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title:“James Madison to Jared Sparks”
authors:James Madison
date written:1831-11-25

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retrieved:Nov. 30, 2023, 9:31 p.m. UTC

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

James Madison to Jared Sparks (November 25, 1831)

Montpellier, November 25, 1831.
I have received your favor of the 14th instant. The simple question is, whether the draught sent by Mr. Pinckney to Mr. Adams, and printed in the Journal of the Convention, could be the same with that presented by him to the Convention on the 29th day of May, 1787; and I regret to say that the evidence that that was not the case is irresistible. Take, as a sufficient example, the important article constituting the House of Representatives, which, in the draught sent to Mr. Adams, besides being too minute in its details to be a possible anticipation of the result of the discussion, &c., of the Convention on that subject, makes the House of Representatives the choice of the people. Now, the known opinion of Mr. Pinckney was, that that branch of Congress ought to be chosen by the State Legislatures, and not immediately by the people.1 Accordingly, on the 6th day of June, not many days after presenting his draught, Mr. Pinckney, agreeably to previous notice, moved that, as an amendment to the Resolution of Mr. Randolph, the term "people" should be struck out and the word "Legislatures" inserted; so as to read, "Resolved, That the members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the Legislatures of the several States." But what decides the point is the following extract from him to me, dated March 28, 1789:
"Are you not, to use a full expression, abundantly convinced that the theoretic nonsense of an election of the members of Congress by the people, in the first instance, is clearly and practically wrong; that it will, in the end, be the means of bringing our Councils into contempt, and that the Legislatures are the only proper judges of who ought to be elected?"
Other proofs against the identity of the two draughts may be found in Article VIII of the Draught, which, whilst it specifies the functions of the President, contains no provision for the election of such an officer, nor, indeed, for the appointment of any Executive Magistracy, notwithstanding the evident purpose of the author to provide an entire plan of a Federal Government.
Again, in several instances where the Draught corresponds with the Constitution, it is at variance with the ideas of Mr. Pinckney, as decidedly expressed in his votes on the Journal of the Convention. Thus, in Article VIII of the Draught, provision is made for removing the President by impeachment, when it appears that in the Convention, July 20, he was opposed to any impeachability of the Executive Magistrate. In Article III, it is required that all money-bills shall originate in the first branch of the Legislature; and yet he voted, on the 8th August, for striking out that provision in the Draught reported by the Committee on the 6th. In Article V, members of each House are made ineligible, as well as incapable, of holding any office under the Union, &c., as was the case at one stage of the Constitution; a disqualification disapproved and opposed by him August 14th.
Further discrepancies might be found in the observations of Mr. Pinckney, printed in a pamphlet by Francis Childs, in New York, shortly after the close of the Convention. I have a copy, too mutilated for use, but it may probably be preserved in some of your historical repositories.
It is probable that in some instances, where the Committee which reported the Draught of Augt 6th might be supposed to have borrowed from Mr. Pinckney's Draught, they followed details previously settled by the Convention, and ascertainable, perhaps, by the Journal. Still there may have been room for a passing respect for Mr. Pinckney's plan by adopting, in some cases, his arrangement; in others, his language. A certain analogy of outlines may be well accounted for. All who regard the object of the Convention to be a real and regular Government, as contradistinguished from the old Federal system, looked to a division of it into Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary branches, and of course would accommodate their plans to their organization. This was the view of the subject generally taken and familiar in conversation, when Mr. Pinckney was preparing his plan. I lodged in the same house with him, and he was fond of conversing on the subject. As you will have less occasion than you expected to speak of the Convention of 1787, may it not be best to say nothing of this delicate topic relating to Mr. Pinckney, on which you cannot use all the lights that exist and that may be added?