madison to jefferson

madison to jefferson - CHAPTER 2 | Document 24 James...

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CHAPTER 2 | Document 24 James Madison to Thomas Jefferson 4 Feb. 1790 Papers 13:18--21  Your favor of the 9th. of Jany. inclosing one of Sepr. last did not get to hand till a few days ago. The idea which the latter evolves is a great one, and suggests many interesting reflections to legislators; particularly when contracting and providing for public debts. Whether it can be received in the extent your reasonings give it, is a question which I ought to turn more in my thoughts than I have yet been able to do, before I should be justified in making up a full opinion on it. My first thoughts though coinciding with many of yours, lead me to view the doctrine as not in all respects compatible with the course of human affairs. I will endeavor to sketch the grounds of my skepticism. "As the earth belongs to the living, not to the dead, a living generation can bind itself only: In every society the will of the majority binds the whole: According to the laws of mortality, a majority of those ripe at any moment for the exercise of their will do not live beyond nineteen years: To that term then is limited the validity of every act of the Society: Nor within that limitation, can any declaration of the public will be valid which is not express ." This I understand to be the outline of the argument. The Acts of a political Society may be divided into three classes. 1. The fundamental Constitution of the Government. 2. Laws involving stipulations which render them irrevocable at the will of the Legislature 3. Laws involving no such irrevocable quality. However applicable in Theory the doctrine may be to a Constitution, in [ sic ] seems liable in practice to some very powerful objections. Would not a Government so often revised become too mutable to retain those prejudices in its favor which antiquity inspires, and which are perhaps a salutary aid to the most rational Government in the most enlightened age? Would not such a periodical revision engender pernicious factions that might not
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2008 for the course PSC 2302 taught by Professor Dr.riley during the Fall '08 term at Baylor.

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madison to jefferson - CHAPTER 2 | Document 24 James...

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