Sunday, November 19, 2006

"I hope the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties.”

“But, sir, by this government, powers are not given to any particular set of men; they are in the hands of the people; delegated to their representatives chosen for short terms; to representatives responsible to the people, and whose situation is perfectly similar to their own. As long as this is the case we have no danger to apprehend. When the gentleman called our recollection to the usual effects of the concession of powers, and imputed the loss of liberty generally to open tyranny, I wish he had gone on farther. Upon his review of history, he would have found that the loss of liberty very often resulted from factions and divisions; from local considerations, which eternally lead to quarrels; he would have found internal dissensions to have more frequently demolished civil liberty, than a tenacious disposition in rulers to retain any stipulated powers. . . . . . I hope the patriotism of the people will continue, and be a sufficient guard to their liberties.”

- James Madison, June 6, 1788. The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]

“There are controversies even about the name of this government. It is denominated by some a federal, by others a consolidated government. The definition given of it by my honorable friend (Mr. Madison) is, in my opinion, accurate. Let me, however, call it by another name--a representative federal republic, as contradistinguished from a confederacy. The former is more wisely constructed than the latter; it places the remedy in the hands which feel the disorder: the other places the remedy in those hands which cause the disorder. The evils that are most complained of in such governments (and with justice) are faction, dissension, and consequent subjection of the minority to the caprice and arbitrary decisions of the majority, who, instead of consulting the interest of the whole community collectively, attend sometimes to partial and local advantages. To avoid this evil is perhaps the great desideratum of republican wisdom; it may be termed the philosopher's stone. Yet, sir, this evil will be avoided by this Constitution: faction will be removed by the system now under consideration, because all the causes which are generally productive of faction are removed. This evil does not take its flight entirely; for were jealousies and divisions entirely at an end, it might produce such lethargy as would ultimately terminate in the destruction of liberty, to the preservation of which, watchfulness is absolutely necessary. It is transferred from the state legislatures to Congress, where it will be more easily controlled. Faction will decrease in proportion to the diminution of counsellors. It is much easier to control it in small than in large bodies.”

“...Is the American spirit so degenerated, notwithstanding these advantages, that the love of liberty is more predominant and warm in the breast of a Briton than in that of an American? When liberty is on a more solid foundation here than in Britain, will Americans be less ready to maintain and defend it than Britons? No, sir; the spirit of liberty and independence of the people of this country, at present, is such that they could not be enslaved under any government that could be described. What danger is there, then, to be apprehended from a government which is theoretically perfect, and the possible blemishes of which can only be demonstrated by actual experience?

“The honorable gentleman then urges an objection respecting the militia, who, he tells us, will be made the instruments of tyranny to deprive us of our liberty. Your militia, says he, will fight against you. Who are the militia? Are we not militia? Shall we fight against ourselves? No, sir; the idea is absurd. We are also terrified by the dread of a standing army. It cannot be denied that we ought to have the means of defence, and be able to repel an attack.

“If some of the community are exclusively inured to its defence, and the rest attend to agriculture, the consequence will be, that the arts of war and defence, and of cultivating the soil, will be understood. Agriculture will flourish, and military discipline will be perfect. If, on the contrary, our defence be solely intrusted to militia, ignorance of arms and negligence of farming will ensue: the former plan is, in every respect, more to the interest of the state. By it we shall have good farmers and soldiers; by the latter we shall have neither.”

- Francis Corbin, June 7, 1788. The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]

Will the people reelect the same men to repeat oppressive legislation? Will the people commit suicide against themselves, and discard all those maxims and principles of interest and self-preservation which actuate mankind in all their transactions? Will the ten miles square transform our representatives into brutes and tyrants? I see no grounds to distrust them: but suppose they will be inclined to do us mischief; how can they effect it? If the federal necessities call for the sum of sixty-five thousand pounds, our proportion of that sum is ten thousand pounds. If, instead of this just proportion, they should require a greater sum, a conflict would ensue. What steps could they take to enforce the payment of the unjust and tyrannical demand? They must summon up all the genius of better men; but in case of actual violence, they could not raise the thousandth part of ten thousand pounds. In case of a struggle, sir, the people would be irresistible. If they should be so liable to lapse from virtue, yet would not one man be found, out of a multitude, to guard the interests of the people--not one man to hold up his head to discover the tyrannical projects of a corrupt and depraved majority?”

- Gov. Randolph, June 7, 1788. The Debates in the Several State Conventions, (Virginia), on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution [Elliot's Debates, Volume 3]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You continue to provide an education that I somehow missed during my ten year in the public education system.