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title:“James Madison to Edward Livingston”
authors:James Madison
date written:1824-4-17

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retrieved:March 1, 2021, 1:45 a.m. UTC

Madison, James. "Letter to Edward Livingston." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

James Madison to Edward Livingston (April 17, 1824)

Montpellier April 17. 1824.
I have read your observations with a due perception of the ability which pervades and the eloquence which adorns them; and I must add, not without the pleasure of noticing that you have pruned from the doctrine of some of your fellow labourers, its most luxuriant branches — I cannot but think at the same time, that you have left the root in too much vigour. This appears particularly in the question of Canals. My impression with respect to the authority to make them may be the stronger perhaps, (as I had occasion to remark as to the Bank on its original discussion,) from my recollection that the authority had been repeatedly proposed in the Convention, and negatived, either as improper to be vested in Congress, or as a power not likely to be yielded by the States. My impression is also very decided, that if the construction which brings Canals within the scope of commercial regulations, had been advanced or admitted by the advocates of the constitution in the State Conventions, it would have been impossible to overcome the opposition to it. It is remarkable that Mr. Hamilton himself, the strenuous patron of an expansive meaning in the text of the Constitution, with the views of the Convention fresh in his memory, and in a Report contending for the most liberal rules of interpretation, was obliged by his candour to admit that they could not embrace the case of canals. . . .
It cannot be denied without forgetting what belongs to human nature, that in consulting the contemporary writings, which vindicated and recommended the Constitution, it is fair to keep in mind that the authors might be sometimes influenced by the zeal of advocates: But in expounding it now, — is the danger of bias less, from the influence of local interests, of popular currents, and even from an estimate of national utility.

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