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title:“James Madison to Jared Sparks”
authors:James Madison
date written:1831-6-27

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:01 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Aug. 18, 2019, 3:29 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 (June 27, 1831)

June 27, 1831.
I have received your letter of the 16th. inst., inclosing a copy of the letter of Mr. Charles Pinckney to Mr. Adams, accompanying the draft of a Constitution for the United States, and describing it as essentially the draft proposed by him to the Federal Convention of 1787.1 The letter to Mr. Adams was new to me.
Abundant evidence I find exists of material variance between the two drafts, and I am sorry that the letter of Mr. Pinckney is far from explaining them. It does not appear, as you inferred, that the draft sent to Mr. Adams was compiled from his notes and papers; but that it was one of the several drafts found amongst them, and the very one, he believed, that he had presented to the Convention, all the drafts, however, being substantially the same.
Some of the variances may be deduced from the printed journal of the Convention. You will notice, for example, that on the 6th or 7th of June, very shortly after his draft was presented, he proposed to take from the people the election of the Federal House of Representatives, and assign it to the legislatures of the States, a violent presumption that the latter, not the former, was the mode contained in his draft.
It is true, as Mr. Pinckney observes and as the journal shows, that the Executive was the last department of the government that received its full and final discussion; but I am not sure that he is free from error in the view his letter gives of what passed on the occasion, or that the error, with several others, may not be traced by a review of the journal.
I am at a loss for the ground of his contrast between the latter period of the Convention and the cool and patient deliberation for more than four and a half months preceding. The whole term of the Convention, from its appointed commencement, was short of that period; and its actual session, from the date of a quorum, but four months, three days. And the occasion on which the most serious and threatening excitement prevailed (the struggle between the larger and smaller States in relation to the representation in the Senate) occurred, as the journal will show, during the period noted as the cool and patient one. After the compromise which allowed an equality of votes in the Senate, that consideration, with the smaller number and longer tenure of its members, will account for the abridgment of its powers by associating the Executive in the exercise of them.2
Among the instances in which the memory of Mr. Pinckney failed him is the remark in his letter that, very soon after the Convention met, he had avowed a change of opinion in giving Congress a power to revise the state laws, thinking it safer to refuse the power altogether. It appears from the journal that as late as the 23rd. of August the proposition was renewed, with a change only, requiring two thirds instead of a majority of each house. The journal does not name the mover, but satisfactory information exists that it was Mr. Pinckney.
Mr. Adams was probably restrained from printing the letter of Mr. Pinckney by the vague charges in it against the Convention, and a scruple of publishing a part only.
I have been suffering for some time a severe attack of rheumatism, and I offer this brief compliance with your request of my view of Mr. Pinckney's letter under an unabated continuance of it. This alone would be a reason for desiring that nothing in the communication should be referred to as resting upon my authority. But there are others, drawn from my relation to the subject and the relation which subsisted between Mr. Pinckney and myself, which must always require that I should not be a party to an exposure of the strange incongruities into which he has fallen, without a fuller view of the proofs, and the obligation not to withhold them, than the present occasion would permit.
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 See CCCXXVI above.
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