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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 121   View pdf image
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121

bers the basis of representation to the House of
Delegates, and of mixed basis of population and
territory as for representation in the Senate."

He would be willing to meet all true reformers
at a point short of representation according to
numbers and was willing still further to modify
• his proposition should any suggestion be made
by any one in whose attachment to the cause of
reform he had confidence. Before proceeding to
a discussion of the amendment, he desired to
comment upon the course adopted by the com-
mittee in presenting an abstract proposition, and
endeavoring to force the House to a vote which
when taken, could not in the nature of the case
accomplish any practical result. He emphati-
cally denied the right of the Committee, to sub-
mit such a resolution, under the terms of the or-
der originally submitted by himself and amended
by the distinguished gentleman from Queen
Anne's, (Mr. GRASON,) requiring the Committee
to report by articles. He protested against the
right of the Committee to shield any one or more
of its members from the responsibility of a report
until a decision should be first had upon such in-
terrogatories, as they chose to submit to the Con-
vention. The chief, if not sole object of the
formation, of Committees, is to expedite the busi-
ness of the Convention by proposing plans for the
adoption or rejection of that body. This was
the only Committee which had taken a different
course. They seem to think that the task of per-
fecting a plan was committed to them. Not 90.
Their usefulness would be better exemplified by
bringing forward their plans that the Convention
might shape them to meet the views of a majori-
ty. If there were no two of them who could agree,
let each member report separately as had been
done in New York and other State Conventions.
He (lid not charge it as a motive with the Com-
mittee, but the resolution seemed to invite a
spirit of partyism, an arraignment of county pre-
judices — the smaller against the larger, and both
against the city of Baltimore. So much, sir, as
to my objections to the course of the Committee.
Let us look to the resolution itself, and its merits.
Are gentlemen called upon to commit themselves
upon isolated propositions before they had sur-
veyed the whole ground ? For himself, he never
meant to contend under all circumstances for the
principle of representation according to numbers,
as a sine qua non to be inserted in the new Con-
stitution. He was free to confess, that when he
came to the Convention he did not expect to find
the opponents of that principle, willing to yield
every thing on that point.
The act itself under which this Convention was
called > when it fixed the basis of representation
in this body, was a virtual acknowledgement
that the Constitution was to be a work of com-
promise. If not, why place us here a minority
of Delegates representing an overwhelming ma-
jority of the people, "to be laughed to scorn,"
when setting up such pretensions. He avowed
himself unwilling to support a Constitution, how-
ever acceptable in other respects, unless much
was yielded on the basis of representation. The
present basis is in derrogatioa of the equal rights

16

of American citizens. Let all true reformers
unite and fashion a Constitution, which, like the
great federal compact of the Union, shall con-
tain compromises to protect the weak, and do
justice to the great majority principle which
should lie at the foundation, as a corner stone, of
all representative government. He desired to
say a few words to his friends from Somerset,
(Mr. DASHIELL.) and St. Mary's (Mr. BLAKIS-
TONE,) who appear to regard the proposition he
had the honor to submit, in relation to a consti-
tutional guarranty upon the subject of slavery, as
a sort of Trojan horse.
The gentleman from St. Mary's was fond of
speaking of hobbies — de gustibus non est disputan-
dum. If he had jostled the hobby (slavery) on
which he so gracefully rides, he must beg par-
don. In seriousness, sir, that proposition was
but one of a series of constitutional guaranties he
designed to propose to insure greater confidence
in those who represented minority interests,
and thereby lead to an honorable adjustment
of the question of representation. He announc-
ed that he would not pertinaciously adhere to
the principle of representation according to
population, and he believed the constituency he
had the honor to represent in part, would hoJd
any one of their delegates to strict accountability,
if by any extreme demands, the Constitution it-
self was to be defeated. There is a path of duty
to be trod within these walls, in which a con-
sciousness of honest motive, and a confidence not
feigned but real, in the virtue and intelligence of
the people can alone support us. That path is
not a hidden one, it is to be reached not by wind-
ings, but by the avoidance of extremes. Prac-
tical men look anxiously to a radical reform in
all the departments of the government. It is in
no martyr's spirit, that he avowed himself in fav-
or of a fair and liberal compromise; he expected
(he cordial support ofhis constituency, who were
a chivalrous and high-toned people, who did not
expect their delegates to accomplish impossibili-
ties. The gentleman from St. Mary's had again
and again called upon members to show their
hands upon the question of popular representation;
to use his own language, to "toe the mark."
Why, Mr. President, what does this all
amount to? Does it require any peculiar strength
of nerve for a gentleman from a small county to
cry out lustily against numerical representation ?
Far from it; to do otherwise might require a high
degree of moral courage. Or, what merit should
he claim as a representative in part, of one hun-
dred and seventy thousand sou/s, "to toe the
mark," upon the extremes! line of popular re-
presentation. Let us, sir. act as becomes Mary-
hinders, freed from sectional prejudices and hav-
ing a single eye to the public good.
Mr. HICKS asked for some information from
the chair. Was it competent to offer a substi-
tute to the pending amendment?
The chair replied in the negative, two amend-
ments being now pending.
Mr. HICKS then read a proposition which he
intended to offer when he could get the opportu-
nity.



 

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Proceedings and Debates of the 1850 Constitutional Convention
Volume 101, Volume 1, Debates 121   View pdf image
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