Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Madison’s Introduction of the Bill of Rights

James Madison, is considered by many to be the father of the Constitution,
and not without good reason. What is perhaps
less well known is his role in the Bill of
, too.

During the Convention, the delegates were mostly set against the inclusion of
a bill of rights in the new Constitution, defeating efforts by George Mason and
Elbridge Gerry to consider one. Madison himself was reticent, saying in a
letter to Thomas Jefferson, saying “[I have] always been in favor of a bill of
rights… At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect,
nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment.”

The drive for a bill of rights in the federal Constitution was strong,
however, and one of the main points of the Anti-Federalists. Five of the states that ratified
the Constitution included a list of amendments they wished to see; along with
notes from rejecting states and from legislatures of states after they ratified,
a total of 210 amendments, with almost 100 of them being unduplicated.

Madison, himself, in his election campaign against James Monroe for the new
U.S. House, vowed to fight for a bill of rights. He informed the Congress on May
4, 1789, that he intended to introduce the topic formally on May 25; but on May
4, the Congress was embroiled in a lengthy debate on import duties, and when May
25 rolled around, the debate continued. He rose again on June 8 to introduce
the subject, but he was blocked, with other members noting that the Congress had
more pressing matters to attend to. Stifled, Madison rose again to say why he
thought the time was right for the introduction of his list of amendments – and
then presented them to the Congress anyway.

Eventually, Madison, and those on his side, won the debate to create a
Bill of Rights, with several of Madison’s
concepts, if not his exact wording, appearing in the twelve articles of amendment that were sent to the

The text here presented can be found in The Annals of Congress, House
of Representatives, First Congress, 1st Session, pp 448-460.

List of topics

I am sorry to be accessary to the loss of a single moment
of time by the House. If I had been indulged in my motion, and we had gone into
a Committee of the whole, I think we might have rose and resumed the
consideration of other business before this time; that is, so far as it depended
upon what I proposed to bring forward. As that mode seems not to give
satisfaction, I will withdraw the motion, and move you, sir, that a select
committee be appointed to consider and report such amendments as are proper for
Congress to propose to the Legislatures of the several States, conformably to
the fifth article of the constitution.

I will state my reasons why I think it proper to propose amendments, and
state the amendments themselves, so far as I think they ought to be proposed. If
I thought I could fulfil the duty which I owe to myself and my constituents, to
let the subject pass over in silence, I most certainly should not trespass upon
the indulgence of this House. But I cannot do this, and am therefore compelled
to beg a patient hearing to what I have to lay before you. And I do most
sincerely believe, that if Congress will devote but one day to this subject, so
far as to satisfy the public that we do not disregard their wishes, it will
have a salutary influence on the public councils, and prepare the way for a
favorable reception of our future measures. It appears to me that this House is
bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over
without proposing to the State Legislatures some things to be incorporated into
the constitution, that will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the
United States, as it has been found acceptable to a majority of them. I wish,
among other reasons why something should be done, that those who have been
friendly to the adoption of this constitution may have the opportunity of
proving to those who were opposed to it that they were as sincerely devoted to
liberty and a Republican Government, as those who charged them with wishing the
adoption of this constitution in order to lay the foundation of an aristocracy
or despotism. It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of
every member of the community, any apprehensions that there are those among his
countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly
fought and honorably bled. And if there are amendments desired of such a nature
as will not injure the constitution, and they can be ingrafted so as to give
satisfaction to the doubting part of our fellow-citizens, the friends of the
Federal Government will evince that spirit of deference and concession for
which they have hitherto been distinguished.

