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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
(1978)

B. Commentaries on the convention, 10 January-10 March,   pp. 568-593


Page 571

VII:B. COMMENTARIES ON CONVENTION57
If a constitution is not to be established unless it is impossible
to abuse the powers given to the destruction of the community, I will
venture to assert that no government can ever be established-for the
delegation of powers is necessary to the being of society, and it is
impossible so to guard them that they may not be abused for a time.
An assembly of a state, the officers of a county or town or of any
smaller community may betray the confidence reposed in them; and
it is impossible to grant such powers as are necessary to do us good
without granting such as may do us evil. Our security must rest in our
frequently -recurring back to the people, the fountain of all power,
by our elections. The contrary opinion appears to involve a suspicion
that a man becomes a villain the moment he is entrusted with power.
If this [is] so, in the extent the objection supposes, it concludes against
the propriety of establishing any government in any possible case.
But it is said the representation is too small. This is matter of
opinion on which men will differ. If we look forward half a century,
we shall probably see a representation as large as will be found
necessary or convenient; and when we find so great a difficul~ty in
keeping up that number under the present Confederation, it is not
likely we shall think the proposed numbers too few, at present.
It is also objected that by law Congress may alter the time, place, and
manner of choosing Representatives and they may so abuse this power
as to destroy the free election of the states. It appears to me proper
that Congress should determine the time. Our different legislatures
have on this subject gone into different practices. It is necessary all
elections should be in season to attend the federal legislature and ex-
pedient, at least, they should be in one day throughout the Union.
This can only be done by the national authority. It may be so that
the present places of holding elections will be impossible for the
electors to be convened at; witness South Carolina and Georgia in the
late war, and, even after this Constitution shall be ratified, it 'may
happe n that some one of the states in the Union may neglect or refuse
to make any law by which the electors may be convened. A variety
of other cases may occur in which it will be proper for Congress, by
their acts, to enable the electors to exercise their undoubted privi-
leges-and, when our own experience has so often convinced us of the
necessity of frequent changes in the manner of elections to prevent
corruption, who can wish the manner to be unalterably fixed? The
qualifications of electors is exclusively with the states and there it ought
forever to rest.
As to the executive powers, some appear to apprehend danger; but,
when the President is created by the people, when he so often falls
back to the state of a private citizen, when he [has] no possibility of
571


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