James Madison wrote a letter today to Thomas Jefferson, then an envoy to France. Mr. Madison was not entirely pleased with the emerging Constitution.
Philada. Sepr. 6. 1787,
As the Convention will shortly rise I should feel little scruple in disclosing what will be public here, before it could reach you, were it practicable for me to guard by Cypher against an intermediate discovery. But I am deprived of this resource by the shortness of the interval between the receipt of your letter of June 20, and the date of this. This is the first day which has been free from Committee service, both before & after the hours of the House, and the last that is allowed me by the time advertised for the sailing of the packet.
The Convention consists now as it has generally done of Eleven States. There has been no intermission of its Sessions since a house was formed; except an interval of about ten days allowed a Committee appointed to detail the general propositions agreed on in the House. The term of its dissolution cannot be more than one or two weeks distant. A Governmt. will probably be submitted to the people of the States, consisting of a president, cloathed with Executive power; a Senate chosen by the Legislatures, and another House chosen by the people of the States, jointly possessing the legislative power; and a regular judiciary establishment.
The mode of constituting the Executive is among the few points not yet finally settled. The Senate will consist of two members from each State, and appointed sexennially. The other, of members appointed biennially by the people of the States, in proportion to their number. The Legislative power will extend to taxation, trade, and sundry other general matters. The powers of Congress will be distributed, according to their nature, among the several departments. The States will be restricted from paper money and in a few other instances. These are the outlines. The extent of them may perhaps surprize you. I hazard an opinion nevertheless that the plan, should it be adopted, will neither effectually answer its national object, not prevent the local mischiefs which everywhere excite disgusts agst. the State Governments. The grounds of this opinion will be the subject of a future letter. . . .
Nothing can exceed the universal anxiety for the event of the meeting here. Reports and conjectures abound concerning the nature of the plan which is to be proposed. The public however is certainly in the dark with regard to it. The Convention is equally in the dark as to the reception wch. may be given to it on its publication. All the prepossessions are on the right side, but it may well be expected that certain characters will wage war against any reform whatever. My own idea is that the public mind will now or in a very little time receive anything that promises stability to the public Councils & security to private rights, and that no regard ought to be had to local prejudices or temporary considerations. If the present moment be lost, it is hard to say what may be our fate. . . .
Mr. Wythe has never returned to us. His lady whose illness carried him away, died some time after he got home.
Great stuff and what a window on the very real challenges our Founders faced. Madison’s anxiety is palpable. It could have gone either way and God’s hand saw that it didn’t.
On a side note as regards our modern education system: sexennially - how many school children will read that and think ‘condom’ as opposed to ‘six’?
T’anks— In refreshing my foggy memory on the Debate in Congress—and the history of the Bill of Rights— I rely heavily on this posting. I note in the two vol set The Debate on the constitution ,Part one ,documents that Madison sent
a letter to Jefferson ,in Paris, dated Oct.17— and it did not arrive until sometime in Feb. Mail was a much different item then. Imagine our current Govt. under such restriction.But again T’anks!!!
As the Convention will shortly rise I should feel little scruple in disclosing what will be public here, before it could reach you, were it practicable for me to guard by Cypher against an intermediate discovery. But I am deprived of this resource by the shortness of the interval between the receipt of your letter of June 20, and the date of this.
I love how these guys write!