It cannot be a secret to the gentlemen in this House,
that, notwithstanding the ratification of this system of Government by eleven of
the thirteen United States, in some cases unanimously, in others by large
majorities; yet still there is a great number of our constituents who are
dissatisfied with it; among whom are many respectable for their talents and
patriotism, and respectable for the jealousy they have for their liberty, which,
though mistaken in its object, is honorable in its motive. There is a great body
of the people falling under this description, who at present feel much inclined
to join their support to the cause of Federalism, if they were satisfied on this
one point. We ought not to disregard their inclination, but, on principles of
amity and moderation, conform to their wishes and expressly declare the great
rights of mankind secured under this constitution. The acceptance which our
fellow-citizens show under the Government, calls upon us for a like return of
moderation. But perhaps there is a stronger motive than this for our going into
a consideration of the subject. It is to provide those securities for liberty
which are required by a part of the community: I allude in a particular manner
to those two States that have not thought fit to throw themselves into the bosom
of the Confederacy. It is a desirable thing, on our part as well as theirs, that
a re-union should take place as soon as possible. I have no doubt, if we proceed
to take those steps which would be prudent and requisite at this juncture, that
in a short time we should see that disposition prevailing in those States which
have not come in, that we have seen prevailing in those States which have
embraced the constitution.

But I will candidly acknowledge, that, over and above all these
considerations, I do conceive that the constitution may be amended; that is to
say, if all power is subject to abuse, that then it is possible the abuse of
the powers of the General Government may be guarded against in a more secure
manner than is now done, while no one advantage arising from the exercise of
that power shall be damaged or endangered by it. We have in this way something
to gain, and, if we proceed with caution, nothing to lose. And in this case it
is necessary to proceed with caution; for while we feel all these inducements
to go into a revisal of the constitution, we must feel for the constitution
itself, and make that revisal a moderate one. I should be unwilling to see a
door opened for a reconsideration of the whole structure of the Government
— for a re-consideration of the principles and the substance of the
powers given; because I doubt, if such a door were opened, we should be very
likely to stop at that point which would be safe to the Government itself. But
I do wish to see a door opened to consider, so far as to incorporate those
provisions for the security of rights, against which I believe no serious
objection has been made by any class of our constituents: such as would be
likely to meet with the concurrence of two-thirds of both Houses, and the
approbation of three-fourths of the State Legislatures. I will not propose a
single alteration which I do not wish to see take place, as intrinsically
proper in itself, or proper because it is wished for by a respectable number of
my fellow-citizens; and therefore I shall not propose a single alteration but
is likely to meet the concurrence required by the constitution. There have been
objections of various kinds made against the constitution. Some were levelled
against its structure because the President was without a council; because the
Senate, which is a legislative body, had judicial powers in trials on
impeachments; and because the powers of that body were compounded in other
respects, in a manner that did not correspond with a particular theory; because
it grants more power than is supposed to be necessary for every good purpose,
and controls the ordinary powers of the State Governments. I know some
respectable characters who opposed this Government on these grounds; but I
believe that the great mass of the people who opposed it, disliked it because
it did not contain effectual provisions against encroachments on particular
rights, and those safeguards which they have been long accustomed to have
interposed between them and the magistrate who exercises the sovereign power;
nor ought we to consider them safe, while a great number of our fellow-citizens
think these securities necessary.

It is a fortunate thing that the objection to the Government has been made
on the ground I stated, because it will be practicable, on that ground, to
obviate the objection, so far as to satisfy the public mind that their liberties
will be perpetual, and this without endangering any part of the constitution,
which is considered as essential to the existence of the Government by those who
promoted its adoption.

The amendments which have occurred to me, proper to be recommended by
Congress to the State Legislatures, are these:

First, That there be prefixed to the constitution a
declaration, that all power is originally rested in, and consequently derived
from, the people.

That Government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of
the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right
of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining
happiness and safety.

That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to
reform or change their Government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate
to the purposes of its institution.

Secondly, That in article 1st, section 2, clause 3, these
words be struck out, to wit:

“The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty
thousand, but each State shall have at least one Representative, and until such
enumeration shall be made;” and that in place thereof be inserted these words,
to wit: “After the first actual enumeration, there shall be one Representative
for every thirty thousand, until the number amounts to —, after which the
proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that the number shall never be
less than —, nor more than —, but each State shall, after the first
enumeration, have at least two Representatives; and prior thereto.”

