The general government must, in this case, not only have a
strong soul, but strong organs by which that soul is to operate.
Here I shall give my sentiments of the best form of govern
ment not as a thing attainable by us, but as a model which we
ought to approach as near as possible.
British constitution best form.
Aristotle Cicero Montesquieu Keckar.
Society naturally divides itself into two political divisions
the few and the many, who have distinct interests.
If government in the hands of the few, they will tyrannize
over the many.
If (in) the hands of the many, they will tyrannize over the
few. It ought to be in the hands of both ; and they should be
This separation must be permanent.
Kepresentation alone will not do.
Demagogues will generally prevail.
414 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 30.
And if separated, they will need a mutual check.
This check is a monarch.
Each principle ought to exist in full force, or it will not
answer its end.
The democracy must be derived immediately from the people.
^> The aristocracy ought to be entirely separated ; their power
should be permanent, and they should have the cantos liberorum.
They should be so circumstanced that they can have no
interest in a change as to have an effectual weight in the Con
Their duration should be the earnest of wisdom and stability.
'Tis essential there should be a permanent will in a com
Yox populi, vox Dei.
Source of government the unreasonableness of the people
separate interests debtors and creditors, &c.
There ought to be a principle in government capable of re
sisting the popular current.
No periodical duration will come up to this.
This will always imply hopes and fears.
Creature and Creator.
Popular assemblies governed by a few individuals.
These individuals seeing their dissolution approach, will
The principle of representation will influence.
The most popular branch will acquire an influence over the
The other may check in ordinary cases, in which there is no
strong public passion ; but it will not in cases where there is
the cases in which such a principle is most necessary.
ISir* Suppose duration seven years, and rotation.
One-seventh will have only one year to serve.
One-seventh two years.
One-seventh three years.
One-seventh four years.
A majority will look to a dissolution in four years by instal
MT. 30.] FEDERAL CONVENTION. 415
The monarch must have proportional strength. He ought to /
be hereditary, and to have so much power, that it will not be his ^s
interest to risk much to acquire more.
The advantage of a monarch is this he is above corruption
he must always intend, in respect to foreign nations, the true
interest and glory of the people.
Eepublics liable to foreign corruption and intrigue Holland
Effect of the British government.
A vigorous execution of the laws and a vigorous defence
of the people, will result.
Better chance for a good administration.
It is said a republican government does not admit a vigor
It is therefore bad ; for the goodness of a government con
sists in a vigorous execution.
The principle chiefly intended to be established is this that
there must be a permanent will.
Gentlemen say we need to be rescued from the democracy.
But what the means proposed ?
A democratic assembly is to be checked by a democratic
senate, and both these by a democratic chief magistrate.
The end will not be answered the means will not be equal
to the object.
It will, therefore, be feeble and inefficient.
I. Impossible to secure the union by any modification of
II. League, offensive and defensive, full of certain evils and
III. General government, very difficult, if not impracticable,
liable to various objections.
What is to be done ?
Answer. Balance inconveniences and dangers, and choose
that which seems to have the fewest objections.
416 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JE T . 30.
Expense admits of this answer. The expense of the State
governments will be proportionally diminished.
Interference of officers not so great, because the objects of
the general government and the particular ones will not be the
same Finance Administration of private justice. Energy will
not be wanting in essential points, because the administration of
private justice will be carried home to men's doors by the par
And the revenues may be collected from imposts, excises,
&c. If necessary to go further, the general government may
make use of the particular governments.
The attendance of members near the seat of government may
be had in the lower branch.
And the upper branch may be so constructed as to induce
the attendance of members from any part.
But this proves that the government must be so constituted
as to offer strong motives.
In short, to interest all the passions of individuals.
And turn them into that channel.
Hamilton observed, " This question has already been con
sidered in several points of view. We are now forming a re
publican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism,
nor in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Those who mean to form a solid republican government, ought
to proceed to the confines of another government.* As long as
* It will be remarked that a similar opinion was expressed by Jefferson a few
months before. Writing from Paris, February 28, 1787, to La Fa)^ette, then about
to take part in the deliberations of France, he observed, "I wish you success in
your meeting (the assemble des notables). I should form better hopes of it, if
it were divided into two houses instead of seven ; keeping the good model of your
neighboring country before your eyes, you may get on step by step towards a good con
stitution. Though that model is not perfect, yet, as it would unite more suffrages than
any new one which could be proposed, it is better to make that the object. If every ad
vance is to be purchased by filling the royal coffers with gold, it will be gold well em
ployed." 2 Jeff. Works, p. 101.
