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title:“James Monroe: Draft of a Speech for the Virginia Ratification Convention”
authors:James Monroe
date written:1788-6-10

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:06 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Feb. 22, 2024, 6:30 p.m. UTC

Monroe, James. "James Monroe: Draft of a Speech for the Virginia Ratification Convention." The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution. Vol. 9. Ed. Gaspare J. Saladino and John P. Kaminski. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1990. 1139-42. Print.

James Monroe: Draft of a Speech for the Virginia Ratification Convention (June 10, 1788)

It is not without the greatest reluctance that I presume to make any observations on the present subject, for it is of sufficient importance to awe & dismay a mind less diffident than my own. It is of importance; not only as it involves in it the principles of our govt., a subject of the highest concern to mankind, but as it applies to the present circumstances of the confederacy, (so many States having adopted it &; others sit) wh. we find torn & rended in every quarter by ye opposite partys-under this consideration I shod. yeild to my own wishes, be silent, & suffer the torrent to pass by me, if having been employ'd by my country in the practical experiment of the present govt, & of course in some degree acquainted with its defects, I did not feel it in some measure a duty to express my sentiments of these defects and of the merits or demerits of that which is now propos'd to be substituted in its place-I trust therefore as it is with reluctance that I shall make any observations on the subject & shall never presume to interfere with those aged & illustrious characters which it hath pleas'd our country men to place here upon the prest. occasion, that I shall be heard patiently in any observations I shall make.
It were hard upon these States if the revolution were not made a happy event to them-& in Those arguments Sir are to be drawn from the present circumstances of the confederacy, so far as considerations of expedience are to be deduc'd from them, will I conceivebe improperly arg'd in the present stage-They shod. be taken up a part from the merits of the govt., wh. is now before us, & at the close of this discussion-I mean either with respect to the defects of the old govt., and the superiority or infery. of this to it. with respect to the manner in wh. it has been recd. by the States that have already been conven'd on it, & the probability of losing this & even of disunion unless we adopt it, or any considerations of expedience-They shod. be taken up apt. from the merits of this govt. &ce &cewith respect to as to the defects of the present govt., I take it to ., be a subject so thorough paced & well known from the many satisfactory reasons urgd by Congress & the elaborate discussions that have been made here & elsewhere on it, that it is unnecessary to go into the subject, further than to mention these defects-and even a [recital?] of these appears unnecessary unless they shall be question'd in the course of the debate-I shall therefore proceed immediately a view of the present plan & in the manner proposd.
In contemplating this subject a division naturally strikes me wh. does not appear to have occurr'd to others-1st. as to the organization of the govt2d as to its powers-This distinction applies to all its branches-the Legislative Executive & Juy.-The former or orgn. is the external form [&?] modification of it-The latter, or its powers, if I may use a metaphorical expression is the soul by wh it is animated- we shod. therefore contemplate it as to its merits in these views-Let us examine it as to its general form first, or the great outlines of the govt then as to the form of each branch-
I am perfectly satisfied of the propriety of a division of the govt. & a distribution of its powers into three branches, Legis-Ex: & Judy.- This has been long establish'd as a fundimental maxim with respect to one State or of a govt. erected over one people only-but it has been particularly dilated on and exemplified by Montesquieu & Loccke- The only question wh. arises in the present case is, whether such a division or distribution of power is suited to a confederacy of states and this is a new question wh. no nations have practisd on or writers examin'd-The field is of course unexplor'd-They part with power or commit it to the genl. govt. for the common good-We will suppose the power delegated the proper measure, the real power wh. it shod. exercise for the benefit of the States, and of course that wh. they retain what they shod. retain for their particular interests. will this power then be better exercis'd thus distributed than if in the hands of one body?
with respect to the exercise of the power given to the late Congress by that body, I must confess that I am astonish'd that it ever conducted the war, (organiz'd as it was) to a fortunate close-each State drawing directions, accomodating its measures to a state policy, it [a] matter of surprize to me that it ever mov'd on-superior talents have perhaps had less weight there than elsewhere-The delegates of States when they had points to carry, lament that great talents are oppos'd to them, that thereby they are so much harrass'd & embarrass'd, but never change their ground. In fact the govt. hath been so unweildly that it hath been often under the necessity of having to extray. means for its safety-the investing genl. W. with a kind of dictatorial power-a recourse I shod. be sorry we shod. be compell'd to resort to after that character shall have left the stage- The difficulties of the govt. have often during my service led into extray. combinations to get it in motion, form'd powers foster'd measures, wh. have shewn that where the govt. has defects, men will be found having vices. These & other considerations have induc'd me long before this project was presented to our view to wish for such a division-yet some evils will be unavoidable under this division. The Presidt. will be the man of a State; is it not to be feard that he will weild the powers intrusted to him principally for the benefit of his State-The delegates of particular states it and altho he may be appointed by & in more measure be dependent on the genl. govt. yet as they expect to return their for their final residence, and of course depend for the more substantial benefits & bliss of human life may we not fear it will make a by as on their minds &conduct so as to make a job of the service the only check his reelection Govt. Whether that consideration will counter balance the benefits of the change I will not pretend to determine, yet i will be candid to own that my experience of the defects of the former wod. induce me to make the experiment. whether this power is delegated to the President under the proper checks I shall examine hereafter.
propriety of judiciary to judge on laws in contradistinction to legislature, making them—
benefit to the legislature itself-more wisdom & temperance-
Judicial power will judge on subjects, on wh. the Congress have made no law-what rule will it take?
the Prest. shod. be left to himself with the hope of rising keeping in office before him, & unconnected with any body (senate) to whom he may attribute the errors of his adminis.

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