Thirdly, That in article 1st, section 6, clause 1, there be added to the end
of the first sentence, these words, to wit: “But no law varying the compensation
last ascertained shall operate before the next ensuing election of

Fourthly, That in article 1st, section 9, between clauses
3 and 4, be inserted these clauses, to wit: The civil rights of none shall be
abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national
religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in
any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to
write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of
the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.

The people shall not be restrained from peaceably assembling and consulting
for their common good; nor from applying to the Legislature by petitions, or
remonstrances, for redress of their grievances.

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well
armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but
no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render
military service in person.

No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the
consent of the owner; nor at any time, but in a manner warranted by law.

No person shall be subject, except in cases of impeachment, to more than one
punishment or one trial for the same offence; nor shall be compelled to be a
witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without
due process of law; nor be obliged to relinquish his property, where it may be
necessary for public use, without a just compensation.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel
and unusual punishments inflicted.

The rights of the people to be secured in their persons; their houses, their
papers, and their other property, from all unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated by warrants issued without probable cause, supported by
oath or affirmation, or not particularly describing the places to be searched,
or the persons or things to be seized.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial, to be informed of the cause and nature of the accusation, to
be confronted with his accusers, and the witnesses against him; to have a
compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the
assistance of counsel for his defence.

The exceptions here or elsewhere in the constitution, made in favor of
particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance
of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated
by the constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as
inserted merely for greater caution.

Fifthly, That in article 1st, section 10, between clauses 1 and 2, be
inserted this clause, to wit:

No State shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the
press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.

Sixthly, That, in article 3d, section 2, be annexed to the
end of clause 2d, these words, to wit:

But no appeal to such court shall be allowed where the value in controversy
shall not amount to — dollars: nor shall any fact triable by jury,
according to the course of common law, be otherwise re-examinable than may
consist with the principles of common law.

Seventhly, That in article 3d, section 2, the third clause be struck out,
and in its place be inserted the clauses following, to wit:

The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachments, and cases arising
in the land or naval forces, or the militia when on actual service, in time of
war or public danger) shall be by an impartial jury of freeholders of the
vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction, of the right of
challenge, and other accustomed requisites; and in all crimes punishable with
loss of life or member, presentment or indictment by a grand jury shall be an
essential preliminary, provided that in cases of crimes committed within any
county which may be in possession of an enemy, or in which a general
insurrection may prevail, the trial may by law be authorized in some other
county of the same State, as near as may be to the seat of the offence.

In cases of crimes committed not within any county, the trial may by law be
in such county as the laws shall have prescribed. In suits at common law,
between man and man, the trial by jury, as one of the best securities to the
rights of the people, ought to remain inviolate.

Eighthly, That immediately after article 6th, be inserted,
as article 7th, the clauses following, to wit:

The powers delegated by this constitution are appropriated to the
departments to which they are respectively distributed: so that the legislative
department shall never exercise the powers vested in the executive or judicial
nor the executive exercise the powers vested in the legislative or judicial, nor
the judicial exercise the powers vested in the legislative or executive

The powers not delegated by this constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively.

Ninthly, That article 7th be numbered as article 8th.

The first of these amendments relates to what may be called a bill of
rights. I will own that I never considered this provision so essential to the
federal constitution, as to make it improper to ratify it, until such an
amendment was added; at the same time, I always conceived, that in a certain
form, and to a certain extent, such a provision was neither improper nor
altogether useless. I am aware, that a great number of the most respectable
friends to the Government, and champions for republican liberty, have thought
such a provision, not only unnecessary, but even improper; nay, I believe some
have gone so far as to think it even dangerous. Some policy has been made use
of, perhaps, by gentlemen on both sides of the question: I acknowledge the
ingenuity of those arguments which were drawn against the constitution, by a
comparison with the policy of Great Britain, in establishing a declaration of
rights; but there is too great a difference in the case to warrant the
comparison: therefore, the arguments drawn from that source were in a great
measure inapplicable. In the declaration of rights which that country has
established, the truth is, they have gone no farther than to raise a barrier
against the power of the Crown; the power of the Legislature is left altogether
indefinite. Although I know whenever the great rights, the trial by jury,
freedom of the press, or liberty of conscience, come in question in that body,
the invasion of them is resisted by able advocates, yet their Magna Charta does
not contain any one provision for the security of those rights, respecting which
the people of America are most alarmed. The freedom of the press and rights of
conscience, those choicest privileges of the people, are unguarded in the
British constitution.

