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Jensen, Merrill (ed.) / Ratification of the Constitution by the states: Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut
3 (1978)

V. Commentaries on the Constitution, 13 November 1787-7 January 1788,   pp. 456-534


Page 531

V. COMMENTARIES
tives in the lower branch of the legislature, would secure our rights
even supposing the power of the President and Senate were vested in
a king and body of nobles independent of the people. I am justified in
making this assertion by the circumstances which the people of the
United States are in and by the experience of other nations. With
all the advantages for maintaining the rights of a free people, which
I have mentioned, and when no oppressive measures of government
could be taken without the consent of our Representatives, unless by
an open violation of our constitutional rights, our liberties would
stand firm. The people, we may safely presume, would choose men
of abilities and integrity who would withstand every attempt to under-
mine their liberties. The spirit of the people would oppose every open
and direct attempt to enslave them. Experience likewise justifies my
assertion. The people of England possess a political constitution
similar to the one I have been describing, though far inferior to it in
the fairness of representation; and, though their advantages for main-
taining liberty are far inferior to those which I have mentioned as
possessed by us, yet they have long maintained their liberties. Kings
have attempted to tyrannize over them; but they brought one to the
block and expelled another from his throne and kingdom. It is true,
their liberties are now impaired; but it is by causes which I have not
time to delineate and which are not applicable to the political circum-
stances of this country. And impaired as their liberties are, their king
still finds it necessary to submit to the public voice in the measures of
his government.
But, my fellow citizens, it is not with us, as it is with other nations
who have been called free and have been said to enjoy the privileges
of a free government. Other nations have been called free, if they have
had only the privilege of choosing one branch of their legislature, and
that in a very partial, unequal manner. And such a privilege has
insured to them the blessings of a free government until they become
so degenerate and corrupt that they had not virtue enough to keep
alive the sacred flame of liberty. But we, besides electing the Repre-
sentatives in the federal legislature, choose the members of the
Senate in a manner which even the opposers of federal measures can-
not, without self contradiction, deny to be highly conducive to the
safety of our liberties. These gentlemen say that our liberties are safe
in the hands of the state legislatures. The state legislatures appoint
the Senators; they will be faithful to the people; they will have better
opportunities than the people to know the characters of those whom
they appoint; therefore, they will appoint men who breathe the very
spirit of the state legislatures and, consequently, deserve the most
unlimited confidence of the people. No encroachment can be made
531


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