Log In Register

Source & Citation Info

title:“Gouverneur Morris to Robert Walsh”
authors:Gouverneur Morris
date written:1811-2-5

permanent link
to this version:
last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:29 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Oct. 16, 2021, 2:50 a.m. UTC

Morris, Gouverneur. "Letter to Robert Walsh." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Gouverneur Morris to Robert Walsh (February 5, 1811)

Morrisania, February 5th, 1811.
General Hamilton had little share in forming the Constitution. He disliked it, believing all Republican government to be radically defective. . . .
Those, who formed our Constitution, were not blind to its defects. They believed a monarchial form to be neither solid nor durable. They conceived it to be vigorous or feeble, active or slothful, wise or foolish, mild or cruel, just or unjust, according to the personal character of the Prince. . . .
Fond, however, as the framers of our national Constitution were of Republican government, they were not so much blinded by their attachment, as not to discern the difficulty, perhaps impracticability, of raising a durable edifice from crumbling materials. History, the parent of political science, had told them, that it was almost as vain to expect permanency from democracy, as to construct a palace on the surface of the sea.
But it would have been foolish to fold their arms, and sink into despondency, because they could neither form nor establish the best of all possible systems. They tell us in their President's letter of the seventeenth of September, 1787; 'The Constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.' It is not easy to be wise for all times; not even for the present, much less for the future; and those, who judge of the past, must recollect that when it was present, the present was future.
. . . It is necessary here to anticipate one of your subsequent questions, 'What has been, and what is now the influence of the State governments on the Federal system? To obtain anything like a check on the rashness of democracy, it was necessary not only to organize the legislature into different bodies, (for that alone is a poor expedient,) but to endeavor that these bodies should be animated by a different spirit. To this end the States in their corporate capacity were made electors of the Senate; and so long as the State governments had considerable influence, and the consciousness of dignity, which that influence imparts, the Senate felt something of the desired sentiment, and answered in some degree the end of its institution. But that day is past.
This opens to our view a dilemma, which was not unperceived when the Constitution was formed. If the State influence should continue, the union could not last; and, if it did not, the utility of the Senate would cease. It was observed in the Convention at an early day, by one who had afterwards a considerable share of the business, when the necessity of drawing a line between national sovereignty and State independence was insisted on, 'that, if Aaron's rod could not swallow the rods of the Magicians, their rods would swallow his.' But it is one thing to perceive a dilemma, and another thing to get out of it. In the option between two evils, that which appeared to be the least was preferred, and the power of the union provided for. At present the influence of the general government has so thoroughly pervaded every State, that all the little wheels are obliged to turn according to the great one.

Resource Metadata







Annotations (0)