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"The senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state; chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each senator shall have one vote." (Art. I, sec. 3.) The convention readily agreed upon dividing congress into two branches; but, as has been observed, it was difficult to settle the mode of representation. The delegates from the large states insisted upon a representation in proportion to numbers, in the senate as well as in the house; and the small states contended for equality in both branches. The debate was long and animated; and it became apparent that, as in the case of slave representation in the house, there must be a compromise. This was at length effected; the small states consenting to a proportional representation in the house, and the large states to an equal representation in the senate.

 

§2. It has been remarked, that the federative principle of the old system has been to some extent retained in the constitution. Both the equality of representation in the senate, and the election of senators by the state legislatures, are in strict conformity with the plan of the confederation, and of simple confederacies generally. Different modes of electing senators were proposed; but the one adopted by the convention seems preferable to any other.

§3. There is, however, in one particular, a material difference between the plan of the old congress and that of the senate. It is in the manner of voting. In the former, the vote was taken by states, each state having but one vote; (Chap. XXVIII, §5,) in the latter, the senators vote separately, the vote of each senator counting one, as in the house; and a question is decided by the united votes of a majority of the members, and not by the vote of a majority of the states. Nor is the vote of a state lost if but one of its senators is present, as formerly. If, however, the two senators vote on different sides of a question, the effect is the same as when, in the old congress, the members from a state were equally divided.

§4. There were also various opinions as to the proper term of office of senators. Terms were proposed differing in length from three to nine years; and a proposition was even made by one distinguished member to make the term continue during good behavior, which is practically for life. There appear to be sound objections both to long and short terms. It is urged by those in favor of the latter, that an officer elected for a short term, especially if he desires a reëlection, will have a strong inducement to please and faithfully serve those who are to elect or appoint him.

§5. Others, however, while they admit that short terms tend to insure responsibility on the part of a representative, consider this argument more than counterbalanced by the objections to which a short term is liable. Looking to a reëlection, he may act with a view to his popularity rather than to the public good. Again, the oftener a legislature is changed, the more changeable and uncertain will be the laws. Men having invested their capital in a business enterprise, and made a successful beginning under existing laws, may be ruined by a sudden and unexpected change of governmental policy.

§6. In view of these objections to both long and short terms, a medium term of six years was adopted. This was believed to be short enough to keep up in a senator a feeling of responsibility, and yet long enough to insure his acting independently and with a regard to the general interests of the nation. Although a bad senator may occasionally be kept too long in office by a six years' term, cases also occur in which the act of a senator, especially in time of public excitement, is strongly condemned, but upon calm and mature reflection meets the public approbation.

§7. The next clause of the third section provides for the gradual change of the senate. One-third of the senators go out of office every two years. In favor of this arrangement are two important considerations. First, it secures to the public at all times the benefit of the experience of at least two-thirds of the body. Whereas, if the terms of all the senators expired at once, their places might be supplied mainly by new members without the requisite knowledge and experience. Secondly, while a long term is intended to guard against the too frequent changes in the laws, it may also prevent, for too long a time, the amendment or the repeal of bad laws. Such amendment or repeal may be hastened by the election of new members in the place of the one-third who retire every two years.

§8. Vacancies which happen in the representation of any state in the senate during the recess of its legislature, may be filled by the governor until the next meeting of the legislature. Without this provision, either the legislature must be assembled immediately to fill the vacancy, or the state must remain in part, or perhaps wholly unrepresented in the senate, until the next regular session of the legislature.

§9. But an appointment may not be made by an executive before the vacancy actually happens. In 1825, the term of a senator was about to expire during the recess of the legislature of his state, which had failed at its previous session to appoint a successor. As a special session of the senate was to be held immediately after the expiration of the senator's term, the governor, a few days before the term expired, in anticipation of the vacancy, reappointed the senator. But the senate decided that, as the appointment had been made _before the vacancy happened_, the senator was not entitled to a seat.

§10. The next clause prescribes the qualifications of senators. A senator must have attained the age of thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States; and he must, when elected, be an inhabitant of the state for which he is chosen. As many of the duties of a senator require more knowledge, experience, and stability of character than those of a representative, greater age and longer citizenship are required. The nature of these duties will be noticed in subsequent chapters.

§11. The seventh section of the first article provides for the passage of bills negatived, or vetoed, by the president. Bills returned by him with his objections, become laws when passed by majorities of two-thirds of both houses; that is, by two-thirds of the members present. They also become laws if not returned by him within ten days (Sundays excepted) after they have been presented to him, unless their return is prevented by the adjournment of congress.

§12. We have passed over several sections and clauses of this article without remark. Most of them are similar to some in the state constitutions, which we have noticed; and the propriety of others is so readily perceived, that any comment upon them is deemed unnecessary.