Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

in France, “without expressing my sense of its preeminence of character, among the nations of the earth. A more benevolent people I have never known, nor greater warmth and devotedness in their select friendships.— Their kindness and accommodation to strangers is unparalleled, and the hospitality of Paris is beyond any thing I had conceived to be practicable in a large city. Their eminence, too, in science, the communicative dispositions of their scientifick men, the politeness of the general manners, the ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm to their society to be found no where else. In a comparison of this with other

countries, we have the proof of primacy, which was .

given to Themistocles after the battle of SalamisEvery general voted to himself the first reward of valour, and the second to Themistocles. So, ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, in what country on earth would you rather live? Certainly, in my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the earliest and sweetest affections and recollections of my life. Which would be your second choice France.” As Mr. Jefferson was absent from America both during the session of the convention which formed the constitution, and while that act was under discussion in the several states, he had no opportunity to take part in its formation. The want of a general government had been severely felt, and the difficulties of the country were greatly increased, by the failure of treaties abroad, which might have given a system to our foreign relations, that could scarcely be expected, while the states presented a social form so feebly connected; the federal constitution, therefore, had been framed

[ocr errors]

from a general conviction of its necessity. No one rejoiced more than Mr. Jefferson at the formation of the new constitution, and its ratification by the states. Of the great mass of it, also, he entirely approved: the consolidation of the government; the organization in their branches; the subdivision of the legislative branch; the happy compromise of interests between the large and small states, by the different manner of voting in the two houses; the voting by persons instead of states; the qualified negative on the laws given to the Executive; and the direct power of taxation. There were points, however, to which he had objections, some less strong and some insuperable. But it is proper that the objections of so profound and popular a statesman as Mr. Jefferson, and to so important an instrument, should be given in detail. In a letter to Mr. Madison, dated Paris, December 20, 1787, he thus writes: “I like much the general idea of framing a government, which should go on of itself, peaceably, without needing continual recurrence to the state legislatures. I like the organization of the government into legislative, judiciary, and executive. I hike the power given the legislature to levy taxes, and for that reason solely, I approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For though I think a house, so chosen, will be very far inferiour to the present Congress, it will be very illy qualified to legislate for the Union, for foreign nations, &c.; yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle, that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captivated by the compromise of the

opposite claims of the great and little states, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased, too, with the substitution of the method of voting by persons, instead of that of voting by states: and I like the negative given to the Executive, conjointly with a third of either house; though I should have liked it better, had the judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested separately with a similar power. There are other good things of less In Oment. “I will now tell you what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land, and not by the laws of nations. To say, as Mr. Wilson does, that a bill of rights was not necessary, because all is reserved in the care of the general government which is not given, while in the particular ones, all is given which is not reserved, might do for the audience to which it was addressed: but it is surely a gratis dictum, the reverse of which might just as well be said; and it is opposed by strong inferences from the body of the instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause of our present Confederation, which had made the reservation in express terms. It was hard to conclude, because there has been a want of uniformity among the states as to the cases triable by jury, because some have been so incautious as to dispense with this mode of trial in certain cases, therefore the more prudent states shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. It would have been much more just and wise to have concluded the other way, that as most of the states had preserved with jealousy this sacred palladium of liberty, those who had wandered should be brought back to it: and to have established general right rather than general wrong. For I consider all the ill as established, which may be established. I have a right to nothing, which another has a right to take away; and Congress will have a right to take away trials by jury in all civil cases.— Let me add, that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference. “The second feature I dislike, and strongly dislike, is the abandonment, in every instance, of the principle of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President. Reason and experience tell us, that the first magistrate will always be re-elected, if he may be re-elected. He is then an officer for life. This once observed, it becomes of so much consequence to certain nations, to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs, that they will interfere with money and with arms. A Galloman, or an Angloman, will be supported by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a second or third election outvoted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of government, be supported by the states voting for him, especially if they be the central ones, lying in a compact body by themselves, and separating their opponents; and they will be aided by one nation in Europe, while the majority are aided by another.

The election of a President of America, some years

hence, will be much more interesting to certain nations

of Europe than ever the election of a King of Poland was. Reflect on all the instances in history, ancient and modern, of elective monarchies, and say, if they do not give foundation for my fears; the Roman Emperours,

the Popes while they were of any importance, the German Emperours till they became hereditary in practice, the Kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependencies. It may be said, that if elections are to be attended with these disorders, the less frequently they are repeated, the better. But experience says, that to free them from disorder, they must be rendered less interesting by a necessity of change. No foreign power, nor domestick party, will waste their blood and money to elect a person who must go out at the end of a short period. The power of removing every fourth year by the vote of the people, is a power which they will not exercise, and if they were disposed to exercise it, they would not be permitted. The King of Poland is removable every day by the Diet, but they never remove him : nor would Russia, the Emperour, &c. permit them to do it. Smaller objections are, the appeals on matter of fact as well as law; and the binding all persons, legislative, executive, and judiciary, by oath, to maintain the constitution. I do not pretend to decide what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in this constitution, and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it, in hopes of future amendment, or after it shall have been duly weighed and canvassed by the people,

« ПредишнаНапред »