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every vital interest of the state will be merged in the allabsorbing question of who shall be the next PRESIDENT ?""
A statement from another source is decisive as to his final opinion. It is from the pen of Jefferson.* “ My wish was that the President should be elected for seven years, and be ineligible afterwards. This term I thought sufficient to enable him, with the concurrence of the legislature, to carry through and establish any system of improvement he should propose for the general good. But the practice adopted, I think, is better, allowing his continuance for eight years, with a liability to be dropped at half-way of the term, making that a period of probation. That his continuance should be restrained to seven years, was the opinion of the Convention at an earlier stage of its session, when it voted that term, by a majority of eight against two, and by a simple majority, that he should be ineligible a second time. This opinion was confirmed by the House so late as July 26, referred to the Committee of Detail, reported favorably by them, and changed to the present form by final vote, on the last day, but one only, of their session. Of this change, three States expressed their disapprobation: New York, by RECOMMENDING AN AMENDMENT, that the President SHOULD NOT BE ELIGIBLE A THIRD TIME, and Virginia and North Carolina, that he should not be capable of serving more than eight, in any term of sixteen years; and although this amendment has not been made in form, yet practice seems to have established it." As Hamilton was the only delegate then present from New York, the amendment proposing ineligibility after a second term must have proceeded from him.
This is a statement not casually made in the course of a correspondence, but formaliy drawn up by Jefferson in
* Jefferson's Works, Randolph edition, i., 64, 65.
a memoir of his life, showing minute references to the Journal of the Convention.
As to the opinions entertained by him on the theory of government, it is felt that in the mode in which, from a desire to withhold nothing, they appear, much injustice may have been done him; as in the brief of his great speech, previous to an exposition of his first plan of a constitution, the mere general heads are given without those qualifications that must have formed an essential part of it; while, of the various efforts made by him to harmonize and to adjust the different parts of the complicated scheme as it progressed, evolving new views and sources of thought, and thus informing the mind of the convention, but little can be placed before the public.
Happily, in a comparison of this brief with his numbers of the Federalist, they will be found, with the exception of his abstract discussion of the theory of government, in a great measure to have filled up its outline.
From these sources it is ascertained, that the leading maxim of Hamilton was, that a good government consists in a vigorous execution, that such vigour is “essential to the security of liberty," and that, “ in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed mind, their interests never can be separated.”
To reconcile the requisite vigour with the perfect security of liberty, he well knew was almost impracticable; to approximate them was all that he hoped to effect; but in what mode this could best be accomplished, was a problem which he acknowledged to be full of difficulties.
His well-founded and openly avowed doubts upon a subject which has embarrassed every reflecting practical mind, have been denounced as evidences of dispositions unfriendly to freedom, and upon so slight a basis has been raised a mass of prejudice which impeded all his efforts to promote the well-being of this country. To apply to him his own gen
eral remark, his “enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government, has been stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of power, and hostile to the principles of liberty." Without caring to propitiate popular prejudices on a subject as to which his own declaration is deemed sufficient—“I presume I shall not be disbelieved when I declare, that the establishment of a republican government on a safe and solid basis is an object of all others nearest and most dear to my own heart”-it is enough to refer to the whole tenor of his life.
At the age of seventeen he is seen combating the arbitrary policy of England; exhorting the American people to resistance; unfolding the future glories of the empire ; rejecting with scorn the idea of a system sustained" by pensioners, placemen, and parasites;" holding up to them, as the great prize of the contest they were invited to wage, the establishment of the “ steady, uniform, unshaken security of constitutional freedom," and avowing with a noble enthusiasm, which was his perpetual inspiration, “I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.”
In seventeen hundred and eighty, amidst the din and tumult of arms, displaying all the evils of a want of government, and urging “ a solid confederation."
In seventeen hundred and eighty-one, pressing on the minds of the public, in the “ Continentalist," the organization of a “great federative republic, closely linked in the pursuit of a common interest.”
In seventeen hundred and eighty-two, inducing the legislature of New York to propose “a general convention, authorized to revise and amend the confederation.”
In seventeen hundred and eighty-three, at least an equal participator in every effort to invigorate the confederacy, framing an appeal to the people, exhibiting its infirmities, and inviting them to establish a well-balanced government. In seventeen hundred and eighty-four, cautioning them against the excesses of liberty, and enjoining them to watch, with more intensity than the vestal fire, “ this sacred deposit” which had been confided to them.
In seventeen hundred and eighty-five, imploring them to dismiss the jealousies which had been excited for their destruction, and to repose their trust where it should be placed—“ all government implying trust."
- In seventeen hundred and eighty-six, again addressing them from Annapolis, and invoking them, by the strongest motives, to appoint a convention empowered to frame a constitution “ adequate to the exigencies of the union."
And in seventeen hundred and eighty-seven, after inducing the concurrence of New York and the co-operation of congress, as a member of that convention, sacrificing all prejudgments ; surrendering his matured opinions, and labouring until he saw a constitution framed, not such as he would have desired, but “ having, as far as was consistent with its genius, all the features of a good government;" a constitution to which he pledged his support by his signature—to fulfil which pledge he devoted all his energies.
In this series of acts, having one uniform and single end—the “ establishment of a republican government upon a safe and solid basis”-will be found an ample refutation of all the calumnies which have been propagated.
But, while repelling this accusation of his hostility to the existing system, it would have been a not less injustice to his memory to have concealed his distrusts of the success of an unbalanced democracy.
History had shown all free governments, either convulsed by intestine feuds and foreign influence, or prostrated before the mob and surrendered to arbitrary hands; exhibiting in every stage of their progress deeper shades of misery and humiliation.
To this current of human affairs there existed but one exception. A government, springing up amidst the bigotry and barbarism of the middle ages, had been seen gradually moulded by the steady influence of enlightened opinion; resisting during centuries every form of violence, and when at last overthrown by the crimes of its magistrates, recovering itself by the strong influence it had itself created, and renewed in its vigour by constitutional checks, the fruits of experience; susceptible of amendment without necessarily jeoparding its existence; and notwithstanding its defects—for what government is without defects ?—imparting to its people the greatest security and largest amount of durable happiness which any constitution ever had bestowed.
Thus finding in the British government a system proceeding upon the fact, that society is necessarily composed of different interests, and obviating the great difficulty of all governments by preserving a counterpoise of each interest ; exerting itself, but regulated in that exertion, for its own protection. Thus seeing the realization of that for which the wise of antiquity had wished, but had not dared to hope,* which the experience of centuries had approved, can it be a source of surprise that he entertained the opinion, that "it was a model, though unattainable, to be approached as near as possible.”
But his was not a blind or indiscriminate admiration. The representation that “it was his error to adhere too closely to the precedents of the British constitution ; that he conceded sometimes, in these precedents, equal authority to what was good and bad, to its principles and its
* Cicero observes-de Repub. 1. 2_"Esse optime constitutam rempubli. cam quæ ex tribus generibus illis, regali, optimo, et populari, sit modice con. fusa.” And Tacitus, in his Annals, remarks, "Cunctas nationes, et urbes, populus aut primores, aut singuli regunt ; delecta ex his et constituta reipub. licæ forma laudari facilius quam evenire, vel si evenit, haud diuturna esso Dotest."