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[翻译字幕]THE MAKING OF A NATION - American History: A Struggle to Balance Power Between Big and Small States

来源:慢速英语   时间:2013-01-10 09:32:37

建国史话 (19):制定宪法之四

From VOA Learning English, welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in Special English. I’m Steve Ember. This week in our series, we continue the story of the United States Constitution.

In May of 1787, a group of America's early leaders met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They planned to amend the Articles of Confederation. That document established a loose union of the 13 states. Instead, the leaders wrote a completely new constitution. It created America's system of government and recognized the rights of its citizens.

Last week, we told how the group reached agreement on the position and powers of a national executive. They decided the executive could veto laws. And they decided the person could be removed from office if found guilty of serious crimes.

We also told about the debate on a national judiciary. The delegates approved a federal system of courts and judges. These courts would hear cases involving national laws, the rights of American citizens, and wrongdoing by foreign citizens in the country. State courts would continue to hear cases involving state laws.

Next, the delegates began to discuss competing proposals for a national legislature. This would be the most hotly debated issue of the convention. It forced the question of equal representation. Would small states and large states have an equal voice in the central government?
 

Early American flag with 13 stars representing the 13 states

The convention had already agreed that the national legislature would have two houses. It had not agreed, however, on the number of representatives each state would have in each house. The large states wanted representation based on population. But the small states believed they would lose power to the large states. They wanted representation to be the same for all states, no matter what the size.

One day, Gunning Bedford of Delaware, one of the smallest states, looked straight at the delegates from the largest states.

"Gentlemen!" he shouted. "I do not trust you. If you try to crush the small states, you will destroy the confederation. And if you do, the small states will find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith who will take them by the hand and give them justice."

The debate on legislative representation -- big states against small states -- lasted for weeks that summer in Philadelphia. The delegates could not agree. So they debated other parts of the proposal.

One involved the names of the two houses of the legislature. Most spoke of them simply as the First Branch and the Second Branch. We will speak of them by the names used today: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Next came the question: Who could be elected to the House and Senate? Delegates did not take long to decide. Members of the House, they agreed, must be at least 25 years old. They must have been citizens of the United States for seven years. And, at the time of election, they must live in the state in which they are chosen.

The delegates agreed that members of the Senate must be at least 30 years old. They also must have been a citizen of the United States for nine years. And, at the time of election, they too must live in the state in which they are chosen.

But who would elect them? The question raised an interesting issue. It concerned democracy. In 1787, the word "democracy" meant something very different from what it means today. To many of the men meeting in Philadelphia, democracy meant mob rule. To give power to the people was an invitation to anarchy.

Still, George Mason of Virginia argued for popular elections. "The people will be represented," Mason said, "so they should choose their representatives."

James Wilson of Pennsylvania agreed. He stated firmly that the people must elect at least one branch of the national legislature. That, he said, was a basic condition for free government. The majority of the convention agreed with Mason. The delegates decided that members of the House of Representatives should be elected directly by the people.

Akhil Reed Amar is a professor at Yale Law School in Connecticut. He says the delegates’ decision to let people elect their representatives helped change the meaning of the word “democracy.”

“The success of the American constitutional project has proved to the rest of the world that democracy can work, government of, by and for the people can survive and flourish, and this has been a model for the rest of the world.”

However, most delegates agreed that the state legislatures would choose the representatives to the second legislative branch, the Senate. It remained that way for more than 100 years. In 1913, the states approved the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment legalized the direct election of Senators by the people.

How long would lawmakers serve? Roger Sherman of Connecticut thought representatives to the House should be elected every year. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts agreed. He thought a longer term would lead to a dictatorship.

James Madison of Virginia protested. "It will take almost one year," he said, "just for lawmakers to travel to and from the seat of government!" Madison proposed a three-year term. But the delegates finally agreed on two years.

There were many ideas about the term for senators. A few delegates thought they should be elected for life. In the end, the convention agreed on a Senate term of six years.
Next came a debate about the pay for elected officials. How much should they get? Or should they be paid at all?

