The Constitution

...The U.S. Constitution




James Madison

The “Federalist” may fairly enough be regarded as the most authentic exposition of the text of the federal Constitution, as understood by the Body which prepared & the Authority which accepted it. Yet it did not foresee all the misconstructions which have occurred; nor prevent some that it did foresee.

Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Montpelier,
February 8, 1825



Thomas Jefferson

Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction.

Letter to Wilson Cary Nicholas
Monticello,
September 7, 1803



James Wilson

I will confess indeed, that I am not a blind admirer of this plan of government, and that there are some parts of it which if my wish had prevailed, would certainly have been altered. But, when I reflect how widely men differ in their opinions, and that every man (and the observation applies likewise to every state) has an equal pretension to assert his own, I am satisfied that any thing nearer to perfection could not have been accomplished...I am bold to assert, that it is the best form of government which has ever been offered to the world.

Speech in Philadelphia
October 6, 1787



Benjamin Franklin

...I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults...

Speech at the Conclusion of the
Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia,
September 17, 1787



Noah Webster

It is absurd for a man to oppose the adoption of the constitution, because he thinks some part of it defective or exceptionable. Let every man be at liberty to expunge what he judges exceptionable, and not a syllable of the constitution will survive scrutiny.

“A Citizen of America”
Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



We have now offered to us a Constitution, which, if happily received, will disappoint our enemies, render us safe and happy at home, and respected abroad.

Daily Advertiser
New York,
September 24, 1787



Pelatiah Webster

That the new Constitution leaves all the Thirteen States, complete republics, as it found them, but all confederated under the direction and controul of a federal head, for certain defined national purposes only.

“A Citizen of Philadelphia”
Philadelphia,
November 8, 1787



George Washington

The power under the Constitution will always be in the People. It is entrusted for certain defined purposes, and for a certain limited period, to representatives of their own chusing; and whenever it is executed contrary to their Interest, or not agreeable to their wishes, their Servants can, and undoubtedly will be, recalled.

Letter to Bushrod Washington
Mount Vernon,
November 10, 1787



Benjamin Franklin

I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it: For having lived long, I have experienced many Instances of being oblig'd, by better Information or fuller Consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.

Speech at the Conclusion of the
Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia,
September 17, 1787



Noah Webster

The constitution defines the powers of Congress; and every power not expressly delegated to that body, remains in the several state-legislatures.

“A Citizen of America”
Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



If the New Constitution is not as perfect in every part as it might have been, let it be considered, that it is much more so than the most friendly and sanguine expected; and, at the same time, let it be remembered, that “the mutual deference and concession,” and that “spirit of amity,” from which this Constitution has resulted, ought to have a strong operation on the minds of all generous Americans, and have due influence with every State Convention, when they come to deliberate upon its adoption.

Daily Advertiser
New York,
September 24, 1787



Nathaniel Barrell

...as I am convinced the Confederation is essentially deficient, and that it will be more difficult to amend that, than to reform this—and as I think this Constitution with all its imperfections, is excellent compared with that—and that it is the best Constitution we can now obtain...

Speech at the Massachusetts Convention
February 5, 1788



Noah Webster

Perfection is not the lot of humanity. Instead of censuring the small faults of the constitution, I am astonished, the so many clashing interests have been reconciled—and so many sacrifices made to the general interest!

“A Citizen of America”
Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



Benjamin Franklin

Thus I consent, Sir, to this constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.

Speech at the Conclusion of the
Constitutional Convention
Philadelphia,
September 17, 1787



Certain it is, we have no reason to fear (whatever pseudo-patriots may insinuate) a well digested system, which reconciles in a great measure, various interests, and embraces the happiness of the whole; which has been approved by the most dignified and patriotic citizens in the Union; and which at once gives a power that will be efficient and adequate to the support and happiness of the Confederation; and, at the same time, so guards and checks the administration of it, that there will be little danger of running into a lawless Democracy, on the one hand, or of the Sovereign authority degenerating into Tyranny, on the other.

Daily Advertiser
New York,
September 24, 1787



George Washington

The warmest friends and the best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise there from, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment, it is not to be obtained; and, as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the People (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of experience on there Side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary as ourselves.

Letter to Bushrod Washington
Mount Vernon,
November 10, 1787



In framing a government, we should consider a century to come as but a day, and leave the least possible for posterity to mend. Errors sanctified by long usage are not easily relinquished.

Freeman's Journal
Philadelphia,
September 26, 1787



Noah Webster

Let us then consider the New Federal Constitution, as it really is, an improvement on the best constitutions that the world ever saw.

“A Citizen of America”
Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



James Madison

And on the distinctive principles of the Government of our own State, and of that of the U. States, the best guides are to be found in – 1. The Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental act of Union of these States. 2. the book known by the title of the “Federalist”, being an Authority to which appeal is habitually made by all & rarely declined or denied by any, as evidence of the general opinion of those who framed & those who accepted the Constitution of the U. States on questions as to its genuine meaning. 3. the Resolutions of the General Assembly of Virga. In 1799, on the subject of the Alien & Sedition laws, which appeared to accord with the predominant sense of the people of the U. S. 4. The Inaugural Speech & Farewell Address of President Washington, as conveying political lessons of peculiar value...


Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Montpelier,
February 8, 1825



Thomas Jefferson

I confess, then, I think it important, in the present case, to set an example against broad construction, by appealing for new power to the people. If, however, our friends shall think differently, certainly I shall acquiesce with satisfaction; confiding, that the good sense of our country will correct the evil of construction when it shall produce ill effects.

Letter to Wilson Cary Nicholas
Monticello,
September 7, 1803