Skip to comments.George Mason's Objections to the Constitution
Posted on 09/16/2011 4:50:58 AM PDT by Jacquerie
Objections to this Constitution of Government.
There is no Declaration of Rights, and the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitution of the several States, the Declaration of Rights in the separate States are no security. Nor are the people secured even in the enjoyment of the benefit of the common law (which stands here upon no other foundation than its having been adopted by the respective acts forming the constitutions of the several States.)
In the House of Representatives there is not the substance but the shadow only of representation; which can never produce proper information in the legislature, or inspire confidence in the people; the laws will therefore be generally made by men little concerned in, and unacquainted with their effects and consequences. (This objection has been in some degree lessened by an amendment, often before refused and at last made by an erasure, after the engrossment upon parchment of the word forty and inserting thirty, in the third clause of the second section of the first article.)
The Senate have the power of altering all money bills, and of originating appropriations of money, and the salaries of the officers of their own appointment, in conjunction with the president of the United States, although they are not the representatives of the people or amenable to them.
These with their other great powers, viz.: their power in the appointment of ambassadors and all public officers, in making treaties, and in trying all impeachments, their influence upon and connection with the supreme Executive from these causes, their duration of office and their being a constantly existing body, almost continually sitting, joined with their being one complete branch of the legislature, will destroy any balance in the government, and enable them to accomplish what ursurpations they please upon the rights and liberties of the people.
The Judiciary of the United States is so constructed and extended, as to absorb and destroy the judiciaries of the several States; thereby rendering law as tedious, intricate and expensive, and justice as unattainable, by a great part of the community, as in England, and enabling the rich to oppress and ruin the poor.
The President of the United States has no Constitutional Council, a thing unknown in any safe and regular government. He will therefore be unsupported by proper information and advice, and will generally be directed by minions and favorites; or he will become a tool to the Senate or a Council of State will grow out of the principal officers of the great departments; the worst and most dangerous of all ingredients for such a Council in a free country; for they may be induced to join in any dangerous or oppressive measures, to shelter themselves, and prevent an inquiry into their own misconduct in office. Whereas, had a constitutional council been formed (as was proposed) of six members, viz.: two from the Eastern, two from the Middle, and two from the Southern States, to be appointed by vote of the States in the House of Representatives, with the same duration and rotation of office as the Senate, the executive would always have had safe and proper information and advice; the president of such a council might have acted as Vice-President of the United States pro tempore, upon any vacancy or disability of the chief magistrate; and long continued sessions of the Senate, would in a great measure have been prevented. From this fatal defect has arisen the improper power of the Senate in the appointment of public officers, and the alarming dependence and connection between that branch of the legislature and the supreme Executive.
Hence also sprung that unnecessary (and dangerous) officer the Vice-President, who for want of other employment is made president of the Senate, thereby dangerously blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one of the States an unnecessary and unjust preeminence over the others.
The President of the United States has the unrestrained power of granting pardons for treason, which may be sometimes exercised to screen from punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the crime, and thereby prevent a discovery of his own guilt.
By declaring all treaties supreme laws of the land, the Executive and the Senate have, in many cases, an exclusive power of legislation; which might have been avoided by proper distinctions with respect to treaties, and requiring the assent of the House of Representatives, where it could be done with safety.
By requiring only a majority to make all commercial and navigation laws, the five Southern States, whose produce and circumstances are totally different from that of the eight Northern and Eastern States, may (will) be ruined, for such rigid and premature regulations may be made as will enable the merchants of the Northern and Eastern States not only to demand an exorbitant freight, but to monopolize the purchase of the commodities at their own price, for many years, to the great injury of the landed interest, and (the) impoverishment of the people; and the danger is the greater as the gain on one side will be in proportion to the loss on the other. Whereas requiring two-thirds of the members present in both Houses would have produced mutual moderation, promoted the general interest, and removed an insuperable objection to the adoption of this (the) government.
Under their own construction of the general clause, at the end of the enumerated powers, the Congress may grant monopolies in trade and commerce, constitute new crimes, inflict unusual and severe punishments, and extend their powers (power) as far as they shall think proper; so that the State legislatures have no security for the powers now presumed to remain to them, or the people for their rights.
There is no declaration of any kind, for preserving the liberty of the press, or the trial by jury in civil causes (cases); nor against the danger of standing armies in time of peace. The State legislatures are restrained from laying export duties on their own produce.
