Thomas Jefferson: We Claim Our Rights Not from kings but from the King of Kings

Thomas Jefferson quote We Claim Our Rights Not from kings or legislators but from the King of kings

We Claim Our Rights Not from kings or legislators but from the King of kings [Click to enlarge]

THOMAS JEFFERSON LETTER To DOCTOR JOHN MANNERS.

FROM MONTICELLO, June 12, 1817

SIR,—Your favor of May 20th has been received some time since, but the increasing inertness of age renders me slow in obeying the calls of the writing-table, and less equal than I have been to its labors. My opinion on the right of Expatriation has been, so long ago as the year 1776, consigned to record in the act of the Virginia code, drawn by myself, recognizing the right expressly, and prescribing the mode of exercising it. The evidence of this natural right, like that of our right to life, liberty, the use of our faculties, the pursuit of happiness, is not left to the feeble and sophistical investigations of reason, but is impressed on the sense of every man. We do not claim these under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings. If he has made it a law in the nature of man to pursue his own happiness, he has left him free in the choice of place as well as mode; and we may safely call on the whole body of English jurists to produce the map on which Nature has traced, for each individual, the geographical line which she forbids him to cross in pursuit of happiness. It certainly does not exist in his mind. Where, then, is it? I believe, too, I might safely affirm, that there is not another nation, civilized or savage, which has ever denied this natural right. I doubt if there is another which refuses its exercise. I know it is allowed in some of the most respectable countries of continental Europe, nor have I ever heard of one in which it was not. How it is among our savage neighbors, who have no law but that of Nature, we all know. Though long estranged from legal reading and reasoning, and little familiar with the decisions of particular judges, I have considered that respecting the obligation of the common law in this country as a very plain one, and merely a question of document. If we are under that law, the document which made us so can surely be produced; and as far as this can be produced, so far we are subject to it, and farther we are not. Most of the States did, I believe, at an early period of their legislation, adopt the English law, common and statute, more or less in a body, as far as localities admitted of their application. In these States, then, the common law, so far as adopted, is the lev-loci [the law of the place]. Then comes the law of Congress, declaring that what is law in any State, shall be the rule of decision in their courts, as to matters arising within that State, except when controlled by their own statutes. But this law of Congress has been considered as extending to civil cases only; and that no such provision has been made for criminal ones. A similar provision, then, for criminal offences, would, in like manner, be an adoption of more or less of the common law, as part of the lex-loci, where the offence is committed; and would cover the whole field of legislation for the general government. I have turned to the passage you refer to in Judge Cooper’s Justinian, and should suppose the general expressions there used would admit of modifications conformable to this doctrine. It would alarm me indeed, in any case, to find myself entertaining an opinion different from that of a judgment so accurately organized as his. But I am quite persuaded that, whenever Judge Cooper shall be led to consider that question simply and nakedly, it is so much within his course of thinking, as liberal as logical, that, rejecting all blind and undefined obligation, he will hold to the positive and explicit precepts of the law alone. Accept these hasty sentiments on the subjects you propose, as hazarded in proof of my great esteem and respect.

NOTE: When the founding fathers or framers of the Republic of the United States spoke of the “general government” they were referring to what we now know as the “federal government”

Sources: The Writings of Jefferson by Thomas Jefferson

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The 2nd Amendment: The Militia and the Right of the People to Bear Arms

2nd Amendment Militia Right to Bear Arms

U. S. v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S., 542 2nd Amendment Militia and Right to Bear Arms [Click to enlarge]

What this is saying is our Rights are not given by the Constitution or men, they are our birthright given by God, we can neither give them away, nor can they be taken from us, Thomas Jefferson said as much himself. The constitution only enumerates those rights and spells out in the 2nd amendment the government is prohibited from restricting those rights in any way what-so-ever. This includes any legislation of any form that tries to enforce any gun control laws, or restrict the peoples able to possess any type of firearm available or the ammunition needed to use those firearms in the protection of our selves, our families, our rights, our property and our country etc.

THE MILITIA.

1319. Right to bear arms.—A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (See Note 1) Constitution of the United States, second amendment.

NOTE 1: The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for Its existence. The second amendment means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the National [i.e. Federal] Government. (U. S. v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S., 542.)

[Cite as United States v. Cruikshank, 25 F. Cas. 707 (C.C.D. La. 1874) (No. 14,897), aff’d, 92 U.S. 542 (1876). NOTE: This is the district court decision which was appealed to the Supreme Court (United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876)). This case concerns an enforcement of rights under the fourteenth amendment including the first amendment right to assemble and second amendment right to arms. The Supreme Court decision held that these rights are not granted by the constitution and do not depend upon it for their existance. The lower court used similar reasoning on P. 710: “With regard to those acknowledged rights and privileges of the citizen, which form a part of his political inheritance derived from the mother country, and which were challenged and vindicated by centuries of stubborn resistance to arbitrary power, they belong to him as his birthright, and it is the duty of the particular state of which he is a citizen to protect and enforce them, and to do naught to deprive him of their full enjoyment. When any of these rights and privileges are secured in the constitution of the United States only by a declaration that the state or the United States shall not violate or abridge them, it is at once understood that they are not created or conferred by the constitution, but that the constitution only guaranties that they shall not be impaired by the state, or the United States, as the case may be.”

1321. Defining terms.—Whenever the words ” State or Territory” are used in the “Act to promote the efficiency of the militia, and for other purposes,” approved January twenty-first, nineteen hundred and three, as amended, they shall be held to apply to and include the District of Columbia. Sec. 74, Act of Feb. 18,1909 (35 Stat. 636).

1322. Composition of the organized.—The militia shall consist of every able-bodied male citizen of the respective States and Territories and the District of Columbia, and every able-bodied male of foreign birth who has declared his intention to become a citizen, who is more than eighteen and less than forty-five years of age, and shall be divided into two classes: The organized militia, to be known as the National Guard of the State, Territory, or District of Columbia, or by such other designations as may be given them by the laws of the respective States or Territories; the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia: Provided. That the provisions of this Act and of section sixteen hundred and sixty-one, Revised Statutes, as amended, shall apply only to the militia organized as a land force. Sec. 1, Act of May 87,1908 (35 Stat. 309).

1323. Exemptions.—The Vice-President of the United States, the officers, judicial and executive, of the Government of the United States, the members and officers of each House of Congress, persons in the military or naval service of the United States, all custom-house officers, with their clerks, postmasters and persons employed by the United States in the transmission of the mail, ferrymen employed at any ferry on a post road, artificers and workmen employed in the armories and arsenals of the United States, pilots, mariners actually employed in the sea service of any citizen or merchant within the United States, and all persons who are exempted by the laws of the respective States or Territories shall be exempted from militia duty, without regard to age. Sec. 8, Act of Jan. SI, 1903 (32 Stat. 775).

1324. The same.—Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require or compel any member of any well-recognized religious sect or organization at present organized and existing whose creed forbids its members to participate in war in any form, and whose religious convictions are against war or participation therein, in accordance with the creed of said religious organizations, to serve in the militia or any other armed or volunteer force under the jurisdiction and authority of the United States. Sec. 8, Act of Jan. SI, 1903 (38 Stat. 775).

1325. Organization.—The regularly enlisted, organized, and uniformed active militia in the several States and Territories and the District of Columbia who have heretofore participated or shall hereafter participate in the apportionment of the annual appropriation provided by section sixteen hundred and sixty-one of the Revised Statutes of the United States, as amended, whether known and designated as National Guard, militia, or otherwise, shall constitute the organized militia. On and after January twenty-first, nineteen hundred and ten, the organization, armament, and discipline of the organized militia in the several States and Territories and the District of Columbia shall be the same as that which is now or may hereafter be prescribed for the Regular Army of the United States, subject in time of peace to such general exceptions as may be authorized by the Secretary of War. Sec. 2, Act of May 27, 1908 (SB Stat. 399).

Source: The Military Laws of the United States, 1915; By the United States War Department

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Foundations of America: The American Dream

OneNationUnderGod

Editors Note: Freedom cannot exist without morality, integrity and self-restraint. This is something the Founding Fathers were quite aware of. The less morality, integrity and self-restraint people have, the greater the need for laws to restrain the actions of men. The idea of self-governance the Founding Fathers promoted included the governing of your passions & desires, to restrain yourself from bad acts and choices. The Founding Fathers knew a people who could govern their own behavior would not need laws to restrain their freedoms! Moral decline in America is key to our loss of liberty!

How many who say “God bless America” realize they each have a duty to help obtain those blessings by living a righteous life? Not only did our ancestors ask for personal forgiveness at Thanksgiving along with their thanks. They also asked forgiveness for our National sins. A very good practice to follow!

I hear so many people in this present age speak of the American Dream as if, all it were, was to have a job, buy a house, and raise a family. For some it is to become famous, to be adored far and wide for some God given talent as if it were of their own making. To others it is to grow rich or have powers over others. All of these are far from the dreams of the Founding Fathers of America.

The American Dream was, and still is that, All Men are Created Equal. [Acts 10: 22-35 “God is no respecter of persons”]

This means that all men are able to live up to the potential provided them, by the Creator of all things, unencumbered by overlords, masters, oppressive and intrusive men in high places. America was not formed under a king! The ideal of America was, and is that all men are kings, in charge of their own destinies, and their destinies not to be determined by others, others who thought they knew more of what was good for the common people than the people themselves.

Think of it! All men are kings, all under the rule of the one just and true King, the King of Creation, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. [Revelation 19:16]

Before America was formed, the people who came here. had been taught for centuries the Divine Right of Kings, men’s destinies were determined by their birth, you were what your father was, nothing more and nothing less, and the Kings decree was the law. They were nations of men, ruled by men, instead of nations of laws, which all men were made to abide by. In America all men were to have an equal voice in their own governance.

