Monday, January 25, 2016

James Madison, "In short, whether the object of the revisionary power was to restrain the legislature from encroaching on the other coordinate departments, or on the rights of the people at large..."

[The following quotation from Mr. Madison had directly followed that of Mr. Wilson in the previous post.]

   "Mr. MADISON seconded the motion. He observed, that the great difficulty in rendering the executive competent to its own defence arose from the nature of republican government, which could not give to an individual citizen that settled preeminence in the eyes of the rest, that weight of property, that personal interest against betraying the national interest, which appertain to an hereditary magistrate. In a republic, personal merit alone could be the ground of political exaltation; but it would rarely happen that this merit would be so preeminent as to produce universal acquiescence. The executive magistrate would be envied and assailed by disappointed competitors: his firmness therefore would need support. He would not possess those great emoluments from his station, nor that permanent stake in the public interest, which would place him out of the reach of foreign corruption. He would stand in need, therefore, of being controlled as well as supported. An association of the judges in his revisionary function would both double the advantage and diminish the danger. It would also enable the judiciary department the better to defend itself against legislative encroachments. Two objections had been made: first, that the judges ought not to be subject to the bias which a participation in the making of laws might give in the exposition of them; secondly, that the judiciary department ought to be separate and distinct from the other great departments. The first objection [Pg. 165] had some weight; but it was much diminished by reflecting, that a small proportion of the laws coming in question before a judge would be such wherein he had been consulted; that a small part of this proportion would be so ambiguous as to leave room for his prepossessions; and that but a few cases would probably arise, in the life of a judge, under such ambiguous passages. How much good, on the other hand, would proceed from the perspicuity, the conciseness, and the systematic character, which the code of laws would receive from the judiciary talents. As to the second objection, it either had no weight, or it applied with equal weight to the executive, and to the judiciary, revision of the laws. The maxim on which the objection was founded required a separation of the executive, as well as the judiciary, from the legislature and from each other. There would, in truth, however, be no improper mixture of these distinct powers in the present case. In England, whence the maxim itself had been drawn, the executive had an absolute negative on the laws; and the supreme tribunal of justice (the House of Lords) formed one of the other branches of the legislature. In short, whether the object of the revisionary power was to restrain the legislature from encroaching on the other coordinate departments, or on the rights of the people at large, or from passing laws unwise in their principle or incorrect in their form, the utility of annexing the wisdom and weight of the judiciary to the executive seemed incontestable."--James Madison, June 6, 1787, Debates In The Federal Convention Of 1787, Held At Philadelphia. [Elliot's Debates, Vol. V, Pg. 164-65]

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