Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“Draft Speech by George Mason”
authors:George Mason
date written:1787-6-4

permanent link
to this version:
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:03 a.m. UTC
retrieved:March 25, 2023, 5:59 p.m. UTC

Mason, George. "Draft Speech by George Mason." Supplement to Max Farrand's The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Ed. James H. Hutson. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 49-51. Print.

Draft Speech by George Mason (June 4, 1787)

MONDAY, JUNE 4, 1787 49 Adjourned till to Morrow. GEORGE MASON: DRAFT SPEECH' It is not yet determined how the Executive is to be regulated whether it is to act solely from its own Judgment, or with the Advice of others whether there is, or is not to be a Council annexed to it; and if a Council, how far their Advice shall operate in controuling the Judgment of the supreme magistracy—If there is no Council of State, and the executive power be vested in a single Person; what are the Provisions for its proper Operation, upon casual Disability by sickness, or otherwise.—These are Subjects which must come under our Consideration; and perhaps some of the most important Objections would be obviated by placing the executive Power in the hands of three, instead of one Person. There is also to be a Council of Revision; invested, in a great Measure, with a Power of Negative upon the Laws; and an Idea has been suggested, either within or without doors, that this Council should be formed of the principal Officers of the State,—I presume of the members of the Treasury Board, the Board of War, the Navy Board, and the Department for foreign Affairs: it is unnecessary, if not improper, to examine this part of the Subject now, but I will venture to hazard an Opinion, when it comes to be thoroughly investigated, that we can hardly find worse Materials out of which to create a Council of Revision; or more improper or unsafe Hands, in which to place the Power of a Negative upon our Laws.—It is proposed, I think, Sir, in the Plan upon your Table, that this Council of Revision shall be formed out of the Members of the Judiciary Departments joined with the Executive; and I am inclined to think; when the Subject shall be taken up, it may be demonstrated, that this will be the wisest and safest mode of constituting this important Council of Revision.—But the fœderal inferior Courts of Justice must, I presume, be fixed in the several respective States, and consequently most of them at a great Distance from the Seat of the fœderal Government: the almost continual Operation of the Council of Revision upon the Acts of the national Parliament, and upon their Negative of the Acts of the several State legislatures, will require that this i . Farrand printed this draft speech in volume 4 from the holograph copy, which was not available when he prepared volumes 1-3. In volume 1 (I 10—I4) he printed the draft from a version contained in a biography of Mason. The wording of the two versions is identical (with the exception of what are evidently typographical errors), although there are differences in punctuation and spelling, caused by Mason's biographer's efforts to "modernize" the text. 50 SUPPLEMENT TO FARRAND'S RECORDS Council should be easily and speedily convened; and consequently, that only the Judges of the Supreme fœderal Court, fixed near the Seat of Government, can be Members of it; their Number will be small: by placing the Executive Power in three Persons, instead of one, we shall not only increase the Number of the Council of Revision (which I have endeavoured to show will want increasing), but by giving to each of the three a Vote in the Council of Revision, we shall increase the Strength of the Executive, in that particular Circumstance, in which it will most want Strength—in the Power of defending itself against the Encroachments of the Legislature.—These, I must acknowledge, are with me, weighty Considerations for vesting the Executive rather in three than in one Person. The chief Advantages which have been urged in favour of Unity in the Executive, are the Secrecy, the Dispatch, the Vigour and Energy, which the Government will derive from it; especially in time of war.—That these are great Advantages, I shall most readily allow—They have been strongly insisted on by all monarchical Writers—they have been acknowledged by the ablest and most candid Defenders of Republican Government; and it can not be denyed that a Monarchy possesses them in a much greater Degree than a Republic.—Yet perhaps a little Reflection may incline us to doubt whether these Advantages are not greater in Theory than in Practice—or lead us to enquire whether there is not some pervading Principle in Republican Governments which sets at Naught, and tramples upon this boasted Superiority—as hath been experienced, to their cost, by most Monarchys, which have been imprudent enough to invade or attack their republican Neighbors. This invincible Principle is to be found in the Love the Affection the Attachment of the Citizens to their Laws, to their Freedom, and to their Country—Every Husbandman will be quickly converted into a Soldier, when he knows and feels that he is to fight not in Defence of the Rights of a particular Family, or a Prince; but for his own. This is the true Construction of the pro Aris & focis which has, in all Ages, performed such Wonders—It was this which, in ancient times, enabled the little Cluster of Grecian Republics to resist, and almost constantly to defeat the Persian Monarch—It was this which supported the States of Holland against a Body of veteran Troops thro' a thirty Years War with Spain, then the greatest Monarchy in Europe, and finally rendered them victorious.—It is this which preserves the Freedom and Independence of the Swiss Cantons in the midst of the most powerful Nations—And who that reflects seriously upon the Situation of America, in the Beginning of the late War—without Arms—without Soldiers—without Trade, Money, or Credit—in a Manner destitute of all Resources, but must ascribe our Success to this pervading, all-powerful Principle? We have not yet been able to define the Powers of the Executive; and however moderately some Gentlemen may talk or think upon the Subject, MONDAY, JUNE 4, 1787 51 I believe there is a general Tendency to a strong Executive and I am inclined to think a strong Executive necessary—If strong and extensive Powers are vested in the Executive, and that Executive consists only of one Person; the Government will of course degenerate (for I will call it degeneracy) into a Monarchy—a Government so contrary to the Genius of the People that they will reject even the Appearance of it—I consider the federal Government as in some Measure dissolved by the Meeting of this Convention—Are there no Dangers to be apprehended from procrastinating the time between the breaking up of this Assembly and the adoption of a new System of Government—I dread the Interval—If it should not be brought to an Issue in the Course of the first Year the Consequences may be fatal—Has not the different Parts of this extensive Government, the several States of which it is composed a Right to expect an equal Participation in the Executive, as the best means of securing an equal Attention to their Interests? Should an Insurrection, a Rebellion or Invasion happen in New Hampshire when the single supreme Magistrate is a Citizen of Georgia, would not the People of New Hampshire naturally ascribe any Delay in defending them to such a Circumstance and so vice versa— If the Executive is vested in three Persons, one chosen from the northern, one from the middle, and one from the Southern States, will it not contribute to quiet the Minds of the People, and convince them that there will be proper attention paid to their respective Concerns? Will not three Men so chosen bring with them, into Office, a more perfect and extensive Knowledge of the real Interests of this great Union? Will not such a mode of Appointment be the most effectual means of preventing Cabals and Intrigues between the Legislature and the Candidates for this Office, especially with those Candidates who from their local Situation, near the Seat of the federal Government, will have the greatest Temptations and the greatest Opportunitys? Will it not be the most effectual means of checking and counteracting the aspiring Views of dangerous and ambitious Men, and consequently the best Security for the Stability and Duration of our Government upon the invaluable Principles of Liberty? These, Sir, are some of my motives for preferring an Executive consisting of three Persons rather than of one.

Resource Metadata






Annotations (0)