POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

What we are not talking about already elsewhere

Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention, continued ...

James Wilson

November 24, 1787

Shall I become more particular still?

The tedious detail would disgust me.

Nor is it now necessary.

The years of languor are passed.

We have felt the dishonor with which we have been covered.

We have seen the destruction with which we have been threatened.

We have penetrated to the causes of both, and when we have once discovered them, we have begun to search for the means of removing them.

For the confirmation of these remarks, I need not appeal to an enumeration of facts.

The proceedings of Congress, and of the several states, are replete with them.

They all point out the weakness and insufficiency as the cause, and an efficient general government as the only cure of our political distempers.

Under these impressions, and with these views, was the late Convention appointed; and under these impressions, and with these views, the late Convention met.

We now see the great end which the propose to accomplish.

It was to frame, for the consideration of their constituents, one federal and national constitution, that would produce the advantages of good, and prevent the inconveniences of bad government - a constitution whose beneficence and energy would pervade the whole Union; and bind and embrace the interests of every part – a constitution that would insure peace, freedom, and happiness, to the states and people of America.


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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Sat Aug 17, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention, continued ...

James Wilson

November 24, 1787

We are now naturally led to examine the means by which they proposed to accomplish this end.

This opens more particularly to our view the important discussion before us.

But previously to our entering upon it, it will not be improper to state some general and leading principles of government, which will receive particular applications in the course of our investigations.

There necessarily exists in every government a power from which there is no appeal; and which, for that reason, may be termed supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable.

Where does this power reside?

To this question, writers on different governments will give different answers.


Sir William Blackstone will tell you, that in Britain the power is lodged in the British Parliament, that the Parliament may alter the form of the government; and that its power is absolute without control.

The idea of a constitution, limiting and superintending the operations of legislative authority, seems not to have been accurately understood in Britain.

There are, at least, no traces of practice conformable to such a principle.

The British constitution is just what the British Parliament pleases.


When the Parliament transferred legislative authority to Henry VIII, the act transferring could not in the strict acceptation of the term be called unconstitutional.

To control the power and conduct of the legislature by an overruling constitution was an improvement in the science and practice of government reserved to the American states.

Perhaps some politician, who has not considered, with sufficient accuracy, our political systems, would answer, that in our governments, the supreme power was vested in the constitutions.

This opinion approaches a step nearer to the truth; but does not reach it.

The truth is, that, in our governments, the supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power remains in the people.

As our constitutions are superior to our legislatures; so the people are superior to our constitutions.

Indeed the superiority, in this last instance, is much greater; for the people possess, over our constitutions, control in act, as well as in right.

The consequence is, that the people may change the constitutions whenever and however they please.

This is a right, of which no positive institution can ever deprive them.

These important truths, sir, are far from being merely speculative.

We, at this moment, speak and deliberate under their immediate and benign influence.

To the operation of these truths, we are to ascribe the scene, hitherto unparalleled, which America now exhibits to the world - a gentle, a peaceful, a voluntary, and a deliberate transition from one constitution of government to another.

In other parts of the world, the idea of revolutions in government is, by a mournful and an indissoluble association, connected with the idea of wars and all the calamities attendant on wars.

But happy experience teaches us to view such revolutions in a very different light - to consider them only as progressive steps in improving the knowledge of government, and increasing the happiness of society and mankind.

Oft have I viewed, with silent pleasure and admiration, the force and prevalence of this principle through the United States, that the supreme power resides in the people; and that they never part with it.

It may be called the panacea in politics.

There can be no disorder in the community but may here receive a radical cure.

If the error be in the legislature, it may be corrected by the constitution.

If in the constitution, it may be corrected by the people.

There is a remedy, therefore, for every distemper in government; if the people are not wanting to themselves.

For a people wanting to themselves, there is no remedy.

From their power, as we have seen, there is no appeal.

To their error, there is no superior principle of correction.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Sun Aug 18, 2019 1:40 p

Speech to the Pennsylvania Convention, concluded ...

James Wilson

November 24, 1787

There are three simple species of government - monarchy, where the supreme power is in a single person; aristocracy, where the supreme power is in a select assembly, the members of which either fill up, by election, the vacancies of their own body, or succeed to their places in it by inheritance, property, or in respect of some personal right or qualification; a republic or democracy, where the people at large retain the supreme power, and act either collectively or by representation.