Once the Bible was translated into languages that even the common people could read and understand, they grew to understand that indeed All men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. The Bible taught them there is only one true King and only one true God, God being the head and Father of Christ, Christ and only Christ being the head of man, no, not one man, but all men! [1 Corinthians 11:3] Consider how Revolutionary this must have seemed at the time. The British loyalists of the War of Independence: if not only because they had the kings favor and positions of wealth, they were loyal also because they feared God and believed in the divine right of kings, they would be heard to say “For God and King”.

The American colonial Patriots believed this phrase “For God and Country” the difference being their King was, and is Christ Jesus, not king George of Great Britain, or any other! According to their understanding it was impossible for them to have a king who was mere flesh and blood such as they themselves were, indeed! Christ being the head of man, King of Kings, Lord of Lords! How could they believe anything else, except that all men were created Kings and Lords over their own destinies, over their own lives, over their own lands, over their own happiness.

Their possessions could no longer be confiscated by the king or his underlings, no longer could they be taxed out of existence and sustenance, no longer could their lives be determined by their birth, instead of their self worth! No longer could the church [Ephesians 4:5] and state tell you how to live, where to live, how to serve God, what God expected of you individually, what your destiny would be, what your station and position in life would be! Indeed you could follow your own loves, determine your own destiny, [Philippians 2:12] have any station or position your God given talent and hard work could afford you, and above all, serve God as your conscience alone dictated!

Indeed this was and still is the True American Dream! Your destiny is not to support the state, but for the state to support your liberty to work out your own destiny, follow your own dreams, pursue your own happiness, and for the state to stay out of the affairs that pertain to God, Christ Jesus, and mans conscience alone, for all men in the era of the Founding Fathers….

All men were raised on the Bible, and their consciences formed early in life, this was the true secret of liberty in America, and why America was given so much, because they were taught to follow the precepts of Christ.

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” ~ John Adams

Indeed! it was those precepts that ended slavery and segregation in America. No, America was not perfect at her birth, but then who ever is? What was and is perfect? The work that God performed through men of wisdom, who sat at the feet of King Jesus, who wrote the Foundation Documents that are our birthright and heritage… The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

The Declaration of Independence declared it to the world, the Constitution sealed it against the powers of men, and the Bill of Rights cemented it against the abuse of government! All men are created equal by one God, and under one King, who all men must answer to for the deeds or misdeeds they commit on others!

What a great and beautiful concept, Revolutionary then, as it still seems to be today, for we are still fighting for the same things in this present time, they fought in their time! Abusive people in positions of power who think they have the right to rule over us, who think we should be thanking them for whatever meager crumbs they let fall from their ivory towers of power!

So yes, we fight, and will continue to fight, to realize the dream, that once was, and still is, America!

In the records of the expedition under Frobisher, which settled the first English colony in America, there is this entry:

“On Monday morning, May twenty-seventh, 1578, aboard the Ayde, we received all, the communion by the minister of Gravesend, prepared as good Christians toward God, and resolute men for all fortunes; and toward night we departed toward Tilbury Hope. Here we highly prayed God, and altogether, upon our knees, gave him due humble and hearty thanks, and Maister Wolfall . . . made unto us a goodbye sermon, exhorting all especially to be thankful to God for his strange and marvelous deliverance in those dangerous places.”

God bless each and every one of you, God bless America and Liberty Forever under Christ Jesus, our Lord and King! America be thankful always for the many blessings God has given to America in all things.

 

Alexis de Tocqueville author was a Frenchman who visited the United States and traveled here  extensively in the early-mid 1800’s explained the importance of Christianity to America, Americans and to her political, private and civil institutions. He wrote of his experiences in 2 volumes Democracy in America. [Following is an excerpt]

NORTH AMERICA PEOPLED BY MEN WHO PROFESSED A DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN CHRISTIANITY.

EVERY religion is to be found in juxtaposition to a political opinion, which is connected with it by affinity. If the human mind be left to follow its own bent, it will regulate the temporal and spiritual institutions of society upon one uniform principle; and man will endeavour, if I may use the expression, to harmonize the state in which he lives upon earth, with the state he believes to await him in heaven.

The greatest part of British America was peopled by men who, after having shaken off the authority of the pope, acknowledged no other religious supremacy: they brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity, which I cannot better describe, than by styling it a democratic and republican religion. This sect contributed powerfully to the establishment of a democracy and a republic; and from the earliest settlement of the emigrants, politics and religion contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved…

I have just shown what the direct influence of religion upon politics is in the United States ; but its indirect influence appears to me to be still more considerable, and it never instructs the Americans more fully in the art of being free than when it says nothing of freedom.

The [Christian] sects which exist in the United States are innumerable. They all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator; but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man. Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner; but all the sects preach the same moral law in the name of God. If it be of the slightest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be true, the case of society is not the same. Society has no future life to hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the peculiar tenets of that religion are of very little importance to its interests. Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same.

It may be believed without unfairness, that a certain number of Americans pursue a peculiar form of worship, from habit more than from conviction. In the United States the sovereign authority is religious, and consequently hypocrisy must be common; but there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of mm than in America; and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.

I have remarked that the members of the American clergy in general, without even excepting those who do not admit religious liberty, are all in favour of civil freedom; but they do not support any particular political system. They keep aloof from parties, and from public affairs. In the United States religion exercises but little influence upon the laws, and upon the details of public opinion; but it directs the manners of the community, and by regulating domestic life, it regulates the state.

I do not question that the great austerity of manners which is observable in the United States, arises, in the first instance, from religious faith. Religion is often unable to restrain man from the numberless temptations of fortune; nor can it check that passion for gain which every incident of his life contributes to arouse ; but its influence over the mind of woman is supreme, and women are the protectors of morals. There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is so much respected as in America, or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated. In Europe almost all the disturbances of society arise from the irregularities of domestic life. To despise the natural bonds and legitimate pleasures of home, is to contract a taste for excesses, a restlessness of heart, and the evil of fluctuating desires. Agitated by the tumultuous passions which frequently disturb his dwelling, the European is galled by the obedience which the legislative powers of the state exact. But when the American retires from the turmoil of public life to the bosom of his family, he finds in it the image of order and of peace. There his pleasures are simple and natural, his joys are innocent and calm; and as he finds that an orderly life is the surest path to happiness, he accustoms himself without difficulty to moderate his opinions as well as his tastes. While the European endeavours to forget his domestic troubles by agitating society, the American derives from his own home that love of order, which he afterward carries with him into public affairs.

In the United States the influence of religion is not confined to the manners, but it extends to the intelligence of the people. Among the Anglo-Americans, there are some who profess the doctrines of Christianity from a sincere belief in them, and others who do the same because they are afraid to be suspected of unbelief. Christianity, therefore, reigns without any obstacle, by universal consent; the consequence is, as I have before observed, that every principle of the moral world is fixed and determinate, although the political world is abandoned to the debates and the experiments of men. Thus the human mind is never left to wander across a boundless field; and, whatever may be its pretensions, 1t is checked from time to time by barriers which it cannot surmount. Before it can perpetrate innovation, certain primal and immutable principles are laid down, and the boldest conceptions of human de— vice are subjected to certain forms which retard and stop their completion.

The imagination of the Americans, even in its greatest flights, is circumspect and undecided; its impulses are checked, and its works unfinished. These habits of restraint recur in political society, and are singularly favourable both to the tranquillity of the people and to the durability of the institutions it has established. Nature and circumstances concurred to make the inhabitants of the United States bold men, as is sufficiently attested by the enterprising spirit with which they seek for fortune. If the minds of the Americans were free from all trammels, they would very shortly become the most daring innovators and the most implacable disputants in the world. But the revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does not easily permit them to violate the laws that oppose their designs; nor would they find it easy to surmount the scruples of their partisans, even if they were able to get over their own. Hitherto no one, in the United States, has dared to advance the maxim, that everything is permissible with a view to the interests of society; an impious adage, which seems to have been invented in an age of freedom, to shelter all the tyrants of future ages. Thus while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.

Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions. Indeed, it is in this same point of view that the inhabitants of the United States themselves look upon religious belief. I do not know whether all the Americans have a sincere faith in their religion; for who can search the human heart; but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions. This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole nation, and to every rank of society.

In the United States, if a political character attacks a sect, this may not prevent even the partisans of that very sect, from supporting him; but if he attacks all the sects together, every one abandons him, and he remains alone.

While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all the confidence of the court in what he was about to say)“ The newspapers related the fact without any farther comment.

The New York Spectator of August 23d, 1831, relates the fact in the following terms: The court of common pleas of Chester county (New York), a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been admire that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice: and that he knew of no cause in a Christian country, where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.”

[The instance given by the author, of a person offered as a witness having been rejected on the ground that he did not believe in the. existence of a God seems to be adduced to prove either his assertion that the Americans hold religion to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions—or his assertion, that if a man attacks all the, sects together, every one abandons him and he remains alone. But it is questionable how far the fact quoted proves either of these positions. The rule which prescribes as a qualification for a witness the belief in a Supreme Being who will punish falsehood, without which’ he is. deemed wholly incompetent to testify, is established for the protection of personal rights, and not to compel the adoption of any system of religious belief. It came with all our fundamental principles from England as a part of the common law which the colonists brought with them. It is supposed to prevail in every country in Christendom, whatever may be the form of its government ; and the only doubt that arises respecting its existence in France, is created by our author’s apparent surprise at finding such a rule in America.]