But although the case may be widely different, and it may
not be thought necessary to provide limits for the legislative power in that
country, yet a different opinion prevails in the United States. The people of
many States have thought it necessary to raise barriers against power in all
forms and departments of Government, and I am inclined to believe, if once bills
of rights are established in all the States as well as the federal constitution,
we shall find that although some of them are rather unimportant, yet, upon the
whole, they will have a salutary tendency.

It may be said, in some instances, they do no more than state the perfect
equality of mankind. This, to be sure, is an absolute truth, yet it is not
absolutely necessary to be inserted at the head of a constitution.

In some instances they assert those rights which are exercised by the people
in forming and establishing a plan of Government. In other instances, they
specify those rights which are retained when particular powers are given up to
be exercised by the Legislature. In other instances, they specify positive
rights, which may seem to result from the nature of the compact. Trial by jury
cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from a social
compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to
secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of
nature. In other instances, they lay down dogmatic maxims with respect to the
construction of the Government; declaring that the legislative, executive, and
judicial branches shall be kept separate and distinct. Perhaps the best way of
securing this in practice is, to provide such checks as will prevent the
encroachment of the one upon the other.

But whatever may be the form which the several States have adopted in making
declarations in favor of particular rights, the great object in view is to
limit and qualify the powers of Government, by excepting out of the grant of
power those cases in which the Government ought not to act, or to act only in a
particular mode. They point these exceptions sometimes against the abuse of the
executive power, sometimes against the legislative, and, in some cases, against
the community itself; or, in other words, against the majority in favor of the

In our Government it is, perhaps, less necessary to guard
against the abuse in the executive department than any other; because it is not
the stronger branch of the system, but the weaker. It therefore must be levelled
against the legislative, for it is the most powerful, and most likely to be
abused, because it is under the least control. Hence, so far as a declaration of
rights can tend to prevent the exercise of undue power, it cannot be doubted but
such declaration is proper. But I confess that I do conceive, that in a
Government modified like this of the United States, the great danger lies rather
in the abuse of the community than in the legislative body. The prescriptions in
favor of liberty ought to be levelled against that quarter where the greatest
danger lies, namely, that which possesses the highest prerogative of power. But
it is not found in either the executive or legislative departments of
Government, but in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the

It may be thought that all paper barriers against the power of the community
are too weak to be worthy of attention. I am sensible they are not so strong as
to satisfy gentlemen of every description who have seen and examined thoroughly
the texture of such a defence; yet, as they have a tendency to impress some
degree of respect for them, to establish the public opinion in their favor, and
rouse the attention of the whole community, it may be one means to control the
majority from those acts to which they might be otherwise inclined.

It has been said, by way of objection to a bill of
rights, by many respectable gentlemen out of doors, and I find opposition on the
same principles likely to be made by gentlemen on this floor, that they are
unnecessary articles of a Republican Government, upon the presumption that the
people have those rights in their own hands, and that is the proper place for
them to rest. It would be a sufficient answer to say, that this objection lies
against such provisions under the State Governments, as well as under the
General Government: and there are, I believe, but few gentlemen who are inclined
to push their theory so far as to say that a declaration of rights in those
cases is either ineffectual or improper. It has been said, that in the Federal
Government they are unnecessary, because the powers are enumerated, and it
follows, that all that are not granted by the constitution are retained; that
the constitution is a call of powers, the great residuum being the rights of the
people; and, therefore, a bill of rights cannot be so necessary as if the
residuum was thrown into the hands of the Government. I admit that these
arguments are not entirely without foundation; but they are not conclusive to
the extent which has been supposed. It is true, the powers of the General
Government are circumscribed, they are directed to particular objects; but even
if Government keeps within those limits, it has certain discretionary powers
with respect to the means, which may admit of abuse to a certain extent, in the
same manner as the powers of the State Governments under their constitutions may
to an indefinite extent; because in the constitution of the United States, there
is a clause granting to Congress the power to make all laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into execution all the powers vested in the
Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; this
enables them to fulfil every purpose for which the Government was established.
Now, may not laws be considered necessary and proper by Congress, for it is for
them to judge of the necessity and propriety to accomplish those special
purposes which they may have in contemplation, which laws in themselves are
neither necessary nor proper; as well as improper laws could be enacted by the
State Legislatures, for fulfilling the more extended objects of those
Governments. I will state an instance, which I think in point, and proves that
this might be the case. The General Government has a right to pass all laws
which shall be necessary to collect its revenue; the means for enforcing the
collection are within the direction of the Legislature: may not general warrants
be considered necessary for this purpose, as well as for some purposes which it
was supposed at the framing of their constitutions the State Governments had in
view? If there was reason for restraining the State Governments from exercising
this power, there is like reason for restraining the Federal Government.

