-Thursday, June 7, 1787 Yesterday James Wilson of Pennsylvania argued: ``The Legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society.''Skip to next paragraph
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A SHARE of Federal power was promised the separate States today when the Convention unanimously approved election to the national Legislature's second branch, or Senate, by the State legislatures. Yesterday, the small States lost their fight against popular election to the first branch, or House of Representatives, of the proposed national government. Today's vote, allowing States to elect one senator each while the first branch would be elected by the people, set the stage for a bitter struggle over the role the States should play in the new national government.
The architect of today's decision is the only delegate to this Convention who participated in all phases of the American Revolution, from the Stamp Act of 1765 to the present Convention. John Dickinson of Delaware, famous for his scholarly writings, drew a parallel between the British House of Lords and the new Senate. Mr. Dickinson told the delegates that election to the Senate branch of the national Legislature by the State legislatures would ensure men of character, rank and property, as in the British House of Lords. He then lived up to his reputation for eloquence with these words:
``A government thus established would harmonize the whole, and like the planetary system, the national council like the sun, would illuminate the whole - the planets revolving around it in perfect order; or like the union of several small streams, would at last form a respectable river, gently flowing to the sea.''
James Wilson of Pennsylvania was hard pressed to compete with such powerful words. Mr. Wilson said dissensions in the new national government would occur if the House were chosen by the people and the Senate by the States. The Scottish-born lawyer specifically denied Mr. Dickinson's charge that he, Mr. Wilson, wished to extinguish the States, or planets, instead of allowing them to move freely in their proper orbit.
``The British governmt. cannot be our model. ..,'' Mr. Wilson declared. ``Our manners, our laws ... the whole genius of the people, are opposed to it.''
Gen. George Washington may have played a part in the unanimous approval today of Mr. Dickinson's proposal for the States to elect senators. A source close to the General reports that in a breakfast conversation over coffee with a friend, he asked why the friend poured his coffee in a saucer. ``To cool it,'' the friend reportedly answered. General Washington is said to have replied that the Senate was like a saucer to cool legislation from the House.
What emerged from today's debate is a novel system that would use the Senate, elected by the States, to check any hasty legislative initiatives by the House, elected by the people who might be stampeded by popular passions. A survey of Convention delegates by this correspondent reveals that the proposed use of the Senate to check the House is to guard against what one delegate called ``the turbulence and follies of Democracy.''
As Mr. Dickinson told the delegates, one possible solution to such excesses was to have the States appoint to the national Senate candidates drawn from the ranks of wealth, prominent families, or talent. By enlarging the numbers in the Senate, he went on, with the ``wealth of the aristocracy, you establish a balance that will check Democracy'' in the House, which is elected by the people.
These day-by-day reports on the Constitutional Convention will continue tomorrow.