The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other; and with them this conviction does not spring from that barren traditionary faith which seems to vegetate in the soul rather than to live.

I have known of societies formed by the Americans to send out ministers of the gospel into the new western states, to found schools and churches there, lest religion should he suffered to die away in those remote settlements, and the rising states be less fitted to enjoy free institutions than the people from which they emanated. I met with wealthy New Englanders who abandoned the country in which they were born, in order to lay the foundations of Christianity and of freedom on the banks of the Missouri or in the prairies of Illinois. Thus religious zeal is perpetually stimulated in the United States by the duties of patriotism. These men do not act from an exclusive consideration of the promises of a future life; eternity is only one motive of their devotion to the cause ; and if you converse with these missionaries of Christian civilization, you will be surprised to find how much value they set upon the goods of this world, and that you meet with a politician where you expected to find a priest. They will tell you that “all the American republics are collectively involved with each other; if the republics of the west were to fall into anarchy, or to be mastered by a despot, the republican institutions which now flourish upon the shores of the Atlantic ocean would be in great peril. It is therefore our interest that the new states should be religious, in order to maintain our liberties.”

Such are the opinions of the Americans: and if any hold that the religious spirit which I admire is the very thing most amiss in America, and that the only element wanting to the freedom and happiness of the human race is to believe in some blind cosmogony, or to assert with Cabanis the secretion of thought by the brain, I can only reply, that those who hold this language have never been in America, and that they have never seen a religious or a free nation. When they return from their expedition, we shall hear what they have to say.

There are persons in France who look upon republican institutions as a temporary means of power, of wealth and distinction; men who are the condottieri [warlords] of liberty, and who fight for their own advantage, whatever he the colours they wear: it is not to these that I address myself. But there are others who look forward to the republican form of government as a tranquil and lasting state, toward which modern society is daily impelled by the ideas and manners of the time, and who sincerely desire to prepare men to be free. When these men attack religious opinions, they obey the dictates of their passions to the prejudice of their interests. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in the republic which they set forth in glowing colours, than in the monarchy which they attack; and it is more needed in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity ’!

PRINCIPAL CAUSES WHICH RENDER RELIGION POWERFUL IN AMERICA.

Care taken by the Americans to separate the Church from the State.–The Laws, pub. lic Opinion, and even the Exertions of the Clergy concur to promote this end.—Influence of Religion upon the Mind, in the United States, attributable to this Cause. –Reason of this.—What is the natural State of Men with regard to Religion at the present Time.—What are the peculiar and incidental Causes which prevent Men, in certain Countries, from arriving at this State.

THE philosophers of the eighteenth century explained the gradual decay of religious faith in a very simple manner. Religious zeal, said they, must necessarily fail, the more generally liberty is established and knowledge diffused. Unfortunately, facts are by no means in accordance with their theory. There are certain populations in Europe whose unbelief is only equalled by their ignorance and their debasement, while in America one of the freest and most enlightened nations in the world fulfils all the outward duties of religion with fervour.

Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention ; and the longer I stayed there, the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom pursuing courses diametrically opposed to each other; but in America I found that they were intimately united, and that they reigned in common over the same country. My desire to discover the causes of this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it, I questioned the members of all the different sects; and I more especially sought the society of the clergy, who are the depositaries of the different persuasions, and who are more especially interested in their duration. As a member of the Roman catholic church I was more particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, with whom I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my astonishment and I explained my doubts: I found that they differed upon matters of detail alone; and that they mainly attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country, to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America,l did not meet with a single individual, of the clergy or of the laity, who was not of the same opinion upon this point. .

This led me to examine more attentively than I had hitherto done, the station which the American clergy occupy in political society. I learned with surprise that they filled no public appointments; not one of them is to be met with in the administration, and they are not even represented in the legislative assemblies. In several states the law excludes them from political life; public opinion in all. And when I came to inquire into the prevailing spirit of the clergy, I found that most of its members seemed to retire of their own accord from the exercise of power, and that they made it the pride of their profession to abstain from politics.

I heard them inveigh against ambition and deceit, under whatever political opinions these vices might chance to lurk; but I learned from their discourses that men are not guilty in the eye of God for any opinions concerning political government, which they may profess with sincerity, any more than they are for their mistakes in building a house or in driving a furrow. I perceived that these ministers of the gospel eschewed all parties, with the anxiety attendant upon personal interest. These facts convinced me that what I had been told was true; and it then became my object to investigate their causes, and to inquire how it happened that the real authority of religion was increased by a state of things which diminished its apparent force: these causes did not long escape my researches.

The short space of threescore years can never content the imagination of man ; nor can the imperfect joys of this world satisfy his heart. Man alone, of all created beings, displays a natural contempt of existence, and yet a boundless desire to exist; he scorns life, but he dreads annihilation. These different feelings incessantly urge his soul to the contemplation of a future state, and religion directs his musings thither. Religion, then, is simply another form of hope; and it is no less natural to the human heart than hope itself. Men cannot abandon their religious faith without a kind of aberration of intellect, and a sort of violent distortion of their true natures; but they are invinciny brought back to more pious sentiments; for unbelief is an accident, and faith is the only permanent state of mankind. If we only consider religious institutions in a purely human point of view, they may be said to derive an inexhaustible element of strength from man himself, since they belong to one of the constituent principles of human nature.

I am aware that at certain times religion may strengthen this influence, which originates in itself, by the artificial power of the laws, and by the support of those temporal institutions which direct society. Religions, intimately united to the governments of the earth, have been known to exercise a sovereign authority derived from the twofold source of terror and of faith; but when a religion contracts an alliance of this nature, I do not hesitate to affirm that it commits the same error, as a man who should sacrifice his future to his present welfare; and in obtaining a power to which it has no claim, it risks that authority which is rightfully its own. When a religion founds its empire upon the desire of immortality which lives in every human heart, it may aspire to universal dominion: but when it connects itself with a government, it must necessarily adopt maxims which are only applicable to certain nations. Thus, in forming an alliance with a political power, religion augments its authority over a few, and forfeits the hope of reigning over all.

As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are the consolation of all affliction, it may attract the affections of mankind. But if it be mixed up with the bitter passions of the world, it may be constrained to defend allies whom its interests, and not the principles of love, have given to it ; or to repel as antagonists men who are still attached to its own spirit, however opposed they may be to the powers to which it is allied. The church cannot share the temporal power of the state, without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the latter excites.

The political powers which seem to be most firmly established have frequently no better guarantee for their duration, than the opinions of a generation, the interests of the time, or the life of an individual. A law may modify the social condition which seems to be most fixed and determinate; and with the social condition everything else must change. The powers of society are more or less fugitive, like the years which we spend upon the earth ; they succeed each other with rapidity like the fleeting cares of life; and no government has ever yet been founded upon an invariable disposition of the human heart, or upon an imperishable interest.

As long as religion is sustained by those feelings, propensities, and passions, which are found to occur under the same forms, at all the different periods of history, it may defy the efforts of time ; or at least it can only be destroyed by another religion. But when religion clings to the interests of the world, it becomes almost as fragile a thing as the powers of earth. It is the only one of them all which can hope for immortality; but if it be connected with their ephemeral authority, it shares their fortunes, and may fall with

those transient passions which supported them for a day. The alliance which religion contracts with political powers must needs be onerous to itself; since it does not require their assistance to live, and by giving them its assistance it may be exposed to decay.

The danger which I have just pointed out always exists, but it is not always equally visible. In some ages governments seem to be imperishable, in others the existence of society appears to be more precarious than the life of man. Some constitutions plunge the citizens into a lethargic somnolence, and others rouse them to feverish excitement. When government appears to be so strong, and laws so stable, men do not perceive the dangers which may accrue from a union of church and state. When governments display so much inconstancy, the danger is self-evident, but it is no longer possible to avoid it; to be effectual, measures must be taken to discover its approach.

In proportion as a nation assumes a democratic condition of society, and as communities display democratic propensities, it becomes more and more dangerous to connect religion with political institutions ; for the time is coming when authority will be bandied from hand to hand, when political theories will succeed each other, and when men, laws, and constitutions, will disappear or be modified from day to day, and this not for a season only, but unceasingly. Agitation and mutability are inherent in the nature of democratic republics, just as stagnation and inertness are the law of absolute monarchies.

If the Americans, who change the head of the government once in four years, who elect new legislators every two years, and renew the provincial officers every twelvemonth ; if the Americans, who have abandoned the political world, to the attempts of innovators, had not placed religion beyond their reach, where could it abide in the ebb and flow of human opinions? where would that respect which belongs to it be paid, amid the struggles of faction ‘? and what would become of its immortality in the midst of perpetual decay ’! The American clergy were the first to perceive this truth, and to act in conformity with it. They saw that they must renounce their religious influence, if they were to strive for political power; and they chose to give up the support of the state, rather than to share its vicissitudes.

In America, religion is perhaps less powerful than it has been at certain periods in the history of certain peoples ; but its influence is more lasting. It restricts itself to its own resources, but of those none can deprive it: its circle is limited to certain principles, but those principles are entirely its own, and under its undisputed control.

On every side in Europe we hear voices complaining of the absence of religious faith, and inquiring the means of restoring to religion some remnant of its pristine authority. It seems to me that We must first attentively consider what ought to be the natural state of men with regard to religion, at the present time ; and when we know what we have to hope and to fear, we may discern the end to which our efforts ought to be directed.

