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To Edmund Pendleton Mr. Madison wrote as follows:

“PHILADELPHIA, September 20, 1787. “DEAR SIR,—The privilege of franking having ceased with the Convention, I have waited for this opportunity of inclosing you a copy of the proposed Constitution for the United States. I forbear to make any observations on it, either on the side of its merits or its faults. The best judges of both will be those who can combine with a knowledge of the collective and permanent interests of America, a freedom from the bias resulting from a participation in the work. If the plan proposed be worthy of adoption, the degree of unanimity attained in the Convention is a circumstance as fortunate as the very respectable dissent on the part of Virginia is a subject of regret. The double object of blending a proper stability and energy in the Government with the essential characters of the republican form, and of tracing a proper line of demarkation between the National and State authorities, was necessarily found to be as difficult as it was desirable, and to admit of an infinite diversity concerning the means among those who were unanimously agreed concerning the end.”

After having reached New York and resumed his seat in the Congress, in a letter to Mr. Jefferson, dated October 24, 1787, Mr. Madison wrote:

“You will herewith receive the result of the Convention, which continued its session till the 17th of September. I take the liberty of making some observations on the subject, which will help to make up a letter, if they should answer no other purpose.

“It appeared to be the sincere and unanimous wish of the Convention to cherish and preserve the Union of the States. No proposition was made, no suggestion was thrown out, in favor of a partition of the empire into two or more confederacies.

“It was generally agreed that the objects of the Union could not be secured by any system founded on the principle of a confederation of sovereign States. A voluntary observance of the federal law by all the members could never be hoped for. A compulsive one could evidently never be reduced to practice, and if it could, involved equal calamities to the innocent and the guilty, the necessity of a military force, both obnoxious and dangerous, and, in general, a scene resembling much more a civil war than the administration


of a regular government. Hence was embraced the alternative of a government which, instead of operating on the States, should operate without their intervention on the individuals composing them; and hence the change in the principle and proportion of representation. • It may be asked how private rights will be more secure under the guardianship of the General Government than under the State governments, since they are both founded on the republican principle which refers the ultimate decision to the will of the majority, and are distinguished rather by the extent within which they will operate, than by any material difference in their structure. A full discussion of this question would, if I mistake not, unfold the true principles of republican government, and prove, in contradiction to the concurrent opinions of the theoretical writers, that this form of government, in order to effect its purposes, must operate not within a small, but an extensive sphere. I will state some of the ideas which have occurred to me on this subject.

“Those who contend for a simple democracy, or a pure republic, actuated by the sense of the majority, and operating within narrow limits, assume or suppose a case which is altogether fictitious. They found their reasoning on the idea that the people composing the society enjoy not only an equality of political rights, but that they have all precisely the same interests and the same feelings in every respect. Were this in reality the case, their reasoning would be conclusive. The interest of the majority would be that of the minority also; the decisions could only turn on mere opinion concerning the good of the whole, of which the major voice would be the safest criterion; and, within a small sphere, this voice could be most easily collected, and the public affairs most accurately managed.

“ We know, however, that no society ever did, or can, consist of so homogeneous a mass of citizens. In the savage state, indeed, an approach is made towards it, but in that state little or no government is necessary. In all civilized societies, distinctions are various and unavoidable. A distinction of property results from that very protection which a free government gives to unequal facilities of acquiring it. There will be rich and poor; creditors and debtors; a landed interest, a moneyed interest, a mercantile interest, a manufacturing interest. These classes may again be subdivided according to the different productions of different situations and soils, and according to different branches of commerce and manufactures. In addition to these natural distinctions, artificial ones will be founded on accidental differences in political, religious, or other opinions, or an attachment to the persons of leading individuals. However erroneous or ridiculous these grounds of dissension and faction may appear to the enlightened statesman or the benevolent philosopher, the bulk of mankind, who are neither statesmen nor philosophers, will continue to view them in a different light.

“It remains, then, to be inquired, whether a majority having any common interest, or feeling any common passion, will find sufficient motives to restrain them from oppressing the minority. An individual is never aliowed to be a judge, or even a witness in his own case. If two individuals are under the bias of interest or enmity against a third, the rights of the latter could never be safely referred to the majority of the three. Will two thousand individuals be less apt to oppress one thousand, or two hundred thousand one hundred thousand ?

