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Thread: California's new plan

  1. #21
    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Not especially. The House of Lords is hereditary, whereas the Senate was originally composed of senators elected by their own state's legislatures - in other words, they were indirectly elected by the people. It was expressly set up in order to give smaller states a say in the federal government (along with the Electoral College).
    Depends on how you define the "original" purpose. The final version of the Constitution did have each state have the same number of Senators to give smaller states equal say in part of the federal government, which ended up being the main reason for it. However, that was an adjustment made to placate the small states, and the initial proposal had them be proportioned by population like the House. Personally, I would consider the "original" purpose to be that in the final version of the Constitution, as that's what actually was enacted. But even if we want to insist that we should consider only the initial proposal, Starlight's representation still isn't right.

    The primary reason for the Senate being originally selected by the State legislatures was because doing so would better represent the interests of the individual state as a whole. The House of Representatives, with its districts, just meant you had a bunch of guys who were representatives of their individual districts. Outside of the question of how many districts there would be, the state they were from was fairly incidental. A major concern regarding the Constitution (which granted the federal government considerable more power than the Articles of Confederation) was the individual states losing too much of their ability to govern themselves, and thus the solution was to have the state governments, which were distinct to each individual state, be the ones to select the senators.

    So essentially, the Senate, as originally proposed, was a roundabout way to maintain state sovereignty. Trying to reduce the complex issue of the balance in power between the states and federal government into being a way to allow the "rich and powerful" to thwart what the populace want is downright silly (particularly because the Senate was still elected by the people, even if indirectly).

  2. #22
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    A few links for the Americans in this forum who are ignorant of the history of their Senate...

    James Madison, Federal Convention 1787:

    Democratic communities may be unsteady, and be led to action by the impulse of the moment. Like individuals, they may be sensible of their own weakness, and may desire the counsels and checks of friends to guard them against the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions. Such are the various pursuits of this life, that in all civilized countries, the interest of a community will be divided. There will be debtors and creditors, and an unequal possession of property, and hence arises different views and different objects in government. This indeed is the ground-work of aristocracy; and we find it blended in every government, both ancient and modern. Even where titles have survived property, we discover the noble beggar haughty and assuming.

    The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law [Roman distribution of land ownership among the populace] would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.


    For a period of time slave and free states were added in pairs to stop Senate power becoming imbalanced between slave states and free states. e.g. the Missouri Compromise in 1820 in which Maine and Missouri were added as a slave/free state pair. In the Compromise of 1850, there was a complicated negotiation of splitting up various new territories into slave and free states in order to maintain senate balance, spurred by California attempting to enter the union as a new free state.

    A modern writer, for The Atlantic wryly notes:
    One thing I’ve never heard in my time overseas is “I wish we had a Senate like yours.”....

    When the U.S. Senate was created, the most populous state, Virginia, had 10 times as many people as the least populous, Delaware. Giving them the same two votes in the Senate was part of the intricate compromise over regional, economic, and slave-state/free-state interests that went into the Constitution. Now the most populous state, California, has 69 times as many people as the least populous, Wyoming, yet they have the same two votes in the Senate.

  3. #23
    tWebber Roy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    A few links for the Americans in this forum who are ignorant of the history of their Senate...
    The above is consistent with the use of an electoral college to prevent the possible election of a president liked by the population but disliked by the influential.
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  4. #24
    tWebber Starlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roy View Post
    The above is consistent with the use of an electoral college to prevent the possible election of a president liked by the population but disliked by the influential.
    Yep. I don't disagree with that.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    A few links for the Americans in this forum who are ignorant of the history of their Senate...

    James Madison, Federal Convention 1787:

    Democratic communities may be unsteady, and be led to action by the impulse of the moment. Like individuals, they may be sensible of their own weakness, and may desire the counsels and checks of friends to guard them against the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions. Such are the various pursuits of this life, that in all civilized countries, the interest of a community will be divided. There will be debtors and creditors, and an unequal possession of property, and hence arises different views and different objects in government. This indeed is the ground-work of aristocracy; and we find it blended in every government, both ancient and modern. Even where titles have survived property, we discover the noble beggar haughty and assuming.

    The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law [Roman distribution of land ownership among the populace] would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.
    While the linked document is highly useful from a historical perspective, the quote you have pointed out here does not support your assertion. Here it is again:
    "Well originally the point of the senate, as I understand it, was to allow the rich and powerful to maintain control of government and stop the pesky populace having too much democratic influence."

    I quote this to make clear what the claim at dispute was. Anyway, while the quote you provided does come from James Madison which gives it considerable credibility because he was the architect behind the Virginia Plan that proposed two chambers, attempting to take a single quote (which, for the record, was likely heavily paraphrased, as it comes from meeting notes) and acting like that was the whole reason is problematic. He certainly isn't saying that the point of the Senate is to favor the rich and powerful; at most, he is saying that's a function it can serve, and the whole context of the remark was an explanation for why a longer term length could be good. And it is also worth noting that at this point, the Senate was in a different form, as they hadn't settled on a number of critical factors that ended up serving as the main purpose of the Senate, the big one being equal representation. Again, I view the original point of the Senate and/or House as its purpose in the constitution that was ratified, not why the original idea was brought up.