The two great dangers which threaten the existence of religions are schism and indifference. In ages of fervent devotion, men sometimes abandon their religion, but they only shake it off in order to adopt another. Their faith changes the objects to which it is directed, but it suffers no decline. The old religion, then, excites enthusiastic attachment or bitter enmity in either party ; some leave it with anger, others cling to it with increased devotedness, and although persuasions differ, irreligion is unknown. Such, however, is not the case when a religious belief is secretly undermined by doctrines which may be termed negative, since they deny the truth of one religion without affirming that of any other. Prodigious revolutions then take place in the human mind, without the apparent co-operation of the passions of man, and almost without his knowledge. Men lose the objects of their fondest hopes, as if through forgetfulness. They are carried away by an imperceptible current which they have not the courage to stem, but which they follow with regret, since it bears them from a faith they love, to a skepticism that plunges them into despair.

In ages which answer to this description, men desert their religious opinions from lukewarmness rather than from dislike ; they do not reject them, but the sentiments by which they were once fostered disappear. But if the unbeliever does not admit religion to be true, he still considers it useful. Regarding religious institutions in a human point of view, he acknowledges their influence upon manners and legislation. He admits that they may serve to make men live in peace with one another, and to prepare them gently for the hour of death. He regrets the faith which he has lost ; and as he is deprived of a treasure which he has learned to estimate at its full value, he scruples to take it from those who still possess it.

On the other hand, those who continue to believe, are not afraid openly to avow their faith. They look upon those who do not share their persuasion as more worthy of pity than of opposition; and they are aware, that to acquire the esteem of the unbelieving, they are not obliged to follow their example. They are hostile to no one in the world; and as they do not consider the society in which they live as an arena in which religion is bound to face its thousand deadly foes, they love their contemporaries, while they condemn their weaknesses, and lament their errors.

As those who do not believe, conceal their incredulity; and as those who believe, display their faith, public opinion pronounces itself in favour of religion: love, support, and honour, are bestowed upon it, and it is only by searching the human soul, that we can detect the wounds which it has received. The mass of mankind, who are never without the feeling of religion, do not perceive anything at variance with the established faith. The instinctive desire of a future life brings the crowd about the altar, and opens the hearts of men to the precepts and consolations of religion.

But this picture is not applicable to us; for there are men among us who have ceased to behave in Christianity, without adopting any other religion ; others who are in the perplexities of doubt, and who already affect not to believe; and others, again, who are afraid to avow that Christian faith which they still cherish in secret.

Amid these lukewarm partisans and ardent antagonists, a small number of believers exist, who are ready to brave all obstacles, and to scorn all dangers, in defence of their faith. They have done violence to human weakness, in order to rise superior to public opinion. Excited by the effort they have made, they scarcely know where to stop; and as they know that the first use which the French made of independence, was to attack religion, they look upon their contemporaries with dread, and they recoil in alarm from the liberty which their fellow-citizens are seeking to obtain. As unbelief appears to them to be a novelty, they comprise all that is new in one indiscriminate animosity. They are at war with their age and country, and they look upon every opinion which is put forth there as the necessary enemy of the faith.

Such is not the natural state of men with regard to religion at the present day; and some extraordinary or incidental cause must be at work in France, to prevent the human mind from following its original propensities, and to drive it beyond the limits at which it ought naturally to stop.

I am intimately convinced that this extraordinary and incidental cause is the close connexion of politics and religion. The unbelievers of Europe attack the Christians as their political opponents, rather than as their religious adversaries; they hate the Christian religion as the opinion of a party, much more than as an error of belief; and they reject the clergy less because they are the representatives of the Divinity, than because they are the allies of authority.

In Europe, Christianity has been intimately united to the powers of the earth. Those powers are now in decay, and it is, as it were, buried under their ruins. The living body of religion has been bound down to the dead c0rpse of superannuated polity; cut the bonds which restrain it, and that which is alive will rise once more. I know not what could restore the Christian church of Europe to the energy of its earlier days; that power belongs to God alone; but it may be the effect of human policy to leave the faith in all the full exercise of the strength which it still retains.

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James Madison Opinions Regarding the Virginia Resolutions 1799-1800

Patrick Henry quote Transparency in Government

Patrick Henry regarding Transparency in Government (Click to enlarge)

I don’t think I could add a better preface to this piece of history than I found here.

REPORT ON THE RESOLUTIONS. (Note:1)

(Begin Note:1) Under date of Philadelphia, February 7, 1799, Walter Jones, John Nicholas, Carter H. Harrison, Joseph Eggleston, Abraham B. Venable, and Richard Brent, Republican members of Congress from Virginia, wrote Madison:

“While the sentiments we entertain of your Talents, your experience & your Probity, have made your absence from the public councils, a subject of our very serious regret, our Confidence in the justness of your Motives assures us, that you stand completely justified.

“At the same time the Growth & conduct of the executive Party, since your retirement, have continued more & more to render the Inaction of republican Principles & Talents deplorable & injurious.

“Our extreme Solicitude to give energy to those virtues, in every possible direction, has urged us jointly to address you. We hope that obstacles of your serving in the State legislature, may be less imperious, than those by which you were withdrawn from that of the Union—it is quite needless to point out to you, the powerful agency of wise and firm State measures in preserving the general government within the just Limits of the Constitution, which from the nature of things, it must be ever struggling to transcend; but our present position enables us to discover, perhaps more clearly, the perseverance & success of those struggles.

“We should be wanting in the Social Duties we profess, if we declined to invite you with earnestness, to take part in the councils of your State.

“Pretensions founded as yours are, can scarcely fail of success— our utmost aid, if it shall be in any way applicable, and our ardent wishes will attend you in the experiment.”—Mad. MSS.

Accordingly he consented to go to the House of Delegates and was elected in the autumn of 1799. Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York. Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont having replied to the resolutions in dissent, Madison wrote the report. (End Note:1)

House Of Delegates, Session of 1799-1800.

Report of the Committee to whom were referred the Communications of various States, relative to the Resolutions of the last General Assembly of this State, concerning the Alien and Sedition Laws.

Whatever room might be found in the proceedings of some of the States, who have disapproved of the resolutions of the General Assembly of this Commonwealth, passed on the 21st day of December, 1798, for painful remarks on the spirit and manner of those proceedings, it appears to the committee most consistent with the duty, as well as dignity, of the General Assembly, to hasten an oblivion of every circumstance which might be construed into a diminution of mutual respect, confidence, and affection among the members of the Union.

The committee have deemed it a more useful task to revise, with a critical eye, the resolutions which have met with this disapprobation; to examine fully the several objections and arguments which have appeared against them; and to inquire whether there be any errors of fact, of principle, or of reasoning, which the candor of the General Assembly ought to acknowledge and correct.

The first of the resolutions is in the words following: ~” “Resolved, That the General Assembly of Virginia doth unequivocally express a firm resolution to maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this State against every aggression, either foreign or domestic, and that they will support the Government of the United States in all measures warranted by the former.”

 

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Richmond, Dec, 39, 1799

Dear Sir,—

My promise to write to you before your leaving Albemarle was defeated by a dysenteric attack, which laid me up for about a week, and which left me in a state of debility not yet thoroughly removed. My recovery has been much retarded by the job of preparing a vindication of the Resolutions of last Session against the replies of the other States, and the sophistries from other quarters. The Committee made their report a few days ago, which is now in the press and stands the order of the day for thursday next. A set of Resolutions proposed by Mr. Giles, instructing the Senators to urge the repeal of the unconstitutional acts, the disbanding of the army, and a proper arrangement of the militia, are also in the press, and stand the order of the same day for the same Committee. It is supposed that both these papers, the latter perhaps with some modifications, will go through the House of Delegates. The Senate, owing to inattention & casualties, is so composed as to render the event there not a little uncertain. If an election, to fill the vacancy of Mr. H. Nelson who lately resigned. should send Mr. Andrews in preference to his competitor Mr. Saunders, I am told that the parties will be precisely in equilibrium, excepting only one or two whom circumstances now & then on particular questions, transfer from the wrong to the right side. It is hoped that this contingent fund of votes, will be applicable to the Vindication. On other important questions, there is much less expectation from it. There is a report here that the Legislature of N. Carolina now in session, have voted the Resolutions of Virginia under their table. The report is highly improbable, and I do not believe it. But it is impossible to calculate the progress of delusion, especially in a State where it is said to be under systematic management, and where there is so little either of system or exertion opposed to it. We had a narrow escape yesterday from an increase of pay to the members, which would have been particularly unseasonable & injurious both within & without the State. It was rejected on the third reading by a small majority; and was so much a favorite, with the distant members particularly, that I fear it has left them in rather an ill humor.

The late course of foreign events has probably made the same impression everywhere. If it should not render France less anxious to meet our advances, its good effects will be felt every way. If our Executive & their Envoys be sincere in their pacific objects, it will perhaps supply by their increased anxiety what may be lost on the other side. But there can be little confidence after what has been seen, that the negotiation would be influenced by this temper of the Envoys, instead of that which perverted it in the hands of their predecessors. This possibility of failure in the diplomatic experiment, will present the most specious obstacle to an immediate discharge of the army. It would be useful for the Assembly to know how this matter is viewed where you are. Mr. Dawson will be good enough to write me on the subject. I intended to have written to him by this mail; but my time has been taken from me till the closing of the mail is approaching.—Mad. MSS.

 

No unfavorable comment can have been made on the sentiments here expressed. To maintain and defend the Constitution of the United States, and of their own State, against every aggression, both foreign and domestic, and to support the Government of the United States in all measures warranted by their Constitution, are duties which the General Assembly ought always to feel, and to which, on such an occasion, it was evidently proper to express their sincere and firm adherence.

