Friday, October 16, 2009 10/16/09 - democracy

In today's excerpt - because of the inherent
distrust of pure democracy that existed in
the 1780s, only the members of the House of
Representatives were to be elected directly
by the people in the original U.S.
Constitution; Senators were chosen by their
state's legislature, and the President was
to be chosen by electors. The comments below come
from the notes of the debate of the
Constitutional Convention itself, and show
there was considerable opposition even to
allowing the people vote directly for

"ROGER SHERMAN [of Connecticut]: Election [of
the members of the House of Representatives]
should be by the state legislatures. The
people immediately should have as little to
do as may be about the government.
They lack information and are constantly
liable to be misled. If the state
governments are to be continued, it is
necessary in order to preserve harmony
between the national and state governments,
that the elections to
the former should be made by the latter. The
right of participation in the
national government will be sufficiently
secured to the people by their
election of the state legislatures.

ELBRIDGE GERRY [of Massachusetts]: The evils
we experience flow from the excess of
democracy. The
people do not lack virtue, but are the dupes
of pretended patriots. In
Massachusetts it has been fully confirmed by
experience that they are
daily misled into the most baneful measures
and opinions by the false
reports circulated by designing men. One
principal evil arises from the
want of due provision for those employed in
the administration of government. It would
seem to be a maxim of democracy to starve the

CHARLES PINCKNEY [of South Carolina]: The
people are less fit judges in such a case
than the legislatures, and the legislatures
will be less likely to promote the adoption
of the
new government if they are to be excluded
from all share in it.

WILLIAM PATERSON [of New Jersey]: If the
sovereignty of the states is to be
maintained, the representatives must be drawn
immediately from the states, not from the

JOHN RUTLEDGE [of South Carolina]: Election
by the legislatures would be more refined than an
election immediately by the people, and more
likely to correspond with the
sense of the whole community. If this
Convention had been chosen by
the people in districts, it is not to be
supposed that such proper characters
would have been preferred. The delegates to
[the Continental] Congress
have also been fitter men than would have
been appointed by the people
at large.

JOHN MERCER [of Virginia]: The people cannot
know and judge of
the characters of candidates. The people in
towns can unite their votes in favor of one
and by that means always prevail over the
people of the country, who,
being dispersed, will scatter their votes
among a variety of candidates. ...

PINCKNEY: The first branch should be elected
by the people,
in such mode as the state legislatures shall

GERRY: The people should nominate a certain
number, out of which
the state legislatures should be bound to
choose. Experience has shown
that state legislatures drawn immediately
from the people do not always
possess their confidence. An election by the
people should be so qualified
that men of honor and character might not be
unwilling to be joined
in the appointments. The people could choose
double the requisite number, the legislature
to appoint out of them the authorized number
of each

MERCER: Candidates should
be nominated by the state legislatures and
elected by the people, who should not be left
to make their choice without
any guidance."

Jane Butzner (Jacobs), Constitutional
Chaff, Copyright 1941 by Columbia
University Press, pp. 8-9.


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