^T. 30.] FEDERAL CONVENTION. 417
offices are open to all men, and no constitutional rank is established,
it is pure republicanism. But if we incline too much to democracy, *T~~
we shall soon shoot into a monarchy. The difference of property is
already great among us. Commerce and industry will still in
crease the disparity. Your government must meet this state of
things, or combinations will in process of time undermine your
system. What was the tribunitial power of Eome ? It was insti
tuted by the plebeians as a guard against the patricians. But
was this a sufficient check ? No ! The only distinction which
remained at Eome was, at last, between the rich and the poor.
The gentleman from Connecticut forgets that the democratic
body is already secure in a representation. As to Connecticut,
what were the little objects of their government before the revo
lution ? Colonial concerns merely. They ought now to act on
a more extended scale ; and dare they do this ? Dare they col
lect the taxes and requisitions of Congress ? Such a government
may do well if they do not tax, and this is precisely their situa-
Hamilton, in the progress of this discussion, remarked
" The course of my experience in human affairs might, perhaps,
restrain me from saying much on this subject. I shall, how
ever, give utterance to some of the observations I have made
during the course of this debate. The gentleman from Mary
land has been at great pains to establish positions which are not
denied. Many of them, as drawn from the best writers on gov
ernment, are become self-evident principles. But I doubt the
propriety of his application of those principles in the present
discussion. THe deduces from them the necessity that States en
tering into a confederacy must retain the equality of votes.y This
position cannot be correct. Facts contradict it. The parliament
of Great Britain asserted a supremacy over the whole empire,
and the celebrated Judge Blackstone labors for the legality of it,
although many parts were not represented. This parliamentary
418 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [J&T. 30.
power we opposed as contrary to our colonial rights. With that
x" exception, throughout that whole empire it is submitted to.
" May not the smaller and greater States so modify their re
spective rights as to establish the general interest of the whole
without adhering to the right of equality ? Strict representation
is not observed in any of the State governments. The Senate
of New- York are chosen by persons of certain qualifications to
the exclusion of others.
^- " The question after all is Is it our interest, in modifying
this general government, to sacrifice individual rights to the pre
servation of the rights of an artificial being, called States ? There
can be no truer principle than this That every individual of the
community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.
If, therefore, three States contain a majority of the inhabitants of
America, ought they to be governed by a minority ? Would
the inhabitants of the great States ever submit to this ? If
the smaller States maintain this principle through a love of
power, will not the larger, from the same motives, be equally
tenacious to preserve their power ? They are to surrender their
rights for what ? For the preservation of an artificial being.
We propose a free government. Can it be so, if partial distinc
tions are maintained ?
" I agree with the gentleman from Delaware, that if the State
governments are to act in the general government, it affords the
strongest reason for exclusion. In the State of New- York five
counties form a majority of representatives, and yet the govern
ment is in no danger, because the laws have a general operation.
The small States exaggerate their danger, and on this ground
contend for an undue proportion of power. But their danger is
increased if the larger States will not submit to it. Where will
they form new alliances for their support ? Will they do this with
foreign powers? Foreigners are jealous of our increasing great
ness, and would rejoice in our distractions. Those who have had
opportunities of conversing with foreigners respecting sovereigns
in Europe, have discovered in them an anxiety for the preserva
tion of our democratic governments, probably for no other rea
son but to keep us weak. Unless your government is respectable,
jET.30.] FEDERAL CONVENTION. 419
foreigners will invade your rights and to maintain tranquillity,
it must be respectable. Even to observe neutrality you must
have a strong government.
" I confess our present situation is critical. We have just
finished a war which has established our independence, and
loaded us with a heavy debt. "We have still every motive to
unite for our common defence. Our people are disposed to have
a good government, but this disposition may not always prevail.
It is difficult to amend confederations : it has been attempted in
vain, and it is perhaps a miracle that we are now met. We
must therefore improve the opportunity, and render the present
system as perfect as possible. Their good sense, and, above
all, the necessity of their affairs, will induce the people to
IMPRESSIONS AS TO THE NEW CONSTITUTION.
" The new consitution has in favor of its success these circum
stances : A very great weight of influence of the persons who
framed it, particularly in the universal popularity of General
Washington. The good- will of the commercial interest through
out the States, which will give all its efforts to the establishment
of a government capable of regulating, protecting, and extending
the commerce of the Union. The good-will of most men of
property in the several States, who wish a government of the
Union able to protect them against domestic violence, and the
depredations which the democratic spirit is apt to make on
property ; and who are besides anxious for the respectability of
the nation. The hopes of the creditors of the United States, that
a general government possessing the means of doing it, will pay
the debt of the Union. A strong belief in the people at large of
the insufficiency of the present confederation to preserve the
existence of the Union, and of the necessity of the Union to their
420 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [J&T. 30.
