method is proposed.
Let the Province be divided into districts, merely for the purpose of elections, containing each one thousand voters, or nearly that number; let every district elect [_____] representatives: suppose, for instance, the whole number of electors should amount to 40,000, then if every 1000 should elect two Representatives, there would be 80 Representatives returned to Assembly. For facilitating the divisions of the counties into districts, and for the ease and convenience of the inhabitants in other respects such counties as are too large, may be divided into one or more, according to their respective extent. As our people will in all likelihood greatly increase in the course of fifty or sixty years it may be necessary in order to correct the inequalities which that lapse of time will probably occasion in the representatives to new-model the elections, preserving the same number of Delegates to Assembly, it may be ordained that 1500 return two only. If this precaution be not taken, the representative may in time become too numerous and unweildy [sic]; a medium should be preserved between a too small and a too large Senate; the former is more liable to the influence of a separate interest from that of their constituents and combination against that interest, the latter unfit for deliberation and mature counsels. ‘Every numerous assembly (Cardinal de Retz observes) is [a] mob, and swayed in their debates by the least motives; consequently every thing there depends upon instantaneous turns.” When the Province shall contain as many inhabitants as it will be capable of supporting in its most improved state of cultivation, it will not even then be advisable to suffer the representative to exceed one hundred for the reasons assigned. If the Delegates should ever amount to that number, to preserve a due proportion between the two houses, the members of the Upper House ought to be encreased to eighteen or nineteen. It would add to their importance, and give them more weight in the government, if on all vacancies they were to chuse [sic] their own members. The above alterations of our constitution are no ways inconsistent with a dependence on the crown of Great Britain, and therefore, not justly liable to the censure and opposition of those who wish the colonies to continue dependent.
During the civil war the appointment of a Governor and Privy Council, not to exceed five, must be left to the two Houses of Assembly; and if we should separate from Great Britain, the appointment must remain with them. The Governor and Council are to be entrusted with the whole executive department of government, and accountable for their misconduct to the two houses. A continuance of power in the same hands is dangerous to liberty; let a rotation therefore be settled to obviate that danger yet not so quickly made, as to prove detrimental to the State by frequently throwing men of the greatest abilities out of public employments. Where would be the inconvenience if the Governor and Privy Council were annually elected by the two Houses of Assembly, and a power given by the constitution to those Houses of continuing them in office from year to year, provided that their continuance should never extended beyond the term of three successive years?
A variety of other arrangements scarcely less important, must follow the proposed changes; only the outline of the constitution is drawn, the more intricate parts, “their nice conections [sic], just dependencies” remain to be adjusted by abler heads. A long dissertation was not intended, a minute detail would be tiresome; and perhaps the author may be justly accused of having already trespassed on the patience of the Public.
–CX [Charles Carroll of Carrollton]