Each of these species of government has its advantages and disadvantages.

The advantages of a monarchy are strength, dispatch, secrecy, unity of counsel.

Its disadvantages are tyranny, expense, ignorance of the situation and wants of the people, insecurity, unnecessary wars, evils attending elections or successions.

The advantages of aristocracy are wisdom, arising from experience and education.

Its disadvantages are dissensions among themselves, oppression to the lower orders.

The advantages of democracy are liberty, equal, cautious, and salutary laws, public spirit, frugality, peace, opportunities of exciting and producing abilities of the best citizens.

Its disadvantages are dissension, the delay and disclosure of public counsels, the imbecility of public measures retarded by the necessity of a numerous consent.


A government may be composed of two or more of the simple forms above mentioned.

Such is the British government.

It would be an improper government for the United States; because it is inadequate to such an extent of territory; and because it is suited to an establishment of different orders of men.

A more minute comparison between some parts of the British constitution and some parts of the plan before us may perhaps find a proper place in a subsequent period of our business.

What is the nature and kind of that government which has been proposed for the United States by the late Convention?

In its principle, it is purely democratical.

But that principle is applied in different forms, in order to obtain the advantages and exclude the inconveniences of the simple modes of government.


If we take an extended and accurate view of it, we shall find the streams of power running in different directions, in different dimensions, and at different heights watering, adorning, and fertilizing the fields and meadows thro which their courses are led; but if we can trace them, we shall discover, that they all originally flow from one abundant fountain.

In THIS CONSTITUTION, all authority is derived from the PEOPLE.

Fit occasions will hereafter offer for particular remarks on the different parts of the plan.

I have now to ask pardon of the house for detaining them so long.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Mon Aug 19, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

The examination of the principle of liberty and civil polity is one of the most delightful exercises of the rational faculties of man.

Hence the pleasure we feel in a candid, unimpassioned investigation of the grounds and probably consequences of the new frame of government submitted to the people by the Federal Convention.

The various doubts, which the subject has created, will lead us to consider it the more by awakening our minds to that attention with which ever freeman should examine the intended constitutions of his country.

Several zealous defenders of liberty in America, and some of them of the first reputation, have differed from the bulk of the nation in their speculative opinions on the best Constitution for a legislative body.

In Pennsylvania this question has formed the line of division between two parties, in each of which are to be found men of sound judgment and very general knowledge.

As this diversity of opinion has not arisen from any peculiarity in our situation or circumstances, it must have been produced by the imperfections of our political researches and by the fallibility of the human mind, ever liable to unfavorable influence even from laudable and necessary passions.

The sincere and zealous friend of liberty is naturally in love with a refined democracy, beautiful and perfect as a theory, and adapted to the government of the purest beings; and he views with jealousy, apprehension and dislike not only real deviations from democratic principles, but the appearance of aristocracy.

Hence the idea of an upper house (a term erroneously adopted from the British constitution) has been disagreeable and even alarming to many, who were equally friends to perfect and real liberty and to an effective government.

Among the various regulations and arrangements of the new Federal Constitution the peculiar ground on which the Senate is placed is on this account the most striking and perhaps estimable.

A careful comparison of our second branch, as proposed by the Convention, with the upper house in the British constitution, will show, I hope, that there is something like a middle ground on which the wise and good of both opinions may meet and unite.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist, continued ...

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

The ancestors of the upper house in England originally derived all their power from the feudal system.

Possessed by lawless force of extensive domains, which, after a certain period, became hereditary in their families, they established a permanent power through the military service of their tenants, for upon those terms were all the lands of the kingdom once held under them.


When the address and spirit of the people, exerted upon every proper occasion, obtained for them the interesting privileges of holding in their families also the tenanted estates of the lords, and of alienating their tenancies to such as would perform the conditions on which they were held - when, by the extinction of the families of some of the barons, their tenants remained in possession of their lands - when by the increase of the property, the knowledge and the power of the tenants (or Commons of England) and from other favorable circumstances, the people of that country obtained a portion of that independence which Providence intended for them, such of their nobles as stood the chock, which fell from these circumstances on their order, were formed into a separate independent body.

They claimed an absolute right to act in their proper persons, and not by representatives, in the formation of the laws.

Being from their wealth, their hereditary power to legislate and judge, and their extraordinary learning in those times, perfectly independent of the rest of the nation, they have often been useful in checking the encroachments of the crown, and the precipitation and inadvertence of the people.

