Front Page Titles (by Subject) Madison to Jefferson 8 December 1788 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Madison to Jefferson 8 December 1788 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Madison to Jefferson 8 December 1788
… Notwithstanding the formidable opposition made to the new federal government, first in order to prevent its adoption, and since in order to place its administration in the hands of disaffected men, there is now both a certainty of its peaceable commencement in March next and a flattering prospect that it will be administered by men who will give it a fair trial. General Washington will certainly be called to the executive department. Mr. Adams who is pledged to support him will probably be the vice president. The enemies to the government, at the head and the most inveterate of whom is Mr. Henry, are laying a train for the election of Governor Clinton, but it cannot succeed unless the federal votes be more dispersed than can well happen. Of the seven states which have appointed their Senators, Virginia alone will have antifederal members in that branch. Those of N. Hampshire are President Langdon and Judge Bartlett, of Massachusetts Mr. Strong and Mr. Dalton, of Connecticut Dr. Johnson and Mr. Ellsworth, of N. Jersey Mr. Patterson and Mr. Elmer, of Penna. Mr. R. Morris and Mr. McClay, of Delaware Mr. Geo. Reed and Mr. Bassett, of Virginia Mr. R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson. Here is already a majority of the ratifying states on the side of the Constitution. And it is not doubted that it will be reinforced by the appointments of Maryland, S. Carolina and Georgia. As one branch of the Legislature of N. York is attached to the Constitution, it is not improbable that one of the Senators from that state also will be added to the majority.
In the House of Representatives the proportion of antifederal members will of course be greater, but cannot if present appearances are to be trusted amount to a majority or even a very formidable minority. The election for this branch has taken place as yet nowhere except in Penna. and here the returns are not yet come in from all the counties. It is certain however that seven out of the eight, and probable that the whole eight representatives will bear the federal stamp. Even in Virginia where the enemies to the government form 2/3 of the legislature it is computed that more than half the number of Representatives, who will be elected by the people, formed into districts for the purpose, will be of the same stamp. By some it is computed that 7 out of the 10 allotted to that state will be opposed to the politics of the present legislature.
The questions which divide the public at present relate 1. to the extent of the amendments that ought to be made to the Constitution, 2. to the mode in which they ought to be made. The friends of the Constitution, some from an approbation of particular amendments, others from a spirit of conciliation, are generally agreed that the system should be revised. But they wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty, without abridging the sum of power transferred from the states to the general government or altering previous to trial the particular structure of the latter and are fixed in opposition to the risk of another Convention whilst the purpose can be as well answered by the other mode provided for introducing amendments. Those who have opposed the Constitution are, on the other hand, zealous for a second Convention, and for a revisal which may either not be restrained at all or extend at least as far as alterations have been proposed by any state. Some of this class are, no doubt, friends to an effective government, and even to the substance of the particular government in question. It is equally certain that there are others who urge a second Convention with the insidious hope of throwing all things into confusion, and of subverting the fabric just established, if not the Union itself. If the first Congress embrace the policy which circumstances mark out, they will not fail to propose of themselves every desirable safeguard for popular rights; and by thus separating the well meaning from the designing opponents fix on the latter their true character, and give to the government its due popularity and stability.
The Bill of Rights
Although he was a staunch opponent of the anti-Federalist demand for a second federal convention—and of any amendments that would substantially reduce the powers of the new regime—Madison had said at the Virginia Ratifying Convention that he would not oppose amendments that might provide additional securities for liberty. During the first federal elections, in which he overcame a formidable challenge for a seat in the House, he announced that he was positively committed to such amendments, though still convinced that these could be secured most speedily, with the greatest security against damaging alterations in the substance of the Constitution, and with the greatest likelihood of general acceptance, if they were prepared by Congress rather than another general convention. Over the succeeding months, he took it on himself to lead this effort, combing through the many amendments recommended by the states, together with the states’ declarations of rights, for such additions and changes as he considered advisable and safe. Public assurances of speedy action on the subject were inserted in Washington’s inaugural address and in the House of Representatives’ reply, both of which Madison drafted. On 4 May 1789, he announced to the House that he would introduce amendments on 25 May. The press of other business forced him to accept a postponement on that date. But on 8 June he interrupted other business to introduce some nineteen propositions.