In their next resolution—

“The General Assembly most solemnly declares a warm attachment to the Union of the States, to maintain which it pledges all its powers; and that for this end it is their duty to watch over and oppose every infraction of those principles which constitute the only basis of that Union, because a faithful observance of them can alone secure its existence, and the public happiness.”

The observation just made is equally applicable to this solemn declaration of warm attachment to the Union, and this solemn pledge to maintain it; nor can any question arise among enlightened friends of the Union, as to the duty of watching over and opposing every infraction of those principles which constitute its basis, and a faithful observance of which can alone secure its existence, and the public happiness thereon depending.

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Richmond, Jan. 4, 1800

Dear Sir,—

My last covered a copy of the Report on the Resolutions of last year. I now enclose a copy of certain resolutions moved by Mr. Giles, to which he means to add an instruction on the subject of the intercourse law which has been so injurious to the price of Tobacco. It is not improbable that the Resolutions when taken up, may undergo some mollifications, in the spirit and air of them. The Report has been under debate for two days. The attacks on it have turned chiefly on an alleged inconsistency between the comment now made and the arguments of the last session, and on the right of the Legislature to interfere in any manner with denunciations of the measures of the General [Federal] Govt. The first attack has been parried by an amendment admitting that different constructions may have been entertained of the term “States” as “‘parties” &c but that the sense relied on in the report must be concurred in by nil. It is in fact concurred in by both parties. On examination of the Debates of the last session, it appears that both were equally inaccurate & inconsistent in the grounds formerly taken by them. The attack on the right of the Legislature to interfere by declaration of opinion will form a material point in the discussion. It is not yet known how far the opposition to the Report will be carried into detail The part relating to the Common law it is said will certainly be combated. You will perceive from this view of the matter, that it is not possible to guess how long, we shall be employed on it. There will in the event be a considerable majority for the Report in the House of Delegates, and a pretty sure one in the Senate. Can you send me a copy of Priestly’s letters last published.—Mad. MSS.

The third resolution is in the words following: “That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact to which the States are parties, as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact—as no further valid than they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the States who are parties thereto have the right and are in duty bound to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.”

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Jan. 9, 1800

Dear Sir,—The question on the Report printed, was decided by 60 for & 40 against it, the day before yesterday, after a debate of five days. Yesterday & to-day have been spent on Mr. Giles’ propositions, which with some softenings will probably pass, by nearly the same vote. The Senate is in rather a better state than was expected. The Debate turned almost wholly on the right of the Legislature to protest. The Constitutionality of the Alien & Sedition Acts & of the C. Law was waived. It was said that the last question would be discussed under Mr. Giles’ propositions; but as yet nothing has been urged in its favour It is probable however that the intention has not been laid aside. I thank you for the pamphlets.—Mad. MSS.

On this resolution the committee have bestowed all the attention which its importance merits. They have scanned it not merely with a strict, but with a severe eye; and they feel confidence in pronouncing that, in its just and fair construction, it is unexceptionably true in its several positions, as well as constitutional and conclusive in its inferences.

The resolution declares, first, that “it views the powers of the Federal Government as resulting from the compact to which the States are parties”; in other words, that the Federal powers are derived from the Constitution; and that the Constitution is a compact to which the States are parties.

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Jan. 12, 1800.

Dear Sir,—My last informed you of the result of the debates on the justifying Report of the Select Committee. I am now able to add that of Mr. Giles’s resolutions. The question on the whole was decided in the affirmative by a little upwards of a hundred against less than fifty. The vote was rather stronger on some of the particular resolutions, for example the instruction for disbanding the army. The alien sedition & Tobacco instructions passed without a count or a division. That relating to the common law, passed unanimously with an amendment qualifying it in the words of the paragraph in the Justifying Report under which certain defined parts of the C. L. are admitted to be the law of the U. S. This amendment was moved by the minority on the idea that it covers the doctrine they contend for. On our side it is considered as a guarded exposition of the powers expressed in the Const”! and those necessary & proper to carry them into execution. I am not able to say in what manner they misconstrue the definition, unless they apply the term “adopt” to the “Court” which would be equally absurd & unconstitutional. The Judges themselves will hardly contend that they can adopt a law, that is, make that law which was before not law. The difference in the majority on the Report & the resolutions, was occasioned chiefly by the pledge given against the former by the members who voted against the Resolutions of last year. The resolutions also underwent some improvements, which reconciled many to them who were not satisfied with their first tone & form. It is understood that the present assembly is rather stronger on the republican side than the last one: and that a few favorable changes have taken place in the course of the session. It is proposed to introduce to-morrow a bill for a general ticket in choosing the next Electors. I expect to leave this in a week; so that your subsequent favors will find me in Orange.
Shew this to Mr. Dawson.—Mad. MSS

Clear as the position must seem, that the Federal powers are derived from the Constitution, and from that alone, the committee are not unapprized of a late doctrine which opens another source of Federal powers not less extensive and important than it is new and unexpected. The examination of this doctrine will be most conveniently connected with a review of a succeeding resolution. The committee satisfy themselves here with briefly remarking, that in all the contemporary discussions and comments which the Constitution underwent, it was constantly justified and recommended on the ground that the powers not given to the Government were withheld from it; and that if any doubt could have existed on this subject, under the original text of the Constitution, it is removed, as far as words could remove it, by the 12th amendment, now a part of the Constitution, which expressly declares “that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

TO THOMAS JEFFERSON

Richmond Jan. 18, 1800.

Dear Sir,—Since my last the Senate have agreed to the Report & the Resolution by 15 to 6. To the latter, they made an amend to the definition of the portion of C. L. in force in the U. S. by inserting the words “by Congress” after the word “adopted,” in order to repel the misconstruction which led the minority to concur in that particular resolution as it passed the H. of D. The amendment was agreed to by 82 to 40. The plan of a General Ticket was so novel that a great number who wished it shrunk from the vote, and others apprehending that their Constitution’s would be still more startled at it voted against it, so that it passed by a majority of 5 votes only. The event in the Senate is rather doubtful; tho’ it is expected to get through. As the avowed object of it is to give Virginia fair play, I think if passed into a law, it will with proper explanations become popular. I expect to get away about the middle of the week The Assembly will rise perhaps at the end of it; tho’ possibly not so soon. I forgot to tell you that a renewed effort to raise the pay of the members has succeeded; a measure wrong in principle, and which will be hurtful in its operation. I have desired Barnes to pay you a balance in his hands, out of which you will please to pay yourself the balance due to your Nailory.—Mad. MSS.

The other position involved in this branch of the resolution, namely, “that the States are parties to the Constitution” or compact, is, in the judgment of the committee, equally free from objection. It is indeed true that the term “States” is sometimes used in a vague sense, and sometimes in different senses, according to the subject to which it is applied. Thus, it sometimes means the separate sections of territory occupied by the political societies within each; sometimes the particular governments established by those societies; sometimes those societies as organized into those particular governments; and, lastly, it means the people composing those political societies, in their highest sovereign capacity. Although it might be wished that the perfection of language admitted less diversity in the signification of the same words, yet little inconvenience is produced by it where the true sense can be collected with certainty from the different applications. In the present instance, whatever different construction of the term ” States,” in the resolution, may have been entertained, all will at least concur in that last mentioned; because in that sense the Constitution was submitted to the “States”; in that sense the “States” ratified it; and in that sense of the term “States” they are consequently parties to the compact from which the powers of the Federal Government result.

The next position is, that the General Assembly views the powers of the Federal Government “as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting that compact,” and “as no farther valid than they are authorized by the grants therein enumerated.” It does not seem possible that any just objection can lie against either of these causes. The first amounts merely to a declaration that the compact ought to have the interpretation plainly intended by the parties to it; the other, to a declaration that it ought to have the execution and effect intended by them. If the powers granted be valid, it is solely because they are granted; and if the granted powers are valid because granted, all other powers not granted must not be valid.

The resolution having taken this view of the Federal compact, proceeds to infer ” that, in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the States who are parties thereto have the right and are in duty bound to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to them.”

It appears to your committee to be a plain principle, founded in common sense, illustrated by common practice, and essential to the nature of compacts, that where resort can be had to no tribunal superior to the authority of the parties, the parties themselves must be the rightful judges, in the last resort, whether the bargain made has been pursued or violated. The Constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the States, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority of the Constitution, that it rests on this legitimate and solid foundation. The States then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity that there can be no tribunal above their authority to decide, in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and, consequently, that, as the parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.

It does not follow, however, because the States, as sovereign parties to their constitutional compact, must ultimately decide whether it has been violated, that such a decision ought to be interposed either in a hasty manner or on doubtful and inferior occasions. Even in the case of ordinary conventions between different nations, where, by the strict rule of interpretation, a breach of a part may be deemed a breach of the whole—every part being deemed a condition of every other part, and of the whole—it is always laid down that the breach must be both willful and material, to justify an application of the rule. But in the case of an intimate and constitutional union, like that of the United States, it is evident that the interposition of the parties, in their sovereign capacity, can be called for by occasions only deeply essentially affecting the vital principles of their political system.

The resolution has, accordingly, guarded against any misapprehension of its object, by expressly requiring for such an interposition “the case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous breach of the Constitution by the exercise of powers not granted by it.” It must be a case, not of a light and transient nature, but of a nature dangerous to the great purposes for which the Constitution was established. It must be a case, moreover, not obscure or doubtful in its construction, but plain and palpable. Lastly it must be a case not resulting from a partial consideration or hasty determination, but a case stamped with a final consideration and deliberate adherence. It is not necessary, because the resolution does not require, that the question should be discussed, how far the exercise of any particular power, ungranted by the Constitution, would justify the interposition of the parties to it. As cases might easily be stated which none would contend ought to fall within that description, cases, on the other hand, might with equal ease be stated, so flagrant and so fatal as to unite every opinion in placing them within the description.