It may be said, indeed it has been said, that a bill of rights is not
necessary, because the establishment of this Government has not repealed those
declarations of rights which are added to the several State constitutions; that
those rights of the people, which had been established by the most solemn act,
could not be annihilated by a subsequent act of that people, who meant, and
declared at the head of the instrument, that they ordained and established a new
system, for the express purpose of securing to themselves and posterity the
liberties they had gained by an arduous conflict.

I admit the force of this observation, but I do not look upon it to be
conclusive. In the first place, it is too uncertain ground to leave this
provision upon, if a provision is at all necessary to secure rights so
important as many of those I have mentioned are conceived to be, by the public
in general, as well as those in particular who opposed the adoption of this
constitution. Besides, some States have no bills of rights, there are others
provided with very defective ones, and there are others whose bills of rights
are not only defective, but absolutely improper; instead of securing some in the
full extent which republican principles would require, they limit them too much
to agree with the common ideas of liberty.

It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating
particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights
which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow, by implication,
that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into
the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is
one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the
admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be
guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the
last clause of the fourth resolution.

It has been said, that it is unnecessary to load the constitution with this
provision, because it was not found effectual in the constitution of the
particular States. It is true, there are a few particular States in which some
of the most valuable articles have not, at one time or other, been violated;
but it does not follow but they may have, to a certain degree, a salutary effect
against the abuse of power. If they are incorporated into the constitution,
independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner
the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against
every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be
naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for
in the constitution by the declaration of rights. Besides this security, there
is a great probability that such a declaration in the federal system would be
enforced; because the State Legislatures will jealously and closely watch the
operations of this Government, and be able to resist with more effect every
assumption of power, than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest
opponents to a Federal Government admit the State Legislatures to be sure
guardians of the people’s liberty. I conclude, from this view of the subject,
that it will be proper in itself, and highly politic, for the tranquillity of
the public mind, and the stability of the Government, that we should offer
something, in the form I have proposed, to be incorporated in the system of
Government, as a declaration of the rights of the people.

In the next place, I wish to see that part of the
constitution revised which declares that the number of Representatives shall
not exceed the proportion of one for every thirty thousand persons, and allows
one Representative to every State which rates below that proportion. If we
attend to the discussion of this subject, which has taken place in the State
conventions, and even in the opinion of the friends to the constitution, an
alteration here is proper. It is the sense of the people of America, that the
number of Representatives ought to be increased, but particularly that it
should not be left in the discretion of the Government to diminish them, below
that proportion which certainly is in the power of the Legislature as the
constitution now stands; and they may, as the population of the country
increases, increase the House of Representatives to a very unwieldy degree. I
confess I always thought this part of the constitution defective, though not
dangerous; and that it ought to be particularly attended to whenever Congress
should go into the consideration of amendments.