    But even ignoring everything I just pointed out, if someone reads the entire document (and, if one wants an even more complete picture, to examine James Madison's own notes on the conference), elsewhere it's made clear that the House of Representatives serves as a check on the Senate. So even if one wants to take the tact that the quote demonstrated the Senate was around to stop the general populace from maintaining control of government, the opposite is also true in that the "rich and powerful" were prevented from maintaining control of the government by the other house, thereby showing the claim to be, at best, in error.

    For a period of time slave and free states were added in pairs to stop Senate power becoming imbalanced between slave states and free states. e.g. the Missouri Compromise in 1820 in which Maine and Missouri were added as a slave/free state pair. In the Compromise of 1850, there was a complicated negotiation of splitting up various new territories into slave and free states in order to maintain senate balance, spurred by California attempting to enter the union as a new free state.
    Your claim was that the "stated purpose" of the Senate was to maintain slavery, which hardly seems to have been the case; at most one could claim this was a side effect of it. It wasn't the purpose.

    But even to claim that keeping slavery around was a side effect of the Senate isn't really the case. Even if we assume that free states having more representatives in it than the slave states would have ended slavery (it almost certainly would not have; the balance, for as much attention was paid to it, was ultimately more of a symbolic thing), it's honestly backwards to claim that the Senate allowed slavery to keep going. The truth was that the Senate being around caused them to have to do all sorts of stuff to keep the balance going, because if they didn't, then there'd be more free states in the end. They had to work around the Senate; it wasn't a benefit.

    But perhaps the argument is supposed to be that because the House of Representatives had more representatives from free states, that if not for the Senate, the majority in it being from free states would have ended slavery and everything would have been honky dory because it would've been much harder to maneuver things into keeping the House of Representatives even. This is a highly dubious argument. There is little evidence that, even if the free states had control of the Senate, that they would actively be trying to shut down slavery where it existed. Going into the 1860 elections, anti-slavery sentiment was basically at the highest it had ever been, and the Republican platform still never called for abolishing slavery in the existing states that practiced it, merely not establishing it in the new territories.

    Additional proof is the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (very pro-slavery) in a Senate that was "deadlocked" because slave and free states, and the fact that in a last-ditch attempt to avert the Civil War, the Senate and House passed an amendment prohibiting the federal government from interfering with a state allowing the practice of slavery to continue. Note that this was without 7 of the southern states even being around (they had already announced their secession, the hope was the amendment would bring them back), meaning that a Senate that was mostly free states was still able to get 2/3 of its members to agree to an amendment guaranteeing the existence of slavery. The war starting put a stop to attempts to finish ratifying it by getting the approval of the states, but the point was they were able to get that high of a vote in a Senate that was lacking most of the slave states.

    So the idea that the removal of the Senate would have somehow gotten rid of slavery doesn't seem to hold up. Everyone knew that any serious attempt to get rid of slavery (unless a state decided to do it themselves) would cause a split in the country and thus they tried to avoid this. The removal of the Senate wouldn't change that.

    A modern writer, for The Atlantic wryly notes:
    One thing I’ve never heard in my time overseas is “I wish we had a Senate like yours.”....

    When the U.S. Senate was created, the most populous state, Virginia, had 10 times as many people as the least populous, Delaware. Giving them the same two votes in the Senate was part of the intricate compromise over regional, economic, and slave-state/free-state interests that went into the Constitution. Now the most populous state, California, has 69 times as many people as the least populous, Wyoming, yet they have the same two votes in the Senate.
    And California has substantially more votes in the House of Representatives than Wyoming. This population difference does still have a big effect, just not in the Senate.

    In regards to him not hearing a comment about wanting a Senate like the US's, I doubt many foreigners are all that knowledgeable about the inner workings of the US government, and even those that do wouldn't have much reason to bring such a specific thing up in regular conversation. So I don't think that really means much of anything.

  6. #26
    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starlight View Post
    A few links for the Americans in this forum who are ignorant of the history of their Senate...

    James Madison, Federal Convention 1787:

    Democratic communities may be unsteady, and be led to action by the impulse of the moment. Like individuals, they may be sensible of their own weakness, and may desire the counsels and checks of friends to guard them against the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions. Such are the various pursuits of this life, that in all civilized countries, the interest of a community will be divided. There will be debtors and creditors, and an unequal possession of property, and hence arises different views and different objects in government. This indeed is the ground-work of aristocracy; and we find it blended in every government, both ancient and modern. Even where titles have survived property, we discover the noble beggar haughty and assuming.

    The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law [Roman distribution of land ownership among the populace] would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered.
    Oh noes, checks and balances!
    For a period of time slave and free states were added in pairs to stop Senate power becoming imbalanced between slave states and free states. e.g. the Missouri Compromise in 1820 in which Maine and Missouri were added as a slave/free state pair. In the Compromise of 1850, there was a complicated negotiation of splitting up various new territories into slave and free states in order to maintain senate balance, spurred by California attempting to enter the union as a new free state.
    You realize this has nothing whatsoever to do with the original purpose of the Senate, yes?
    A modern writer, for The Atlantic wryly notes:
    One thing I’ve never heard in my time overseas is “I wish we had a Senate like yours.”....

    When the U.S. Senate was created, the most populous state, Virginia, had 10 times as many people as the least populous, Delaware. Giving them the same two votes in the Senate was part of the intricate compromise over regional, economic, and slave-state/free-state interests that went into the Constitution. Now the most populous state, California, has 69 times as many people as the least populous, Wyoming, yet they have the same two votes in the Senate.
    So losers don't care to emulate the most successful country on the planet. I'll get working on caring about what they think.
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