Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. 1 - The Writings, vol. 2 (1783-1787)
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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. 1 - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 2 (1783-1787) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 2.
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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.1
New York, March 19th [18th], 1787.
My last was of the 11th of February, and went by the packet. This will go to England in the care of a French gentleman, who will consign it to the care of Mr. Adams.
The appointments for the Convention go on auspiciously. Since my last, Georgia, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, have come into the measure. The first and the last of these States have commissioned their delegates to Congress as their representatives in Convention. The deputation of Massachusetts consists of Messrs. Gorham, Dana, King, Gerry, and Strong. That of New York, Messrs. Hamilton, Yates, and Lansing. That of South Carolina, Messrs. J. Rutledge, Laurens, Pinckney, (General,) Butler, and Charles Pinckney, lately member of Congress. The States which have not yet appointed are Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maryland. The last has taken measures which prove her intention to appoint, and the two former it is not doubted will follow the example of their neighbours. I just learn from the Governor of Virginia that Mr. Henry has resigned his place in the deputation from that State, and that General Nelson is put into it by the Executive, who were authorised to fill vacancies. The Governor, Mr. Wythe, and Mr. Blair, will attend, and some hopes are entertained of Col. Mason’s attendance. General Washington has prudently authorised no expectations of his attendance, but has not either precluded himself absolutely from stepping into the field if the crisis should demand it.
What may be the result of this political experiment cannot be foreseen. The difficulties which present themselves are, on one side, almost sufficient to dismay the most sanguine, whilst on the other side the most timid are compelled to encounter them by the mortal diseases of the existing Constitution. These diseases need not be pointed out to you, who so well understand them. Suffice it to say, that they are at present marked by symptoms which are truly alarming, which have tainted the faith of the most orthodox republicans, and which challenge from the votaries of liberty every concession in favor of stable Government not infringing fundamental principles, as the only security against an opposite extreme of our present situation.
I think myself that it will be expedient, in the first place, to lay the foundation of the new system in such a ratification by the people themselves of the several States as will render it clearly paramount to their Legislative authorities. 2dly. Over and above the positive power of regulating trade and sundry other matters in which uniformity is proper, to arm the federal head with a negative in all cases whatsoever on the local Legislatures. Without this defensive power, experience and reflection have satisfied me that, however ample the federal powers may be made, or however clearly their boundaries may be delineated on paper, they will be easily and continually baffled by the Legislative sovereignties of the States. The effects of this provision would be not only to guard the national rights and interests against invasion, but also to restrain the States from thwarting and molesting each other; and even from oppressing the minority within themselves by paper money and other unrighteous measures which favor the interest of the majority. In order to render the exercise of such a negative prerogative convenient, an emanation of it must be vested in some set of men within the several States, so far as to enable them to give a temporary sanction to laws of immediate necessity. 3dly. To change the principle of Representation in the federal system. Whilst the execution of the acts of Congress depends on the several Legislatures, the equality of votes does not destroy the inequality of importance and influence in the States. But in case of such an augmentation of the federal power as will render it efficient without the intervention of the Legislatures, a vote in the general Councils from Delaware would be of equal value with one from Massachusetts or Virginia. This change, therefore, is just. I think, also, it will be practicable. A majority of the States conceive that they will be gainers by it. It is recommended to the Eastern States by the actual superiority of their populousness, and to the Southern by their expected superiority; and if a majority of the larger States concur, the fewer and smaller States must finally bend to them. This point being gained, many of the objections now urged in the leading States against renunciations of power will vanish. 4thly. To organize the federal powers in such a manner as not to blend together those which ought to be exercised by separate departments. The limited powers now vested in Congress are frequently mismanaged from the want of such a distribution of them. What would be the case under an enlargement not only of the powers, but the number of the federal Representatives? These are some of the leading ideas which have occurred to me, but which may appear to others as improper as they appear to me necessary.
[1 ]From Madison’s Works. The correct date of the letter is doubtless March 18th, as Jefferson acknowledged on June 20th the receipt of two letters, dated respectively March 18th and 19th, and this letter evidently preceded the other letter to Jefferson dated March 19th. The letter should be taken in connection with that of April 8th to Randolph and April 16th to Washington as developing Madison’s plan of government. See also the letter on the subject of the Kentucky constitution, January 6, 1785, to George Muter.