But the resolution has done more than guard against misconstruction, by expressly referring to cases of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous nature. It specifies the object of the interposition which it contemplates to be solely that of arresting the progress of the evil of usurpation, and of maintaining the authorities, rights, and liberties appertaining to the States as parties to the Constitution.

From this view of the resolution it would seem inconceivable that it can incur any just disapprobation from those who, laying aside all momentary impressions, and recollecting the genuine source and object of the Federal Constitution, shall candidly and accurately interpret the meaning of the General Assembly. If the deliberate exercise of dangerous powers, palpably withheld by the Constitution, could not justify the parties to it in interposing even so far as to arrest the progress of the evil, and thereby to preserve the Constitution itself, as well as to provide for the safety of the parties to it, there would be an end to all relief from usurped power, and a direct subversion of the rights specified or recognized under all the State constitutions, as well as a plain denial of the fundamental principle on which our independence itself was declared.

But it is objected that the judicial authority is to be regarded as the sole expositor of the Constitution, in the last resort; and it may be asked for what reason the declaration by the General Assembly, supposing it to be theoretically true, could be required at the present day, and in so solemn a manner.

On this objection it might be observed, first, that there may be instances of usurped power, which the forms of the Constitution would never draw within the control of the judicial department; secondly, that if the decision of the judiciary be raised above the authority of the sovereign parties to the Constitution, the decisions of the other departments, not carried by the forms of the Constitution before the judiciary, must be equally authoritative and final with the decisions of that department. But the proper answer to the objection, is that the resolution of the General Assembly relates to those great and extraordinary cases in which all the forms of the Constitution may prove ineffectual against infractions dangerous to the essential rights of the parties to it. The resolution supposes that dangerous powers, not delegated, may not only be usurped and executed by the other departments, but that the judicial department also may exercise or sanction dangerous powers beyond the grant of the Constitution, and, consequently, that the ultimate right of the parties to the Constitution to judge whether the compact has been dangerously violated, must extend to violations by one delegated authority as well as by another; by the judiciary as well as by the executive or the legislature.

However true, therefore, it may be that the judicial department is, in all questions submitted to it by the forms of the Constitution, to decide in the last resort, this resort must necessarily be deemed the last in relation to the authorities of the other departments of the Government; not in relation to the rights of the parties to the constitutional compact, from which the judicial as well as the other departments hold their delegated trusts. On any other hypothesis, the delegation of judicial power would annul the authority delegating it; and the concurrence of this department with the others in usurped powers might subvert forever, and beyond the possible reach of any rightful remedy, the very Constitution which all were instituted to preserve.

The truth declared in the resolution being established, the expediency of making the declaration at the present day may safely be left to the temperate consideration and candid judgment of the American public. It will be remembered that a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is solemnly enjoined by most of the State constitutions, and particularly by our own, as a necessary safeguard against the danger of degeneracy to which republics are liable, as well as other governments, though in a less degree than others. And a fair comparison of the political doctrines not infrequent at the present day with those which characterized the epoch of our Revolution, and which form the basis of our republican constitutions, will best determine whether the declaratory recurrence here made to those principles ought to be viewed as unseasonable and improper, or as a vigilant discharge of an important duty. The authority of constitutions over governments, and of the sovereignty of the people over constitutions, are truths which are at all times necessary to be kept in mind, and at no time, perhaps, more necessary than at present.

The fourth resolution stands as follows:

“That the General Assembly doth also express its deep regret that a spirit has in sundry instances been manifested by the Federal Government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter which defines them; and that indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases, (which, having been copied from the very limited grant of powers in the former articles of Confederation, were the less liable to be misconstrued,) so as to destroy the meaning and effect of the particular enumeration which necessarily explains and limits the general phrases, and so as to consolidate the States by degrees into one sovereignty, the obvious tendency and inevitable result of which would be to transform the present republican system of the United States into an absolute, or at best a mixed, monarchy.”

The first question here to be considered is, whether a spirit has, in sundry instances, been manifested by the Federal Government to enlarge its powers by forced constructions of the constitutional charter.

The General Assembly having declared their opinion merely by regretting, in general terms, that forced constructions for enlarging the Federal powers have taken place, it does not appear to the committee necessary to go into a specification of every instance to which the resolution may allude. The Alien and Sedition Acts being particularly named in a succeeding resolution, are of course to be understood as included n the allusion. Omitting others which have less occupied public attention, or been less extensively regarded as unconstitutional, the resolution may be presumed to refer particularly to the Bank Law, which, from the circumstances of its passage, as well as the latitude of construction on which it is founded, strikes the attention with singular force; and the Carriage Tax, distinguished also by circumstances in its history having a similar tendency. Those instances alone, if resulting from forced construction, and calculated to enlarge the powers of the Federal Government, as the committee cannot but conceive to be the case, sufficiently warrant this part of the resolution. The committee have not thought it incumbent on them to extend their attention to laws which have been objected to, rather as varying the constitutional distribution of powers in the Federal Government, than as an absolute enlargement of them; because instances of this sort, however important in their principles and tendencies, do not appear to fall strictly within the text under review.

The other questions presenting themselves are—1. Whether indications have appeared of a design to expound certain general phrases copied from the “Articles of Confederation,” so as to destroy the effect of the particular enumeration explaining and limiting their meaning. 2. Whether this exposition would by degrees consolidate the States into one sovereignty. 3. Whether the tendency and result of this consolidation would be to transform the republican system of the United States into a monarchy.

1. The general phrases here meant, must be those “of providing for the common defense and general welfare.”

In the “Articles of Confederation,” the phrases are used as follows, in Article VIII: “All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense and general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of the common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated, according to such mode as the United States, in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.”

In the existing Constitution they make the following part of Section 8: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”

This similarity in the use of these phrases, in the two great Federal charters, might well be considered as rendering their meaning less liable to be misconstrued in the latter; because it will scarcely be said that in the former they were ever understood to be either a general grant of power, or to authorize the requisition or application of money by the old Congress to the common defense and general welfare, except in the cases afterwards enumerated, which explained and limited their meaning; and if such was the limited meaning attached to these phrases in the very instrument revised and re-modeled by the present Constitution, it can never be supposed that, when copied into this Constitution, a different meaning ought to be attached to them.

That, notwithstanding this remarkable security against misconstruction, a design has been indicated to expound these phrases in the Constitution so as to destroy the effect of the particular enumeration of powers by which it explains and limits them, must have fallen under the observation of those who have attended to the course of public transactions. Not to multiply proofs on this subject, it will suffice to refer to the Debates of the Federal Legislature, in which arguments have on different occasions been drawn, with apparent effect, from these phrases in their indefinite meaning.

To these indications might be added, without looking further, the official Report on Manufactures, by the late Secretary of the Treasury, made on the 5th of December, 1791, and the Report of a Committee of Congress, in January, 1797, on the promotion of Agriculture. In the first of these it is expressly contended to belong “to the discretion of the National Legislature to pronounce upon the objects which concern the general welfare, and for which, under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general interests of Learning, of Agriculture, of Manufactures, and of Commerce, are within the sphere of the National Councils, as far as regards an application of money.” The latter Report assumes the same latitude of power in the national councils, and applies it to the encouragement of agriculture by means of a society to be established at the seat of Government. Although neither of these Reports may have received the sanction of a law carrying it into effect, yet, on the other hand, the extraordinary doctrine contained in both has passed without the slightest positive mark of disapprobation from the authority to which it was addressed.

Now, whether the phrases in question be construed to authorize every measure relating to the common defense and general welfare, as contended by some—or every measure only in which there might be an application of money, as suggested by the caution of others—the effect must substantially be the same, in destroying the import and force of the particular enumeration of powers which follow these general phrases in the Constitution; for it is evident that there is not a single power whatever which may not have some reference to the common defense or the general welfare; nor a power of any magnitude, which, in its exercise, does not involve or admit an application of money. The government, therefore, which possesses power in either one or other of these extents, is a government without the limitations formed by a particular enumeration of powers; and, consequently, the meaning and effect of this particular enumeration is destroyed by the exposition given to these general phrases.

This conclusion will not be affected by an attempt to qualify the power over the “general welfare,” by referring it to cases where the general welfare is beyond the reach of separate provisions by the individual States, and leaving to these their jurisdictions in cases to which their separate provisions may be competent; for, as the authority of the individual States must in all cases be incompetent to general regulations operating through the whole, the authority of the United States would be extended to every object relating to the general welfare which might, by any possibility, be provided for by the general authority. This qualifying construction, therefore, would have little, if any, tendency to circumscribe the power claimed under the latitude of the terms “general welfare.”

The true and fair construction of this expression, both in the original and existing Federal compacts, appears to the committee too obvious to be mistaken. In both, the Congress is authorized to provide money for the common defense and general welfare. In both, is subjoined to this authority an enumeration of the cases to which their powers shall extend. Money cannot be applied to the general welfare. otherwise than by an application of it to some particular measure conducive to the general welfare. Whenever, therefore, money has been raised by the general authority, and is to be applied to a particular measure, a question arises whether the particular measure be within the enumerated authorities vested in Congress. If it be, the money requisite for it may be applied to it; if it be not, no such application can be made. This fair and obvious interpretation coincides with and is enforced by the clause in the Constitution which declares that “no money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations by law.” An appropriation of money to the general welfare would be deemed rather a mockery than an observance of this constitutional injunction.