safety and prosperity ; of course, a strong desire of a change, and
a predisposition to receive well the propositions of the con
"Against its success is to be put, the dissent of two or three
important men in the convention, who will think their charac
ters pledged to defeat the plan ; the influence of many inconsider
able men in possession of considerable offices under the State
governments, who- will fear a diminution of their consequence,
power, and emolument, by the establishment of the general
government, and who can hope for nothing there ; the influence
of some considerable men in office possessed of talents and popu
larity, who, partly from the same motives, and partly from a
desire of playing a part in a convulsion for their own aggrandize
ment, will oppose the quiet adoption of the new government ;
(some considerable men out of office, from motives of ambition,
may be disposed to act the same part.) Add to these causes the
disinclination of the people to taxes, and of course to a strong
government ; the opposition of all men much in debt, who will
not wish to see a government established, one object of which is
to restrain the means of cheating creditors. The democratical
jealousy of the people, which may be alarmed at the appearance
of institutions that may seem calculated to place the power of
the community in few hands, and to raise a few individuals to
stations of great pre-eminence ; and the influence of some foreign
powers, who, from different motives, will not wish to see an
energetic government established throughout the States.
"In this view of the subject, it is difficult to form any judg
ment whether the plan will be adopted or rejected. It must be
^ essentially matter of conjecture. The present appearances and
* all other circumstances considered, the probability seems to be on
the side of its adoption.
" But the causes operating against its adoption are power
ful, and there will be nothing astonishing in the contrary.
" Jf it do not finally obtain, it is probable the discussion of
the question will beget such struggles, animosities, and heats in
the community, that this circumstance, conspiring with the real
~? necessity of an essential change in our present situation, will pro-
JET. 30.] NEW CONSTITUTION. 421
duce civil war. Should this happen, whatever parties prevail, it
is probable governments very different from the present in their
principles, will be established. A dismemberment of the Union,
and monarchies in different portions of it, may be expected. It
may, however, happen that no civil war will take place, but
several republican confederacies be established between different
combinations of the particular States.
" A reunion with Great Britain, from universal disgust at a
state of commotion, is not impossible, though not much to be
feared. The most plausible shape of such a business would be,
the establishment of a son of the present monarch in the supreme
government of this country, with a family compact.
" If the government be adopted, it is probable General Wash
ington will be the President of the United States. This will
ensure a wise choice of men to administer the government, and
a good administration. A good administration will conciliate
the confidence and affection of the people, and perhaps enable
the government to acquire more consistency than the proposed
constitution seems to promise for so great a country. It may "\
then triumph altogether over the State governments, and reduce
them to an entire subordination, dividing the larger States into
smaller districts. The organs of the general government may
also acquire additional strength.
" If this should not be the case, in the course of a few years,
it is probable that the contests about the boundaries of power
between the particular governments and the general govern
ment, and the momentum of the larger States in such contests
will produce a dissolution of the Union. This, after all, seems <
to be the most likely result.
"But it is almost arrogance, in so complicated a subject,
depending so entirely on the incalculable fluctuations of the
human passions, to attempt even a conjecture about the event.
"It will be eight or nine months before any certain judgment
can be formed respecting the adoption of the plan."
422 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [jE T . 30.
COMMENTS ON THE OPPOSITION TO THE CONSTITUTION.
Mr. Hamilton, in his absence from New- York, on public duty
(with how much propriety and temper his fellow-citizens must
decide), has been attacked, by name, as the writer of a publica
tion printed in Mr. Childs' paper of the 21st of July last. In
fixing that publication upon him, there is certainly no mistake ;
nor did he ever mean to be concealed.
He left his name with the printer, to be disclosed to any per
son who should apply for it on the part of the Governor, with
instructions to make that circumstance known ; which was ac
cordingly done. The fairness of this conduct speaks for itself.
The citizens of the State have too much good sense to be de
ceived into an opinion that it could have been dictated by a
wanton disposition to calumniate a meritorious character. They
must and will consider it as an honorable and open attempt to
unmask, what appeared to the writer, the pernicious ' intrigue of
a man high in office, to preserve power and emolument to him
self, at the expense of the union, the peace, and the happiness of
To say that it would have been derogatory to the first magis
trate of the State to enter the lists in a newspaper, with an
" anonymous scribbler," is a miserable subterfuge. Though Mr.
Hamilton, to avoid the appearance of ostentation, did not put his
name to that piece, yet, having left it with the printer to be com
municated to the party concerned, there is no pretence to con
sider it in the light of an anonymous publication. If the matter
alleged had been false, the Governor had his choice of two modes
of vindicating himself from the assertion : one, by giving a sim
ple and direct denial to it in the public prints ; the other, by
having a personal explanation on the subject with the writer.
