Manuscript/Mixed Material Image 7 of James Madison, May 7, 1787. Vices of the Political System of the U. States.
11. Injustice of the laws of the States.
11. If the multiplicity and mutability of laws prove a want of wisdom, their injustice betrays a defect still more alarming: more alarming not merely because it is a greater evil in itself; but because it brings more into question the fundamental principle of republican Government, that the majority who rule in such governments are the safest Guardians both of public Good and private rights. To what causes is this evil to be ascribed?
These causes lie 1. in the Representative bodies. 2. in the people themselves.
1. Representative appointments are sought from 3 motives. 1. ambition. 2. personal interest. 3. public good. Unhappily the two first are proved by experience to be most prevalent. Hence the candidates who feel them, particularly, the second, are most industrious, and most successful in pursuing their object: and forming often a majority in the legislative Councils, with interested views, contrary to the interest and views of their constituents, join in a perfidious sacrifice of the latter to the former. A succeeding election it might be supposed, would displace the offenders, and repair the mischief. But how easily are base and selfish measures, masked by pretexts of public good and apparent expediency? How frequently will a repetition of the same arts and industry which succeeded in the first instance, again prevail on the unwary to misplace their confidence?
How frequently too will the honest but unenlightened representative be the dupe of a favorite leader, veiling his selfish views under the professions of public good, and varnishing his sophistical arguments with the glowing colours of popular eloquence?
2. A still more fatal if not more frequent cause, lies among the people themselves. All civilized societies are divided into different interests and factions, as they happen to be creditors or debtors—rich or poor—husbandmen, merchants or manufacturers—members of different religious sects—followers of different political leaders—inhabitants of different districts—owners of different kinds of property &c &c. In republican Government the majority however composed, ultimately give the law. Whenever therefore an apparent interest or common passion unites a majority what is to restrain them from unjust violations of the rights and interests of the minority, or of individuals? Three motives only 1. a prudent regard to their own good as involved in the general and permanent good of the community. This consideration although of decisive weight in itself, is found by experience to be too often unheeded. It is too often forgotten, by nations as well as by individuals, that
About this Item
- James Madison, May 7, 1787. Vices of the Political System of the U. States.
- Contributor Names
- Madison, James
- Created / Published
- April, 1787
- Subject Headings
- - General Correspondence
- - Manuscripts
- - Transcripts, guides, and tools to help you use this collection may be found at http://www.loc.gov/collection/james-madison-papers/about-this-collection/
- Call Number/Physical Location
- Series: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1723-1859
- Microfilm Reel: 2
- Source Collection
- The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress
- Manuscript Division
- Digital Id
- Online Format
- online text
The contents of the Library of Congress James Madison Papers are in the public domain and are free to use and reuse.
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Chicago citation style:
Madison, James. James Madison, May 7, . Vices of the Political System of the U. States. April, 1787. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mjm012727/.
APA citation style:
Madison, J. (1787) James Madison, May 7, . Vices of the Political System of the U. States. April. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mjm012727/.
MLA citation style:
Madison, James. James Madison, May 7, . Vices of the Political System of the U. States. April, 1787. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mjm012727/>.