Some delegates thought the states should pay their representatives to the national legislature. Others said the national legislature should decide its own pay and take it from the national treasury.

That idea, James Madison argued, was shameful. He thought the amount should be set by the Constitution. Again, Madison lost the argument. The Constitution states only that lawmakers will be paid for their services and that the money will come from the national treasury.

Finally, the time came for the convention to face the issue of representation in the House and Senate. The large states still wanted representation based on population. And the small states still wanted equal representation. The delegates had voted on the issue several times since the convention began. But both sides stood firm. Yet they knew they could not continue to vote forever, day after day.

So the delegates did what large groups often do when they cannot reach agreement. They voted to create a committee. This "Grand Committee" would try to develop a compromise. The rest of the delegates would enjoy themselves during the July Fourth holiday marking American independence.

July Fourth -- Independence Day. It marked the eleventh anniversary of America's Declaration of Independence from British rule. The celebration was especially important in Philadelphia. It was the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Now it was the city where a new nation was being created.

Convention president George Washington led a group of delegates to a ceremony at a Philadelphia church. They heard a speech written especially for them.

"Your country looks to you with both worry and hope," the speaker said. "Your country depends on your decisions. Your country believes that men such as you -- who led us in our war for independence -- will know how to plan a government that will be good for all Americans. Surely we have the ability to design a government that will protect the liberties we have won."

After the speech, Benjamin Franklin urged the convention to ask for God's help. He said each meeting should begin with a prayer.

Hugh Williamson of North Carolina quickly ended any discussion of Franklin's idea. The convention, he said, had no money to pay a minister to lead the delegates in prayer.

On July fifth, the Grand Committee presented a two-part compromise. It provided something for large states and something for small states. It called for representation based on population in the House and for equal representation in the Senate. The committee said both parts of the compromise must be accepted or both rejected.

Delegates debated the compromise for many days. They knew if they did not reach agreement, the convention would fail. Those were dark days in Philadelphia.

Later, Luther Martin of Maryland noted that the newspapers reported on how much the delegates agreed. But that was not the truth. "We were on the edge of breaking up," Martin said. "We were held together only by the strength of a hair."

Delegates Robert Yates and John Lansing of New York had left the convention in protest. But George Mason of Virginia declared he would bury his bones in Philadelphia before he would leave without an agreement.

Even General George Washington was depressed. He wrote to Alexander Hamilton, who had returned to New York temporarily.

"I am sorry you went away," Washington said. "Our discussions are now, if possible, worse than ever. There is little agreement on which a good government can be formed. I have lost almost all hope of seeing a successful end to the convention. And so I regret that I agreed to take part."

On July 16th, the convention voted on the issue for the last time. It accepted what is called “the Great Compromise.”

But even this agreement raised another problem. If representation was based on population, who would you count? Would you count just free people? Or would you count Negro slaves, too? How the delegates answered that question of who would be counted will be our story next week.

I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week here at VOA Learning English for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

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This was program #19

上次我们谈到在费城制宪大会上,维吉尼亚州的代表们提出了一个十五点计划,专门讨论美国的政府体制。这项计划呼吁建立一个国家政府,最高立法、行政和司法机构三权分立。大会代表对“国家”和“最高”等词汇的意思展开了激烈辩论,有些代表担心,强大的中央政府会削弱各州的权力,但是最后,建立国家政府的提案还是获得了批准。

代表们从6月1号开始讨论国家行政首脑的议题。维吉尼亚州提出的计划认为,美国的行政首脑应该由国家立法机构来挑选,其职责是落实立法机构通过的法律,任期若干年,领取少量酬劳。上述几点奠定了辩论的基础。代表们在接下来的几个星期里,确定了国家行政首脑的具体权力和职能。

在国家行政首脑的问题上,参加费城制宪大会的每一位代表好像都有话要说。很显然,他们对这个问题已经思考很久了。几乎所有人都不愿意看到一个新的君主出现。虽然很多人对一人执政充满信心,但另外一些人则坚持要求三人执政。

