Montpellier Decr. 26. 1826—
The mail has furnished me with a copy of your Lectures on Civil Government, & on the constitution of the U. S. I find in them much in which I concur; parts on which I might say — non liquet — & others from which I should dissent; but none, of which interesting veiws are not presented. What alone I mean to notice is a passage in which you have been misled by the authorities before you, & by a misunderstanding of the term "National" used in the early proceedings of the Convention of 1787. Both Mr. Yates & Mr. Martin brought to the Convention predispositions agt. its object, the one from Maryland representing the party of Mr. Chase opposed to federal restraints on the State Legislation; the other from New York, the party unwilling to lose the power over trade through which the State levied a tribute on the consumption of its neighbours. Both of them left the Convention long before it compleated its work; & appear to have reported in angry terms, what they had observed with jaundiced eyes. Mr. Martin is said to have recanted at a later day; & Mr. Yates to have changed his politics & joined the party adverse to that which sent him to the Convention. — With respect to the term "National" as contradistinguished from the term "federal," it was not meant to express the extent of power, but the mode of its operation, which was to be not like the power of the old Confederation operating on States; but like that of ordinary Governments operating on individuals; & the substitution of "United States" for "National" noted in the journal, was not designed to change the meaning of the latter, but to guard agt. a mistake or misrepresentation of what was intended. The term "National" was used in the original propositions offered on the part of the Virga. Deputies, not one of whom attached to it any other meaning than that here explained. Mr. Randolph himself the organ of the Deputation, on the occasion, was a strenuous advocate for the federal quality of limited & specified powers; & finally refused to sign the constitution because its powers were not sufficiently limited & de-defined.