There are several minor cases enumerated in my proposition, in which I wish
also to see some alteration take place. That article which leaves it in the
power of the Legislature to ascertain its own emolument, is one to which I
allude. I do not believe this is a power which, in the ordinary course of
Government, is likely to be abused. Perhaps of all the powers granted, it is
least likely to abuse; but there is a seeming impropriety in leaving any set of
men without control to put their hand into the public coffers, to take out
money to put in their pockets; there is a seeming indecorum in such power,
which leads me to propose a change. We have a guide to this alteration in
several of the amendments which the different conventions have proposed. I have
gone, therefore, so far as to fix it, that no law, varying the compensation
shall operate until there is a change in the Legislature; in which case it
cannot be for the particular benefit of those who are concerned in determining
the value of the service.

I wish also, in revising the constitution, we may throw
into that section, which interdict the abuse of certain powers in the State
Legislatures, some other provisions of equal, if not greater importance than
those already made. The words, “No State shall pass any bill of attainder, ex
post facto law,” &c. were wise and proper restrictions in the constitution.
I think there is more danger of those powers being abused by the State
Governments than by the Government of the United States. The same may be said
of other powers which they possess, if not controlled by the general principle,
that laws are unconstitutional which infringe the rights of the community. I
should therefore wish to extend this interdiction, and add, as I have stated in
the 5th resolution, that no State shall violate the equal right of conscience,
freedom of the press, or trial by jury in criminal cases; because it is proper
that every Government should be disarmed of powers which trench upon those
particular rights. I know, in some of the State constitutions, the power of the
Government is controlled by such a declaration; but others are not. I cannot
see any reason against obtaining even a double security on those points; and
nothing can give a more sincere proof of the attachment of those who opposed
this constitution to these great and important rights, than to see them join in
obtaining the security I have now proposed; because it must be admitted, on all
hands, that the State Governments are as liable to attack the invaluable
privileges as the General Government is, and therefore ought to be as
cautiously guarded against.

I think it will be proper, with respect to the judiciary
powers, to satisfy the public mind of those points which I have mentioned. Great
inconvenience has been apprehended to suitors from the distance they would be
dragged to obtain justice in the Supreme Court of the United States, upon an
appeal on an action for a small debt. To remedy this, declare that no appeal
shall be made unless the matter in controversy amounts to a particular sum;
this, with the regulations respecting jury trials in criminal cases, and suits
at common law, it is to be hoped, will quiet and reconcile the minds of the
people to that part of the constitution.

I find, from looking into the amendments proposed by
the State conventions, that several are particularly anxious that it should be
declared in the constitution, that the powers not therein delegated should be
reserved to the several States. Perhaps words which may define this more
precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as
superflous. I admit they may be deemed unnecessary: but there can be no harm in
making such a declaration, if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated.
I am sure I understand it so, and do therefore propose it.

These are the points on which I wish to see a revision of the constitution
take place. How far they will accord with the sense of this body, I cannot take
upon me absolutely to determine; but I believe every gentleman will readily
admit that nothing is in contemplation, so far as I have mentioned, that can
endanger the beauty of the Government in any one important feature, even in the
eyes of its most sanguine admirers. I have proposed nothing that does not appear
to me as proper in itself, or eligible as patronized by a respectable number of
our fellow-citizens; and if we can make the constitution better in the opinion
of those who are opposed to it, without weakening its frame, or abridging its
usefulness, in the judgment of those who are attached to it, we act the part of
wise and liberal men to make such alterations as shall produce that effect.

Having done what I conceived was my duty, in bringing
before this House the subject of amendments, and also stated such as I wish for
and approve, and offered the reasons which occurred to me in their support, I
shall content myself, for the present, with moving “that a committee be
appointed to consider of and report such amendments as ought to be proposed by
Congress to the Legislatures of the States, to become, if ratified by
three-fourths thereof, part of the constitution of the United States.” By
agreeing to this motion, the subject may be going on in the committee, while
other important business is proceeding to a conclusion in the House. I should
advocate greater despatch in the business of amendments, if I were not
convinced of the absolute necessity there is of pursuing the organization of
the Government; because I think we should obtain the confidence of our fellow-
citizens, in proportion as we fortify the rights of the people against the
encroachments of the Government.