Writings of James Madison, Volume 1

Author: James Madison

To Philip Mazzei, Esq.

PHILADELPHIA, 10 December, 1788.

Your book, as I prophesied, sells nowhere but in Virginia. A very few copies only have been called for either in New York or in this city. The language in which it is written will account for it. In order to attract notice, I translated the panegyric in the French Mercure, and had it made part of the advertisement. I did not translate the comment on the Federal Constitution, as you wished, because I could not spare the time, as well as because I did not approve the tendency of it. Some of your remarks prove that Horace’s "Coelumnon animum mutant qui trans mare current" does not hold without exception.

In Europe, the abuses of power continually before your eyes have given a bias to your political reflections which you did not feel in equal degree when you left America, and which you would feel less of if you had remained in America. Philosophers on the old continent, in their zeal against tyranny, would rush into anarchy; as the horrors of superstition drive them into Atheism. Here, perhaps, the inconveniences of relaxed government have reconciled too many to the opposite extreme. If your plan of a single Legislature, as in Pennsylvania, &c., were adopted, I sincerely believe that it would prove the most deadly blow ever given to Republicanism. Were I an enemy to that form, I would preach the very doctrines which are preached by the enemies to the government proposed for the United States. Many of our best citizens are disgusted with the injustice, instability, and folly, which characterize the American Administrations. The number has for some time been rapidly increasing. Were the evils to be much longer protracted, the disgust would seize citizens of every description.

It is of infinite importance to the cause of liberty to ascertain the degree of it which will consist with the purposes of society. An error on one side may be as fatal as on the other. Hitherto, the error in the United States has lain in the excess.

All the States except North Carolina and Rhode Island have ratified the proposed Constitution. Seven of them have appointed their Senators, of whom those of Virginia, R. H. Lee and Col. Grayson, alone are among the opponents of the system. The appointments of Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia, will pretty certainly be of the same stamp with the majority. The House of Representatives is yet to be chosen everywhere except in Pennsylvania. From the partial returns received, the election will wear a federal aspect, unless the event in one or two particular counties should contradict every calculation. If the eight members from this State be on the side of the Constitution, it will in a manner secure the majority in that branch of the Congress also. The object of the Anti-Federalists is to bring about another general Convention, which would either agree on nothing, as would be agreeable to some, and throw everything into confusion, or expunge from the Constitution parts which are held by its friends to be essential to it. The latter party are willing to gratify their opponents with every supplemental provision for general rights, but insist that this can be better done in the mode provided for amendments.

I remain, with great sincerity, your friend and servant.


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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "To Philip Mazzei, Esq.," Writings of James Madison, Volume 1 in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.444-446 Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3T9S9SB16NIBTC1.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "To Philip Mazzei, Esq." Writings of James Madison, Volume 1, in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.444-446, Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3T9S9SB16NIBTC1.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'To Philip Mazzei, Esq.' in Writings of James Madison, Volume 1. cited in , James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.444-446. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3T9S9SB16NIBTC1.