Perhaps the greatest, if not the only difficulty, which will arise against the adoption of this New Federal System of Government, will be made by those ambitious citizens, in the different States, who either now are in power, or who will practise their political wiles on the ignorant and unsuspicious part of the people, in order to obtain their own private purposes. It is a lamentable consideration, that men of this stamp too frequently, by the folly and blindness of the people, are put in the exercise of such offices as give them a very dangerous degree of influence – Hence the social compact is often violated, and sometimes dissolved.

“A Revolution Effected by Good Sense and Deliberation”
Daily Advertiser (New York),
September 24, 1787

Thomas Jefferson

I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries; as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe.

Letter to James Madison
December 20, 1787

James Madison

Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince.

Letter to Thomas Jefferson
New York,
October 17, 1788

George Bryan

The great, and the wise, and the mighty will be in possession of places and offices; they will oppose all changes in favor of liberty; they will steadily pursue the acquisition of more and more power to themselves and their adherents.

“An Old Whig” I
Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia),
October 12, 1787

Mercy Otis Warren

There is no provision for a rotation, nor any thing to prevent the perpetuity of office in the same hands for life; which by a little well timed bribery, will probably be done, to the exclusion of men of the best abilities from their share in the offices of government. - By this neglect we lose the advantages of that check to the overbearing insolence of office, which by rendering him ineligible at certain periods, keeps the mind of man in equilibrio, and teaches him the feelings of the governed, and better qualifies him to govern in his own turn.

“A Columbian Patriot”
Observations on the Constitution
February 1788

Alexander Hamilton

Nothing was more to be desired, than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the union?

The Federalist LXVIII
Independent Journal (New York),
March 12, 1788

Melancton Smith

This is an extensive country, increasing in population and growing in consequence. Very many lucrative offices will be in the grant of the government, which will be the object of avarice and ambition. How easy will it be to gain over a sufficient number, in the bestowment of these offices, to promote the views and purposes of those who grant them!

Debate with Alexander Hamilton
New York Ratifying Convention
June 21, 1788

Alexander Hamilton

...history furnishes us with so many mortifying examples of the prevalency of foreign corruption in republican governments.

The Federalist XXII
New-York Packet,
December 14, 1787

Pelatiah Webster

Tis true, that the constitution, like every other on earth, committed to human management, may be corrupted by a bad administration, and be made to operate to the destruction of the very capital benefits and uses, which were the great end of its institution.

The Weaknesses of Brutus Exposed:
“A Citizen of Philadelphia”
November 8, 1787

The well born, and highest orders in life, as they term themselves, will be ignorant of the sentiments of the midling class of citizens, strangers to their ability, wants, and difficulties, and void of sympathy, and fellow feeling. This branch of the legislature will not only be an imperfect representation, but there will be no security in so small a body against bribery, and corruption...It will literally be a government in the hands of the few to oppress and plunder the many...The more I reflect on this subject, the more firmly am I persuaded, that the representation is merely nominal—a mere burlesque; and that no security is provided against corruption and undue influence.

“Brutus” III
New York Journal,
November 15, 1787

And the senate has, moreover, various and great executive powers, viz. In concurrence with the president-general, they may form treaties with foreign nations, that may controul and abrogate the constitutions and laws of the several states. Indeed, there is no power, privilege or liberty of the state governments, or of the people, but what may be affected by virtue of this power. For all treaties, made by them, are to be the “supreme law of the land; any thing in the constitution or laws of any state, to the contrary notwithstanding.”...What an inducement would this offer to the ministers of foreign powers to compass by bribery such concessions as could not otherwise be obtained.

Dissent of the Minority of the
Pennsylvania Convention.
Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia),
December 18, 1787

James Madison

...spurious elections cannot be investigated and annulled in time for the decision to have its due effect. If a return can be obtained, no matter by what unlawful means, the irregular member, who takes his seat of course, is sure of holding it a sufficient time to answer his purposes. Hence a very pernicious encouragement is given to the use of unlawful means for obtaining irregular returns...So a great a portion of a year would unavoidably elapse, before an illegitimate member could be dispossessed of his seat, that the prospect of such an event, would be little check to unfair and illicit means of obtaining a seat.

The Federalist LIII
New-York Packet,
February 9, 1788

Noah Webster

Corruption to obtain offices will ever attend wealth; it is generated with it—grows up with it—and will, always fill a country with violent factions and illegal practices. Such are the habits of the people, that money will have a principal influence in carrying elections...

“Giles Hickory” III
American Magazine (New York),
February 1788

Alexander Hamilton

An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandisement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.

The Federalist LXXV
Independent Journal (New York),
March 26, 1788

Melancton Smith

A system of corruption is known to be the system of government in Europe. It is practised without blushing. And we may lay it to our account it will be attempted amongst us. The most effectual as well as natural security against this, is a strong democratic branch in the legislature frequently chosen...Does the house of representatives answer this description? I confess, to me they hardly wear the complexion of a democratic branch?they appear the mere shadow of representation.

Debate with Alexander Hamilton
New York Ratifying Convention
June 21, 1788

Back to top of page

Contact us | View site map | Mobile version