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title:“A Citizen of New Haven [Roger Sherman]”
authors:Roger Sherman
date written:1789-3-24

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Sherman, Roger. "A Citizen of New Haven [Roger Sherman]." Creating the Bill of Rights. Ed. Kenneth R. Bowling and Helen E. Veit. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. 222. Print.

A Citizen of New Haven [Roger Sherman] (March 24, 1789)

ALL the difficulties proposed to be remedied by amendments, that have come within my notice, may be provided for by law, without altering the Constitution, except the following, on which I would make a few observations, and submit to the public, whether it is proper or necessary to make those alterations. 1. It has been proposed that the consent of two thirds, or three fourths of the members in each branch of Congress should be made requisite for passing certain acts. But why should a majority in Congress, joined with the concurrent voice of the President, be controuled by a minority? If the President dissents, the Constitution requires the consent of two thirds of the members in each branch to pass any act. It is a general maxim in popular government, that the majority should govern.1 2. It is objected that the Senate is not the proper tribunal for the trial of impeachments. But what good reason can be assigned for this objection? The members being elegible by the Legislatures of the several States, they will doubtless be persons of wisdom and probity, and proper guardians of the rights of the community, who can have no motive from the nature of their office to partiality in judgment.2 3. It is objected, that the President ought not to have power to grant pardons in cases of high treason. But what great mischief can arise from the exercise of this power by the President? He cannot pardon in cases of impeachment, so that offenders may be excluded from office notwithstanding his pardon.3 4. It is proposed to make the President and Senators inelegible after certain periods. But this would abridge the liberty of the people, and remove one great motive to fidelity in office. The danger of having the same persons continued long in office is intirely removed, if they are dependent on the people for their continuance by re-election; and by long experience they will be better qualified for usefulness, and nothing renders government more unstable than a frequent change of the persons that administer it.4 5. It has been proposed that members of Congress be rendered inelegible to any other office, during the time for which they are elected members of that body. This is an objection that will admit of something plausible to be said on both sides. The mischief intended to be avoided is, their instituting offices with large salaries, with a view of filling them themselves; but that difficulty is obviated by the provision in the Constitution, that they shall not be elegible to any office that shall have been instituted or the emoluments encreased while they were members. On the other hand a person may be best qualified for some office by means of the knowledge of public affairs acquired by being a member of Congress; and it seems reasonable that the public should be at liberty to employ any of the citizens in offices wherein they can be most useful.5 6. It has been proposed that no treaty of commerce should be made without the consent of two thirds of the Senators, nor any cession of territory or right of navigation or fishery without the consent of three fourths of the members present in each branch of Congress. It is provided that the President with the concurrence of two thirds of the Senators present may make treaties, and as each State has an equal representation and suffrage in the Senate, their rights in this respect will be as secure under the new Constitution as under the old; and it is not probable that they would ever make a cession of any important national right, without the consent of Congress. The King of Great-Britain has power by the Constitution of that nation to make treaties, yet in matters of great importance he consults the Parliament.6 7. The amendment proposed by the Convention of South-Carolina, respecting religious tests, is an ingenious one, but not very important, because the Constitution as it now stands, will have the same effect, as it would have with that amendment.7 On the whole, will it not be best to make a fair trial of the Constitution, before any attempts are made to alter it? It is now become the only frame of government for the United States, and must be supported and conformed to, or they will have no government at all as confederated States. Experience will best shew whether it is deficient or not; on trial it may appear that the alterations proposed are not necessary, or that others not yet thought of may be necessary. Every thing that tends to disunion, ought to be carefully avoided. Instability in government and laws, tends to weaken a State, and render the rights of the people precarious. The Constitution which is the foundation of law and government ought not to be changed without the most pressing necessity. When experience has convinced, the people in general that alterations are necessary, they may be easily made, but attempting it at present may be detrimental, if not fatal to the union of the States, and to their credit with foreign nations.

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