2. Whether the exposition of the general phrases here combated would not by degrees consolidate the States into one sovereignty, is a question concerning which the committee can perceive little room for difference of opinion. To consolidate the States into one sovereignty, nothing more can be wanted than to supersede their respective sovereignties in the cases reserved to them, by extending the sovereignty of the United States to all cases of the “general welfare”—that is to say, to all cases whatever.

3. That the obvious tendency and inevitable result of a consolidation of the States into one sovereignty, would be to transform the republican system of the United States into a monarchy, is a point which seems to have been sufficiently decided by the general sentiment of America. In almost every instance of discussion relating to the consolidation in question, its certain tendency to pave the way to monarchy seems not to have been contested. The prospect of such a consolidation has formed the only topic of controversy. It would be unnecessary, therefore, for the committee to dwell long on the reasons which support the position of the General Assembly. It may not be improper, however, to remark two consequences evidently flowing from an extension of the Federal powers to every subject falling within the idea of the “general welfare.”

One consequence must be, to enlarge the sphere of discretion allotted to the Executive Magistrate. Even within the legislative limits properly defined by the Constitution, the difficulty of accommodating legal regulations to a country so great in extent and so various in its circumstances has been much felt, and has lead to occasional investments of power in the Executive, which involve perhaps as large a portion of discretion as can be deemed consistent with the nature of the Executive trust. In proportion as the objects of legislative care might be multiplied, would the time allowed for each be diminished, and the difficulty of providing uniform and particular regulations for all be increased. From these sources would necessarily ensue a greater latitude to the agency of that department which is always in existence, and which could best mould regulations of a general nature so as to suit them to the diversity of particular situations. And it is in this latitude, as a supplement to the deficiency of the laws, that the degree of Executive prerogative materially consists.

The other consequence would be, that of an excessive augmentation of the offices, honors, and emoluments, depending on the Executive will. Add to the present legitimate stock all those of every description which a consolidation of the States would take from them and turn over to the Federal Government, and the patronage of the Executive would necessarily be as much swelled in this case as its prerogative would be in the other.

This disproportionate increase of prerogative and patronage must, evidently, either enable the Chief Magistrate of the Union, by quiet means, to secure his re-election from time to time, and finally to regulate the succession as he might please; or, by giving so transcendent an importance to the office, would render the elections to it so violent and corrupt, that the public voice itself might call for an hereditary in place of an elective succession. Whichever of these events might follow, the transformation of the republican system of the United States into a monarchy, anticipated by the General Assembly from a consolidation of the States into one sovereignty, would be equally accomplished; and whether it would be into a mixed or an absolute monarchy might depend on too many contingencies to admit of any certain foresight.

The resolution next in order is contained in the following terms:

“That the General Assembly doth particularly protest against the palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution in the two late cases of the ‘Alien and Sedition Acts,’ passed at the last session of Congress; the first of which exercises a power nowhere delegated to the Federal Government, and which, by uniting legislative and judicial powers to those of executive, subverts the general principles of a free Government, as well as the particular organization and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution; and the other of which acts exercises, in like manner, a power not delegated by the Constitution but, on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto; a power which, more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm; because it is leveled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”

The subject of this resolution having, it is presumed, more particularly led the General Assembly into the proceedings which they communicated to the other States, and being in itself of peculiar importance, it deserves the most critical and faithful investigation, for the length of which no other apology will be necessary.

The subject divides itself into—first, “The Alien Act”; secondly, “The Sedition Act.”

Of the “Alien Act,” it is affirmed by the resolution—1st. That it exercises a power nowhere delegated to the Federal Government. 2d. That it unites legislative and judicial powers to those of the Executive. 3d. That this union of power subverts the general principles of free government. 4th. That it subverts the particular organization and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution.

In order to clear the way for a correct view of the first position several observations will be premised.

1. In the first place, it is to be borne in mind that it being a characteristic feature of the Federal Constitution, as it was originally ratified, and an amendment thereto having precisely declared, “That the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people”; it is incumbent in this as in every other exercise of power by the Federal Government, to prove from the Constitution that it grants the particular power exercised.

The next observation to be made is, that much confusion and fallacy have been thrown into the question by blending the two cases of aliens, members of a hostile nation, and aliens, members of friendly nations. These two cases are so obviously and so essentially distinct, that it occasions no little surprise that the distinction should have been disregarded; and the surprise is so much the greater, as it appears that the two cases are actually distinguished by two separate acts of Congress, passed at the same session, and comprised in the same publication; the one providing for the case of ” alien enemies”; the other, “concerning aliens” indiscriminately, and, consequently, extending to aliens of every nation in peace and amity with the United States. With respect to alien enemies, no doubt has been intimated as to the Federal authority over them; the Constitution having expressly delegated to Congress the power to declare war against any nation, and, of course, to treat it and all its members as enemies. With respect to aliens who are not enemies, but members of nations in peace and amity with the United States, the power assumed by the act of Congress is denied to be constitutional; and it is, accordingly, against this act that the protest of the General Assembly is expressly and exclusively directed.

A third observation is, that were it admitted, as is contended, that the ” act concerning aliens” has for its object, not a penal, but a preventive justice, it would still remain to be proved that it comes within the constitutional power of the Federal Legislature; and, if within its power, that the Legislature has exercised it in a constitutional manner.

In the administration of preventive justice the following principles have been held sacred: that some probable ground of suspicion be exhibited before some judicial authority; that it be supported by oath or affirmation; that the party may avoid being thrown into confinement by finding pledges or sureties for his legal conduct, sufficient in the judgment of some judicial authority; that he may have the benefit of a writ of habeas corpus, and thus obtain his release if wrongfully confined; and that he may at any time be discharged from his recognizance, or his confinement, and restored to his former liberty and rights on the order of the proper judicial authority, if it shall see sufficient cause.

All these principles of the only preventive justice known to American jurisprudence are violated by the Alien Act. The ground of suspicion is to be judged of, not by any judicial authority, but by the Executive Magistrate alone. No oath or affirmation is required. If the suspicion be held reasonable by the President, he may order the suspected alien to depart the territory of the United States, without the opportunity of avoiding the sentence by finding pledges for his future good conduct. As the President may limit the time of departure as he pleases, the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended with respect to the party, although the Constitution ordains that it shall not be suspended unless when the public safety may require it, in case of rebellion or invasion—neither of which existed at the passage of the act; and the party being, under the sentence of the President, either removed from the United States, or being punished by imprisonment, or disqualification ever to become a citizen, on conviction of not obeying the order of removal, he cannot be discharged from the proceedings against him, and restored to the benefits of his former situation, although the highest judicial authority should see the most sufficient cause for it.

But, in the last place, it can never be admitted that the removal of aliens, authorized by the act, is to be considered, not as punishment for an offence, but as a measure of precaution and prevention. If the banishment of an alien from a country into which he has been invited as the asylum most auspicious to his happiness—a country where he may have formed the most tender connections; where he may have invested his entire property, and acquired property of the real and permanent, as well as the movable and temporary kind; where he enjoys, under the laws, a greater share of the blessings of personal security, and personal liberty, than he can elsewhere hope for, and where he may have nearly completed his probationary title to citizenship; if, moreover, in the execution of the sentence against him, he is to be exposed, not only to the ordinary dangers of the sea, but to the peculiar casualties incident to a crisis of war and of unusual licentiousness on that element, and possibly to vindictive purposes which his emigration itself may have provoked; if a banishment of this sort be not a punishment, and among the severest of punishments, it will be difficult to imagine a doom to which the name can be applied. And if it be a punishment, it will remain to be inquired whether it can be constitutionally inflicted, on mere suspicion, by the single will of the Executive Magistrate, on persons convicted of no personal offence against the laws of the land, nor involved in any offence against the law of nations, charged on the foreign State of which they are members.

One argument offered in justification of this power exercised over aliens is, that the admission of them into the country being of favor, not of right, the favor is at all times revocable.

To this argument it might be answered, that, allowing the truth of the inference, it would be no proof of what is required. A question would still occur, whether the Constitution had vested the discretionary power of admitting aliens in the Federal Government or in the State governments.

But it cannot be a true inference, that, because the admission of an alien is a favor, the favor may be revoked at pleasure. A grant of land to an individual may be of favor, not of right; but the moment the grant is made, the favor becomes a right, and must be forfeited before it can be taken away. To pardon a malefactor may be a favor, but the pardon is not, on that account, the less irrevocable. To admit an alien to naturalization, is as much a favor as to admit him to reside in the country; yet it cannot be pretended that a person naturalized can be deprived of the benefits any more than a native citizen can be disfranchised.

Again, it is said, that aliens not being parties to the Constitution, the rights and privileges which it secures cannot be at all claimed by them.

To this reasoning, also, it might be answered that, although aliens are not parties to the Constitution, it does not follow that the Constitution has vested in Congress an absolute power over them. The parties to the Constitution may have granted, or retained, or modified, the power over aliens, without regard to that particular consideration.

But a more direct reply is, that it does not follow, because aliens are not parties to the Constitution, as citizens are parties to it, that, whilst they actually conform to it, they have no right to its protection. Aliens are not more parties to the laws than they are parties to the Constitution; yet it will not be disputed that, as they owe, on one hand, a temporary obedience, they are entitled, in return, to their protection and advantage.

If aliens had no rights under the Constitution, they might not only be banished, but even capitally punished, without a jury or the other incidents to a fair trial. But so far has a contrary principle been carried, in every part of the United States, that, except on charges of treason, an alien has, besides all the common privileges, the spec1al one of being tried by a jury, of which one-half may be also aliens.

