James Madison Papers

Term of the First Branch of the Legislature, [21 June] 1787

Term of the First Branch of the Legislature

[21 June 1787]

Ellsworth moved to substitute annual for triennial elections in the first branch of the legislature.

Mr. Madison was persuaded that annual elections would be extremely inconvenient and apprehensive that biennial would be too much so: he did not mean inconvenient to the electors; but to the representatives. They would have to travel seven or eight hundred miles from the distant parts of the Union; and would probably not be allowed even a reimbursement of their expences. Besides, none of those who wished to be re-elected would remain at the seat of Governmt.; confiding that their absence would not affect them. The members of Congs. had done this with few instances of disappointment. But as the choice was here to be made by the people themselves who would be much less complaisant to individuals, and much more susceptible of impressions from the presence of a Rival candidate,1 it must be supposed that the members from the most distant States would travel backwards & forwards at least as often as the elections should be repeated. Much was to be said also on the time requisite for new Members who would always form a large proportion, to acquire that knowledge of the affairs of the States in general without which their trust could not be usefully discharged.

Ms (DLC).

1JM interlined here “than the Legislatures had been,” but he evidently tried to erase it.

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