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[331] district.1 The numerical inequality which under the old system favored the cities was under the new one to favor the smaller towns. Upon this subject Sumner spoke at greater length and with more earnestness than upon any other, and he was not in harmony with most of the leaders of his party. His speech was marked by clear and methodical thought and sobriety of style. His loyalty to principles, which was characteristic of him through life, led him to reject the temporary or accidental advantages which a departure from those principles offered. He desired an equal distribution of power among the legal voters to be determined by ‘the rule of three;’ and as that was not practicable under a system which adhered to the corporate representation of the towns however modified, he advocated a district system, which alone could secure such a distribution. While not claiming the elective franchise to be a natural right ‘common to all, without distinction of age, sex, or residence,’ he insisted upon maintaining an equality of power among citizens or aggregates of citizens, and traced the tendencies of the representative system from its crude and arbitrary adjustments in its beginning to the principle of equality. While recognizing ‘the commercial feudalism whose seat is in the cities,’ he objected to any device for depriving them of their proportional power, or any attempt to degrade them in the scale of representation.2 Finding, however, that the people, or at least the delegates, were not ripe for his views, he assented to the proposed plan as an improvement of the existing system, particularly in the division of cities into districts. On this point he said:—

A change so important in character cannot be advantageously made unless supported by the permanent feelings and convictions of the people. Institutions are formed from within, not from without. They spring from custom and popular faith silently operating with internal power, not from the imposed will of a lawgiver; and our present duty here, at least on this question, may be in some measure satisfied if we aid this growth.

Sumner was appointed a member of a special committee to revise the propositions to be submitted to the people, and was the author of a provision which was reported and passed, requiring

1 This system was no more wanting in symmetry than the English system as reformed in 1884-1885, or the apportionment still adhered to in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

2 Sumner, as well as the two Mortons, voted, July 8, against their party and with the Whigs for the district system; but it was rejected by the convention, under the leadership of Wilson, Griswold, and Boutwell, by more than one hundred majority. The district system was adopted a few years later without party contention.

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