Neither of these modes could have wounded his dignity. The
first is practised in most governments where public opinion is
respected. A short paragraph to the following effect would have
answered the purpose.
jET.30.] NEW CONSTITUTION. 423
"The printer of this paper is authorized to assure the public,
that his Excellency the Governor never made use of the expres
sions attributed to him in a publication contained in Mr. Childs'
paper of the 21st July, nor of any others of similar import."
This would have thrown it upon Mr. Hamilton to bring forward
to public view the sources of his information, and the proofs of
his charge. And this, he has too much regard for his reputation,
not to have been prepared to do. This he is still ready to do,
whenever such a denial shall appear.
The Governor, if he had any objection to this mode of pro
ceeding, might have had recourse to the other, that of a personal
explanation with the writer. Mr. Hamilton would have con
ceived himself bound, by the principles of candor and honor, to
declare on what grounds he had proceeded ; and, if he could have
been satisfied they were erroneous, to retract the imputations
founded upon them. Would it have impaired the dignity of the
first magistrate of a republic to have had such an explanation
with any reputable citizen ? Would it have impaired his dignity
to have had such an explanation with a citizen, who is at this
moment acting in an important and delicate trust by the appoint
ment of the Legislature of the State?
Mr. Hamilton freely submits to the judgment of his fellow-
citizens, whether there was any thing in the manner of his ani
madversions that preclude such an explanation. They were
strong and pointed ; but he flatters himself they were free from
indecorum. He states the charge as matter of report ; and makes
his observations hypothetically, even seeming to admit a possi
bility of misrepresentation. As he was not himself present at
the conversation, but spoke from the information of those who
were, he could not with propriety have expressed himself in more
positive terms. As he was speaking of an officer of the first rank
in the State, he was disposed to use as much moderation in the
manner of exhibiting his misconduct as was consistent with that
explicitness and energy which were necessary to place it in its
These remarks, while they explain Mr. Hamilton's motives,
will serve to refute the cavil respecting his doubt of the truth of
424 HAMILTON'S WORKS. [JET. 30.
the fact alleged by liirn. He now declares, that from the nature
of his information, he had no doubt of the kind ; and that, since
the publication, he has understood from different partisans of the
Governor, that he did not deny the expressions attributed to
him to be in substance true, with some minute and unessential
It is insinuated, that the circulation of the fact is calculated
to produce the evil pretended to be guarded against, by diffusing
through the community a knowledge of the Governor's senti
This remark admits of an obvious answer. If his Excellency
was predetermined to oppose the measures of the Convention, as
his conduct indicates, he would take care himself to propagate
his sentiments in the manner in which it could be done with most
effect. This appears to have been his practice. It was therefore
proper that the antidote should go along with the poison ; and
that the community should be apprised that he was capable of
forming such a predetermination, before, it can be presumed, he
had any knowledge of the measures themselves on which to
found his judgment.
A cry is attempted to be raised against the publication of Mr.
Hamilton, as if it were an invasion of the right of the first magis
trate of the State to deliver his sentiments on a matter of public
concern. The fallacy of this artifice will easily be detected.
The Governor has an undoubted right to give his sentiments
freely on every public measure. Under proper circumstances it
will be always his duty to do it. But every right may be abused
by a wrong exercise of it. Even the constitutional powers vested
in him may be so employed as to subject him justly, not only to
censure, but to impeachment. The only question, then, is
whether he has, in the present instance, used his right properly
or improperly, whether it became him, by anticipation, to en
deavor to prejudice the community against the "unknown and
undetermined measures of a body, to which the general voice of
the Union had delegated the important trust of concerting and
proposing a plan for reforming the national Constitution ?" Let
every man answer this question to himself.
^ET.30.] NEW CONSTITUTION. 425
The apologists for the Governor, in the intemperate ardor of
their zeal for his character, seem to forget another right very
precious to the citizens of a free country, that of examining the
conduct of their rulers. These have an undoubted right, within
the limits of the Constitution, to speak and to act their
sentiments ; but the citizen has an equal right to discuss the pro
priety of these sentiments, or of the manner of advancing or
supporting them. To attempt to abridge this last right, by ren
dering the exercise of it odious, is to attempt to abridge a privi
lege, the most essential of any to the security of the people.
The laws, which afford sufficient protection to the magistrate,
will punish the excess of this privilege ; within the bounds they
allow, it is the bulwark of public liberty.
But observations of either kind might mutually have been
spared. There is no danger that the rights of a man, at the
head of the Government (possessing all the influence to be
derived from long continuance in office, the disposition of lucra
tive places and consummate talents for popularity), can be injured
by the voice of a private individual. There is as little danger
that the spirit of the people of this country will ever tolerate
attempts to seduce, to awe, or to clamor them out of the privi