“Three motives only can restrain in such cases: 1. A prudent regard to private or partial good, as essentially involved in the general and permanent good of the whole. This ought, no doubt, to be sufficient of itself. Experience, however, shows that it has little effect on individuals, and perhaps still less on a collection of individuals, and least of all on a majority with the public authority in their hands. If the former are ready to forget that honesty is the best policy, the last do more. They often proceed on the converse of the maxim, that whatever is politic is honest. 2. Respect for character. This motive is not found sufficient to restrain individuals from injustice, and loses its efficacy in proportion to the number which is to divide the pain or the blame. Besides, as it has reference to public opinion, which is that of the majority, the standard is fixed by those whose conduct is to be measured by it. 3. Religion. The inefficacy of this restraint on individuals is well known. The conduct of every popular assembly, acting on oath, the strongest of religious ties, shows that individuals join without remorse in acts against which their consciences would revolt, if proposed to them, separately, in their closets. When, indeed, religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force, like that of other passions, is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of religion, and whilst it lasts will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state, it has been much oftener a motive to oppression than a restraint from it.

“ If, then, there must be different interests and parties in society, and a majority, when united by a common interest or passion, can not be restrained from oppressing the minority, what remedy can be found in a republican government, where the majority must ultimately decide, but that of giving such an extent to its sphere that no common interest or passion will be likely to unite a majority of the whole number in an unjust pursuit? In a large society, the people are broken into so many interests and parties that a common sentiment is less likely to be felt, and the requisite concert less likely to be formed, by a majority of the whole. The same security seems requisite for the civil as for the religious rights of individuals. If the same sect form a majority, and have the power, other sects will be sure to be depressed. Divide et impera, the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is, under certain qualifications, the only policy by which a republic can be administered on just principles.

“ It must be observed, however, that this doctrine can only hold within a sphere of a mean extent. As in too small a sphere oppressive combinations may be too easily formed against the weaker party, so in too extensive a one a defensive concert may be rendered too difficult against the oppression of those intrusted with the administration. The great desideratum in government is so to modify the sovereignty as that it may be sufficiently neutral between different parts of the society to control one part from invading the rights of another, and at the same time sufficiently controlled itself from setting up an interest adverse to that of the entire society. In absolute monarchies, the prince may be tolerably neutral towards different classes of his subjects, but may sacrifice the happiness of all to his personal ambition or avarice. In small republics, the sovereign will is controlled from such a sacrifice of the entire society, but is not sufficiently neutral towards the parties composing it. In the extended republic of the United States, the General Government would hold a pretty even balance between the parties of particular States, and be at the same time sufficiently restrained, by its dependence on the community, from betraying its general interests.

“Begging pardon for this immoderate digression, I return to the third object above mentioned, the adjustment of the different interests of the different parts of the continent. Some contend for an unlimited power over trade, including exports as well as imports, and over slaves, as well as other imports; some, for such a


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power, provided the concurrence of two-thirds of both Houses were required; some, for such a qualification of the power, with an exemption of exports and slaves; others, for an exemption of exports only. The result is seen in the Constitution. South Carolina and Georgia were inflexible on the point of the slaves.

“The remaining object created more embarrassment, and a greater alarm for the issue of the convention than all the rest put together. The little States insisted on retaining their equality in both branches, unless a complete abolition of the State Governments should take place; and made an equality in the Senate a sine qua non. The large States, on the other hand, urged that as the new Government was to be drawn principally from the people immediately, and was to operate directly upon them, not on the States; and, consequently, as the States would lose that importance which is now proportioned to the importance of their voluntary compliance with the requisitions of Congress, it was necessary that the representation in both Houses should be in proportion to their size. It ended in the compromise which you will see, but very much to the dissatisfaction of several members from the large States.

“It will not escape you that three names only from Virginia are subscribed to the act. Mr. Wythe did not return after the death of his lady. Doctor McClung left the Convention sometime before the adjournment. The Governor and Colonel Mason refused to be parties to it. Mr. Gerry was the only other member who refused. The objections of the Governor turn principally on the latitude of the general powers, and on the connection established between the President and the Senate. He wished that the plan should be proposed to the States, with liberty to them to suggest alterations which should all be referred to another general Convention, to be incorporated into the plan as far as might be judged expedient. He was not inveterate in his opposition, and grounded his refusal to subscribe pretty much on his unwillingness to commit himself, so as not to be at liberty to be governed by further lights on the subject.”

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