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title:“Alexander Hamilton’s Proposals in the Federal Convention”
authors:Alexander Hamilton
date written:1787

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:13 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Dec. 5, 2023, 2:49 a.m. UTC

Hamilton, Alexander. "Alexander Hamilton’s Proposals in the Federal Convention." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Alexander Hamilton’s Proposals in the Federal Convention (1787)

A subsequent misstatement of his course in the convention, drew forth a voluntary publication from Luther Martin. "That Hamilton in a most able and eloquent address, did express his general ideas upon the subject of government, and of that government which would in all human probability be most advantageous for the United States, I admit; but, in thus expressing his sentiments, he did not suggest a wish that any one officer of the government should derive his power from any other source than the people; that there should be in any instance an hereditary succession to office, nor that any person should continue longer than during good behaviour."
Another publication appeared, charging him with having proposed a monarchy to the convention. This was denied, and it was replied, that "he proposed a system composed of three branches, an assembly, a senate, and a governor. That the assembly should be elected by the people for three years, and that the senate and governor should be likewise elected by the people during good behaviour."
In answer to this publication, Hamilton published a full explanatory view of the propositions made by him.
"Thus the charge," he said, "is at length reduced to specific terms. Before it can be decided, however, whether this would be a monarchy or a republic, it seems necessary to settle the meaning of those terms. . . .
Were we to attempt a correct definition of a republican government, we should say, 'That is a republican government, in which both the executive and legislative organs are appointed by a popular election, and hold their offices upon a responsible and defeasible tenure.' If this be not so, then the tenure of good behavior for the judicial department is anti-republican, and the government of this state is not a republic;1 if the contrary, then a government would not cease to be republican because a branch of the legislature, or even the executive, held their offices during good behaviour. In this case the two essential criteria would still concur — the creation of the officer by a popular election, and the possibility of his removal in the course of law, by accusation before, and conviction by, a competent tribunal.
How far it may be expedient to go, even within the bounds of the theory, in framing a constitution, is a different question, upon which we pretend not to give our opinion. It is enough for the purpose of our assertion, if it be in principle correct. For even then, upon the statement of the 'citizen' himself, General Hamilton did not propose a monarchy.
Thus much too we will add, that whether General Hamilton at any stage of the deliberations of the convention did, or did not make the proposition ascribed to him, it is certain that his more deliberate and final opinion, adopted a moderate term of years for the duration of the office of president; as also appears by a plan of a constitution, in writing now in this city, drawn up by that gentleman in detail.
Whether the first system presented by Mr. Hamilton, was the one to which he gave a decided preference, it would be difficult to say, since we find him adopting and proposing a different one in the course of the sitting of the convention. It may have been that his opinion was nearly balanced between the two; nay, it is possible he may have really preferred the one last proposed, and that the former, like many others, was brought forward to make it the subject of discussion, and see what would be the opinions of different gentlemen on so momentous a subject. And, it is now repeated with confidence, that the Virginia delegation did vote for the most energetic form of government, and that Mr. Maddison was of the number. But we desire to be distinctly understood, that it was never intended, by mentioning this circumstance, to impeach the purity of Mr. Maddison's motives. To arraign the morals of any man, because he entertains a speculative opinion on government different from ourselves, is worse than arrogance. He who does so, must entertain notions in ethics extremely crude, and certainly unfavourable to virtue."

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