In that country they have really held the balance between the king and the Commons.

But though such a balance may be proper in a royal government, it does not appear necessary merely in that view in a genuine republic - which ought to be a government of laws.


Yet there are striking and capital advantages resulting from a second, not an upper house, if they can be obtained without departing, in our practice, from the real principles of liberty.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist, continued ...

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

The arts and influence of popular and unworthy men; too hasty, careless, incautious and passionate proceedings; breaches of wholesome order and necessary form are evils we must wish to avoid, if to be effected without the hazard of greater.

Let us examine how far the peculiar constitution of our federal Senate will give us the advantages of a second legislative branch without subjecting us to the dangers usually apprehended from such bodies, that the sincere friends of freedom and mankind in America, if there is no longer reason for their differing upon a point of speculation may harmonize and unite.

The federal Senate, from the nature of our governments, will not be hereditary, nor will they possess, like the British barons, a power originally usurped by lawless violence and supported by military tenants.

They will not necessarily have even an influential property, for they will have a greater number of fellow citizens, as rich as themselves; and no qualification of wealth exists in the Constitution at present, nor can it be introduced without the consent of three-fourths of the people of the Union.


It cannot be apprehended, that the people at large of these free commonwealths will consent to disqualify themselves for the senatorial office, which God and the Constitution have intended they should fill.

The members of the Senate should certainly be men of very general information, but through the goodness of Providence, numbers will be found in every state, equally well qualified in that respect to execute a trust for which two persons only will be necessary.

Instead of their possessing all the knowledge of the state, an equal proportion will be found in some of the members of the House of Representatives, and even a greater share of it will often adorn persons in private walks of life.

They will have no distinctions of rank, for the persons over whom a Senator might be weak enough to affect a superiority will be really equal to him and may in a short time change situations with him.

The Senator will again become a private citizen and the citizen may become a Senator - nay more - a president of the Senate or President of the Union.

The upper house in England have an interest different and separate from the people and, whether in the execution of their circumstances tend to favor and promote this unjust and preposterous distinction.

If an ambassador is sent to their court by France or Spain, he is a nobleman of his own country, and a nobleman must be sent from England in return, which operates as a deprivation of the rights of every well-qualified commoner in the kingdom.

This is a hardship which cannot arise from our second branch, but exists in Britain not only in the case particularized, but in regard to many other employments of honor and profit.

But a greater and more essential distinction between the upper house in England and our federal Senate yet remains.

The members of the former claim and possess all their powers and honors in their own right, their own hereditary right, while the new Constitution renders our Senate merely a representative body without one distinction in favor of the birth, rank, wealth or power of the Senators or their fathers.


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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist, continued ...

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

There has arisen out of the particular nature of our affairs, a peculiar happiness in the formation of this body.

The federal Senate are the representatives of the sovereignties of their respective states.

A second branch, thus constituted, is a novelty in the history of the world.

Instead of an hereditary upper house, the American Confederacy has created a body, the temporary representatives of their component sovereignties, dignified only by their being the immediate delegates and guardians of sovereign states selected from the body of the people for that purpose, and for no reasons, but their possessing the qualifications necessary for their station.


We find then in this body, none of the evils of aristocracy apprehended by those who have drawn their reasonings from an erroneous comparison with the upper house of Britain, and all the benefits of a second branch, without hazarding the rights of the people in the smallest particular.

As our federal Representatives and state legislatures will be composed of men, who, the moment before their election, were a part of the people and who on the expiration of their time, will return to the same private situations, so the members of our federal Senate will be elected from out of the body of the people, without one qualification being made necessary, but mere citizenship, and at the expiration of their term will again be placed in private life.

The Senate, therefore, will be as much a democratic body as the House of Representatives, with this advantage, that they will be elected by the state legislatures to whom, on account of their superior wisdom and virtue, the people at large will have previously committed the care of their affairs.

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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist, continued ...

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

The plan of federal government proposed by the Convention has another merit of essential consequence to our national liberties.

Under the old Confederation, the people at large had no voice in the election of their rulers.


The collected wisdom of the state legislatures will hereafter be exercised in the choice of the Senate, but our federal Representatives will be chosen by the votes of the people themselves.

The Electors of the President and Vice President of the Union may also, by laws of the separate states, be put on the same footing.