Both the general legislature and the State legislature are expressly prohibited making ex post facto laws; though there never was nor can be a legislature but must and will make such laws, when necessity and the public safety require them; which will hereafter be a breach of all the constitutions in the Union, and afford precedents for other innovations.
This government will set out (commence) a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy, or a corrupt, tyrannical (oppressive) aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other.
The general legislature is restrained from prohibiting the further importation of slaves for twenty odd years; though such importations render the United States weaker, more vulnerable, and less capable of defence.
Sixty two year old George Mason was a Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention. This wealthy planter aristocrat had served in the House of Burgesses, authored the Fairfax Resolves of 1774, greatly influenced the Virginia Constitution of 1776, and was the principal author behind the Virginia Bill of Rights.
His opposition was no small matter; it made Virginias ratification of the Constitution a close run thing.
Constitutional Convention Ping!
Fascinating article, thanks for posting.
Happy Constitution Day, guys!
These men had an uncanny ability to see into the future. Without doubt some of the most intelligent men to ever walk this land.
He had excellent foresight on this matter. The Founders should have passed something akin to the Ayn Rand amendment to prevent this.
Wasn't this later changed so that only the House can originate appropriations?
The Connecticut Compromise was to give States equal representation in the Senate, which favored small states.
In exchange, money bills would originate in the large state dominated House of Reps. For a week or so, the Senate was prevented from modifying the bills, but could only vote up/down. That changed and became what we have today; House origination but the Senate can modify.
This is what Mason protested. He didn’t want the Senate to be able to modify money, i.e. appropriations bills.
We certainly could use them now.
FUBO GTFO! 492 Days until Noon Jan 20, 2013
Very good posting!
Tomorrow - the 17th - marks the first anniversary of my Dad’s death. We’re marking the day with his favorite breakfast, banana pancakes!
Today we are around 1:700,000. Every ten years apportionment goes to various courts where they contend with the Voting Rights Act and Marxist judges. It is typically a mess, with minorities screaming racism at every turn.
I think we should get a lot closer to 1:50,000 or so. It would mean truer representation. Let San Francisco send a dozen freaks, while my little rural area will send a single good ‘ol boy.
Those men saw into the future because they studied the past. They went to great lengths in studying for the new design, referring to governments such as the Achean and Lycian leagues as factors. How many of us have even heard of those nations?
The fact is that they studied; they weren’t watching American idol.
That’s a good idea. Along with no retirement.
Sometimes I wonder if gentlemen such as Mason, Patrick Henry, George Clinton, James Winthrop and all the other Anti-Federalists were correct. It is too bad that Thomas Jefferson was in Paris as the first US Ambassador to France at the time of the writing of the Constitution; his input could have made a great deal of difference.
It is not that the Constitution is flawed per se, it's just that there were so many compromises made, and so little of it dealt with the extraordinary rights of the people, and too much dealt with the rights and balances of power of the different branches of government.
If this was not so, there would not have been a need for the Bill of Rights, that is, the first 10 amendments, which several states insisted upon, and would not join the the Republic until they were added.
Therefore, of course, those amendments became part of the Constitution. And now, 220 years later, we have a federal judiciary that concludes the Commerce clause has more authority than the 10th amendment. Dang it, both are part of the Constitution, and since it was deemed necessary to AMEND the document with items such as the 10th, it should always be given more consideration, not less.
The biggest problem with the Constitution turns out to be just as Mason said—the men who “follow” it. They've made a mess out of it, and have to often got it wrong in giving power to the government rather than to the people and the states.
Roger that. In far smaller districts, an individual with little money could meet a lot of people. No retirement.
I like the provision in the Articles of Confederation where a delegate could not serve in Congress for more than three out of any six years. The Framers considered term limits, but obviously decided against them.
In my reading of the Convention debates, as well as a book on the State ratifications, it is fair to say the fundamental difference between the federalists and anti-federalists was how long each thought the republic would endure before sliding into tyranny.
Without making any hard estimates in terms of years, the anti-federalists thought despotic government was just around the corner. The federalists thought it much further off.
I am convinced none would have thought we would last so long, for a republic can only reflect the values of its people.
Interesting personal page. I see we shared the same barracks.
Thank you for posting this. I often wish that Thomas Jefferson had written letters stating that there was and should be a wall of separation between economics and state as he did with the letter about the “wall” between church and state and that it was given the same weight. I think the laws governing trade and production should be simple enough to fit on a few pages. It is unlawful to steal, to initiate physical force or to defraud. That’s it. Everything else involved with trade should be off limits to the government. If a product or production method harms someone such as with pollution and a real objective harm can be proved handle it in the courts, which are a legitimate function of a proper government. So many of the laws and agencies meant to solve problems are themselves much more damaging to lives and liberty than the original evil they were instituted to fight.