宾夕法尼亚的詹姆斯·威尔逊主张一人执政,理由是,美国的国家领导人需要精力过人,而且要有迅速决策的能力,因此最好由一个人来担任。维吉尼亚州州长埃德蒙·伦道夫强烈反对。他认为,一人执政是“君主制的胚胎”。

德拉瓦州的约翰·迪金森表示,他并不排斥一个由国王领导的政府,王权统治是世界上最好的政治体制之一。但他同时指出,在美国,国王行不通。围绕国家领袖的地位和职能的辩论进行了很长时间,与会代表最后投票表决,对于一人执政的提案,七个州支持,三个州反对。

在讨论过程中,任期长短和是否允许连选连任的问题也被提了出来。亚历山大·汉密尔顿认为任期不能太短。他指出,如果总统任期只有一年或是两年的话,那么过不了多久,美国就会有很多位前总统。他们会争权夺利,不利于国家和平。本杰明·富兰克林主张总统可以多次当选。他提出,人民是国家的统治者,总统是人民的公仆,人民有权利多次选择同一个人担任总统。

与会代表们还讨论了另外两个相关问题:一个是任期三年,可以重复当选;另外一个是任期七年,只有一届。投票表决的结果是,五个州的代表支持七年的一届任期,四个州的代表反对。这个问题在制宪大会后来的辩论中又被提了出来,最后决定,总统任期四年,可以连选连任。

接下来自然是总统的产生。这是最棘手的问题。与会代表们就此反复辩论和表决。詹姆斯·威尔逊提议,总统由人民的特别代表选举产生,这些代表叫做选举人,按地区分配。有些代表反对这个提案,理由是,普通民众掌握的信息不足以让他们推举出优秀的选举人,因此这种制度很难推行,而且耗资巨大。

另外一名代表提议,总统由州长选举产生,人口越多,州长手里的选票就越多。没有人支持这项提议,特别是人口少的州。

还有人提议,总统应该由人民直接选举产生。麻萨诸塞州的埃尔布里奇·格里听到这个提议后大惊失色。他说,“人民哪搞得懂这种事情,少数不老实的人轻而易举地就能蒙蔽人民,由人民直接选举是选择总统的最糟糕的办法。”

制宪大会代表最初投票决定由国会任命总统;然后又改变了主意,决定由州议会任命选举人,再由选举人推选总统;这一决议后来又被推翻。会议代表就此议题先后投票六十次,最后还是决定,总统应该由州议会提名的选举人推选产生。

有人提出,如果总统干了坏事,我们怎样才能罢免他呢?与会代表们觉得这个问题确实有道理,因此必须设置弹劾总统的程序,一旦认定总统有罪,就可以赶他下台。宾夕法尼亚州的州长格瓦诺·莫里斯主张设置弹劾机制,因为总统可能会受到更强大势力的影响,而背弃人民对他的信任。与会代表因此批准了一项提案。提案规定,总统一旦被认定犯有行贿受贿、叛国或是其他重大罪行,就必须下台。

关于总统职能的最后一个重要问题就是对国会决定的否决权。与会代表们都不愿意让总统享有否决立法的终极权力,但是又觉得,总统应该在立法程序中有发言权,否则的话,总统一职就没什么意义了,而国会就有了独裁的权力。詹姆斯·麦迪逊提出了一个解决办法。他说,总统应该有权否决立法,但是如果国会大多数成员再次投票通过,国会就可以推翻总统的否决。

大会最后的文件中列举了总统一职更多的细节,比如说,美国总统必须在美国出生,或是宪法生效时已经是美国公民;美国总统必须在美国生活了至少十四年,年纪要在35岁以上。美国总统领取工资,但是工资数额在其任期内不得改变;美国总统是三军统帅;美国总统要定期向国会进行国情报告。

文件中还规定了美国总统宣誓就职的誓言。两百多年来,每隔四年,当选的总统就会郑重宣告--“我谨庄严宣誓,必忠实执行合众国总统职务,竭尽全力恪守、维护和捍卫合众国宪法。”