The separation of the judicial power from the legislative and executive has been justly deemed one of the most inestimable improvements in modern polity; yet no country has ever completely accomplished it in their actual practice.

The British peers are criminal judges in cases of impeachment, and are a court of appeal in civil cases.

The power of impeachment, vested in our federal Representatives, and the right to hear those cases, which is vested in the Senate, can produce no punishment in person or property, even on conviction.

Their whole judicial power lies within a narrow compass.

They can take no cognizance of a private citizen and can only declare any dangerous public officer no longer worthy to serve this country.

To punish him for his crimes, in body or estate, is not within their constitutional powers.

They must consign him to a jury and a court, with whom the deprivation of his office is to be no proof of guilt.


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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Sat Aug 24, 2019 1:40 p

A Democratic Federalist, concluded ...

Tench Coxe

Independent Gazetteer

November 26, 1787

The size of the Senate has been considered by some, as an objection to that body.

Should this appear of any importance it is fortunate that there are reasons to expect an addition to their number.

The legislature of Virginia have taken measures preparatory to the erection of their western counties into a separate state, from which another good consequence will follow, that the free persons, which will remain within the Dominion of Virginia, will perhaps be nearly or quite as well represented in the Senate as Pennsylvania or Massachusetts.

Should Vermont, at some future time, be also introduced into the Union, a further addition to the number of our Senators will take place.

If therefore there is any importance in the objection to the size of our federal Senate, or if any such objection prevails in the minds of the people, it is in a way of being removed.

The executive powers of the Union are separated in a higher degree from the legislative than in any government now existing in the world.

As a check upon the President, the Senate may disapprove of the officers he appoints, but no person holding any office under the United States can be a member of the federal legislature.


How differently are things circumstanced in the two houses in Britain where any officer of any kind, naval, military, civil or ecclesiastical, may hold a seat in either house.

This is a most enlightened time, but more especially so in regard to matters of government.

The divine right of kings, the force of ecclesiastical obligations in civil affairs, and many other gross errors, under which our forefathers have lain in darker ages of the world, are now done away.

The natural, indefeasible and unalienable rights of mankind form the more eligible ground on which we now stand.


The United States are in this respect “the favored of Heaven.”

The Magna Charta, Bill of Rights, and common law of England furnished in 1776 a great part of the materials out of which were formed our several state constitutions.

All these were more or less recognized in the old Articles of Confederation.

On this solid basis is reared the fabric of our new federal government.

These taken together form THE GREAT WHOLE OF THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION, the fairest fabric of liberty that ever blessed mankind, immovably founded on a solid rock, whose mighty base is laid at the center of the earth.


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Re: POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IN AMERICA

Postby thelivyjr » Sun Aug 25, 2019 1:40 p

A Landholder IV

Oliver Ellsworth

November 26, 1787

To the Landholders and Farmers.

Remarks on the objections made by the Hon. ELBRIDGE GERRY, to the new Constitution.

To censure a man for an opinion in which he declares himself honest, and in a matter of which all men have a right to judge, is highly injurious; at the same time, when the opinions even of honourable men are submitted to the people, a tribunal before which the meanest citizen hath a right to speak, they must abide the consequences of public stricture.

We are ignorant whether the honorable gentlemen possesses state dignities or emoluments which will be endangered by the new system, or hath motives of personality to prejudice his mind and throw him into the opposition; or if it be so, do not wish to evade the objections by such a charge.


As a member of the general Convention, and deputy of a great state, this honorable person has a right to speak and be heard.

It gives us pleasure to know the extent of what may be objected or even surmised, by one whose situation was the best to espy danger, and mark the defective parts of the constitution, if any such there be.

Mr. Gerry, tho’ in the character of an objector, tells us “he was fully convinced that to preserve the union an efficient government was indispensibly necessary, and that it would be difficult to make proper amendments to the old articles of confederation” therefore by his own concession there was an indispensible necessity of a system, in many particulars entirely new.

He tells us further “that if the people reject this altogether, anarchy may ensue” and what situation can be pictured more awful than a total dissolution had better be risked than to fall back into that state of rude violence, in which every man’s hand is against his neighbour, and there is no judge to decide between them or power of justice to control.

But we hope to show that there are no such alarming defects in the proposed structure of government, and that while a public force is created, the liberties of the people have every possible guard.

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