Its a shame Jefferson was not available to attend. Taking care of interstate and foreign commerce was one the specific reasons for calling the Convention in the first place.
That the innocuous commerce clause was abused to allow for just about any federal intrusion is a stain on the Supreme Court and illustrated seventy years ago to what lengths the Left will go.
Boy, you have that right. Of course the constitution is just an old piece of paper long when the people of the country don’t uphold it or vote for those who won’t. Wasn’t it also Jefferson who said the Constitution would only serve a moral people. Or something like that.
I agree with you totally. Just imagine if we could do away with all the laws and agencies brought about by the Supreme Courts re-interpretation of the commerce clause.
I was referring to the AF barracks with the babes. I exited the AF in ‘73.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
The relative uselessness of the office of Vice President has been a feature of the system from the very beginning and a perennial source of humor. Placing that individual as President of the Senate was a threat to the latter body that in the case of persistent deadlock the Executive would make up their collective mind for them, a deliberate risk with a specific end in mind. I'd call it a very interesting bit of systems feedback in today's terms. It was meant to be a rare circumstance and has proven so.
Changing the ratio of House members from one for every 40,000 people to one for every 30,000 only delayed the inevitable certainty that as the country grew one of two things would happen: either the House would grow so large that debate would be impossible or the ratio would grow so large that representation would become far less direct than originally intended. Madison called that one and so did Jefferson. The federal government was always intended to be distilled through the intermediary of state government, a role that had steadily diminished even before the events of the Civil War, was exacerbated by direct election of senators, and now is atrophied, simultaneously with the growth of the inability of the federal government to provide direct representation by itself. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that the federal government has become an unwieldy, unresponsive, bull-headed dictatorial monster in the absence of this means of citizen input. But I don't think that it was ever a role that the federal government could do very well from its very design. There are just too many people in the country to admit it. The most workable alternative, in my view, is to re-empower the state governments because they're the only ones who can, by their size and distribution, be close enough to the citizen to allow for the direct representation that was always the intention of the Founders.
And it may be that the country is now to big to allow that, in which case the principle of a distributed government suggests that the county and city governments may now be the proper repositories of direct representation. The challenge then will be the methods chosen to force both state and federal governments to be responsive to them. It can be done, but not without a deliberate, long-term, concerted effort that will be resisted fanatically by those for whom centralization of power without accountability is desirable. These are not our friends.
Mr. Mason's motion to include a Bill of Rights was voted down by all the States. There is something “there” when he couldn't swing even one state, including his own, especially considering most States had a Bill of Rights.
As for the rest of his objections, it is a matter of opinion as to whether they should have been corrected. Others, such his support of occasional ex-post facto laws, strike the modern ear as at least odd and perhaps dangerous to our liberty.
Two of his objections, had they been corrected, may well have torpedoed the Convention. One, the furor over Navigation Acts and second, a ban on any law that impaired slave importation for 20 years.
As tomorrow's post will show, objections were common. No one was entirely satisfied. The Constitution ultimately was an armistice among men who had become convinced their common interest would never be realized until they budged off their local, special interests.
The biggest problem... We now have a Congress— and a Court, and an Executive all of which believe they have been given the power to make the Constitution a thing of wax in their hands i.e. it is a Living Constitution. The Patriot Post has begun a class action lawsuit to ask the Court to decide if solemn Oaths administered mean anything —if we the people have any right to expect our Govt. honor the oaths taken?
I wonder what if anything would be thought of those who actively are working today to destroy the Constitution -claiming we have outlived out time as a sovereign State/empire?
If they could spend a day at any government school they would know what has happened.
If you’ve ever gone to a Krisanne Hall seminar you will find out how 600 years of living under tyrranical rule brought about the Constitution. The founding fathers lived under this oppression and used critical thinking when writing it. It was no small feat. The Left have no respect for it because they have always lived in complete freedom. At our current rate they may have to learn its importance when the current Marxists start dismantling it.
The left does not respect the constitution because their people are in power. If constitutional republicans were in power, the liberals would be whining about and grab for power that was outside constitutional bounds.
I’ll look up Kris Anne. I’ll be meeting Ann Coulter this week, so this is going to be fun.
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