It is said further, that, by the law and practice of nations, aliens may be removed, at discretion, for offences aga1nst the law of nations; that Congress are authorized to define and punish such offences; and that to be dangerous to the peace of society is, in aliens, one of those offences.

The distinction between alien enemies and alien friends is a clear and conclusive answer to this argument. Alien enemies are under the law of nations, and liable to be punished for offences against it. Alien friends, except in the single case of public ministers, are under the municipal law, and must be tried and punished according to that law only.

This argument also, by referring the alien act to the power of Congress to define and punish offences against the law of nations, yields the point that the act is of a penal, not merely of a preventive operation. It must, in truth, be so considered. And if it be a penal act, the punishment it inflicts must be justified by some offence that deserves it.

Offences for which aliens, within the jurisdiction of a country are punishable, are—first, offences committed by the nation of which they make a part, and in whose offences they are involved; secondly, offences committed by themselves alone, without any charge against the nation to which they belong The first is the case of alien enemies; the second, the case of alien friends. In the first case, the offending nation can no otherwise be punished than by war, one of the laws of which authorizes the expulsion of such of its members as may be found within the country against which the offence has been committed. In the second case—the offence being committed by the individual, not by his nation, and against the municipal law, not against the law of nations—the individual only, and not the nation, is punishable; and the punishment must be conducted according to the municipal law, not according to the law of nations. Under this view of the subject, the act of Congress for the removal of alien enemies, being conformable to the law of nations, is justified by the Constitution and the ” act” for the removal of alien friends, being repugnant to the constitutional principles of municipal law, is unjustifiable

Nor is the act of Congress for the removal of alien friends more agreeable to the general practice of nations than it is within the purview of the law of nations. The general practice of nations distinguishes between alien friends and alien enemies. The latter it has proceeded against, according to the law of nations, by expelling them as enemies. The former it has considered as under a local and temporary allegiance, and entitled to a correspondent protection. If contrary instances are to be found in barbarous countries, under undefined prerogatives, or amid revolutionary dangers, they will not be deemed fit precedents for the Government of the United States, even if not beyond its constitutional authority.

It is said that Congress may grant letters of marquee and reprisal; that reprisals may be made on persons as well as property; and that the removal of aliens may be considered as the exercise, in an inferior degree, of the general power of reprisal on persons.

Without entering minutely into a question that does not seem to require it, it may be remarked that reprisal is a seizure of foreign persons or property, with a view to obtain that justice for injuries done by one State, or its members, to another State, or its members, for which a refusal of the aggressors requires such a resort to force under the law of nations. It must be considered as an abuse of words to call the removal of persons from a country a seizure or reprisal on them; nor is the distinction to be overlooked between reprisals on persons within the country and under the faith of its laws, and on persons out of the country. But laying aside these considerations, it is evidently impossible to bring the alien act within the power of granting reprisals, since it does not allege or imply any injury received from any particular nation for which this proceeding against its members was intended as a reparation. The proceeding is authorized against aliens of every nation; of nations charged neither with any similar proceedings against American citizens, nor with any injuries for which justice might be sought in the mode prescribed by the act. Were it true, therefore, that good causes existed for reprisals against one or more foreign nations, and that neither the persons nor property of its members under the faith of our laws could plead an exemption, the operation of the act ought to have been limited to the aliens among us belonging to such nations. To license reprisals against all nations for aggressions charged on one only, would be a measure as contrary to every principle of justice and public law as to a wise policy, and the universal practice of nations.

It is said that the right of removing aliens is an incident to the power of war vested in Congress by the Constitution.

This is a former argument in a new shape only, and is answered by repeating, that the removal of alien enemies is an incident to the power of war; that the removal of alien friends is not an incident to the power of war.

It is said that Congress are, by the Constitution, to protect each State against invasion; and that the means of preventing invasion are included in the power of protection against it.

The power of war, in general, having been before granted by the Constitution, this clause must either be a mere specification for greater caution and certainty, of which there are other examples in the instrument, or be the injunction of a duty superadded to a grant of the power. Under either explanation it cannot enlarge the powers of Congress on the subject. The power and the duty to protect each State against an invading enemy would be the same under the general power, if this regard to greater caution had been omitted.

Invasion is an operation of war. To protect against invasion is an exercise of the power of war. A power, therefore, not incident to war cannot be incident to a particular modification of war. And as the removal of alien friends has appeared to be no incident to a general state of war, it cannot be incident to a partial state or a particular modification of war.

Nor can it ever be granted that a power to act on a case when it actually occurs, includes a power over all the means that may tend to prevent the occurrence of the case. Such a latitude of construction would render unavailing every practical definition of particular and limited powers. Under the idea of preventing war in general, as well as invasion in particular, not only an indiscriminate removal of all aliens might be enforced, but a thousand other things still more remote from the operations and precautions appurtenant to war might take place. A bigoted or tyrannical nation might threaten us with war, unless certain religious or political regulations were adopted by us; yet it never could be inferred, if the regulations which would prevent war were such as Congress had otherwise no power to make, that the power to make them would grow out of the purpose they were to answer. Congress have power to suppress insurrections, yet it would not be allowed to follow that they might employ all the means tending to prevent them, of which a system of moral instruction for the ignorant, and of provident support for the poor, might be regarded as among the most efficacious.

One argument for the power of the General Government to remove aliens would have been passed in silence, if it had appeared under any authority inferior to that of a report made during the last session of Congress to the House of Representatives by a committee, and approved by the House. The doctrine on which this argument is founded is of so new and so extraordinary a character, and strikes so radically at the political system of America, that it is proper to state it in the very words of the report:

“The act [concerning aliens] is said to be unconstitutional, because to remove aliens is a direct breach of the Constitution, which provides, by the 9th section of the 1st article, that the

migration or importation of such persons as any of the States shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808.”

Among the answers given to this objection to the constitutionality of the act, the following very remarkable one is extracted:

“Thirdly, that as the Constitution has given to the States no power to remove aliens during the period of the limitation under consideration, in the mean time, on the construction assumed, there would be no authority in the country empowered to send away dangerous aliens, which cannot be admitted.”

The reasoning here used would not in any view be conclusive, because there are powers exercised by most other Governments, which, in the United States, are withheld by the people, both from the General Government and from the State governments. Of this sort are many of the powers prohibited by the Declarations of Right prefixed to the constitutions, or by the clauses in the constitutions in the nature of such declarations. Nay, so far is the political system of the United States distinguishable from that of other countries, by the caution with which powers are delegated and defined, that in one very important case, even of commercial regulation and revenue, the power is absolutely locked up against the hands of both Governments. A tax on exports can be laid by no constitutional authority whatever. Under a system thus peculiarly guarded there could surely be no absurdity in supposing that alien friends, who, if guilty of treasonable machinations, may be punished, or if suspected on probable grounds, may be secured by pledges or imprisonment, in like manner with permanent citizens, were never meant to be subjected to banishment by any arbitrary and unusual process, either under the one Government or the other.

But it is not the inconclusiveness of the general reasoning in this passage which chiefly calls the attention to it. It is the principle assumed by it, that the powers held by the States are given to them by the Constitution of the United States; and the inference from this principle, that the powers supposed to be necessary which are not so given to the State governments, must reside in the Government of the United States.

The respect which is felt for every portion of the constituted authorities forbids some of the reflections which this singular paragraph might excite; and they are the more readily suppressed, as it may be presumed, with justice perhaps as well as candor, that inadvertence may have had its share in the error. It would be an unjustifiable delicacy, nevertheless, to pass by so portentous a claim, proceeding from so high an authority, without a monitory notice of the fatal tendencies with which it would be pregnant.

Lastly, it is said that a law on the same subject with the Alien Act, passed by this State originally in 1785, and reenacted in 1792, is a proof that a summary removal of suspected aliens was not theretofore regarded by the Virginia Legislature as liable to the objections now urged against such a measure.

This charge against Virginia vanishes before the simple remark, that the law of Virginia relates to “suspicious persons, being the subjects of any foreign power or State who shall have made a declaration of war, or actually commenced hostilities, or from whom the President shall apprehend hostile designs;” whereas the act of Congress relates to aliens, being the subjects of foreign powers and States who have neither declared war nor commenced hostilities, nor from whom hostile designs are apprehended.

2. It is next affirmed by the Alien Act, that it unites legislative, judicial, and executive powers, in the hands of the President.

However difficult it may be to mark in every case with clearness and certainty the line which divides legislative power from the other departments of power, all will agree that the powers referred to these departments may be so general and undefined as to be of a legislative, not of an executive or judicial nature, and may for that reason be unconstitutional. Details, to a certain degree, are essential to the nature and character of law; and on criminal subjects, it is proper that details should leave as little as possible to the discretion of those who are to apply and execute the law. If nothing more were required, in exercising a legislative trust, than a general conveyance of authority—without laying down any precise rules by which the authority conveyed should be carried into effect—it would follow that the whole power of legislation might be transferred by the Legislature from itself, and proclamations might become substitutes for laws. A delegation of power in this latitude would not be denied to be a union of the different powers.

To determine, then, whether the appropriate powers of the distinct departments are united by the act authorizing the Executive to remove aliens, it must be inquired whether it contains such details, definitions, and rules, as appertain to the true character of a law; especially a law by which personal liberty is invaded, property deprived of its value to the owner, and life itself indirectly exposed to danger.

The Alien Act declares “that it shall be lawful for the President to order all such aliens as he shall judge dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States, or shall have reasonable ground to suspect are concerned in any treasonable or secret machinations against the Government thereof, to depart,” &c.

Could a power be given in terms less definite, less particular, and less precise? To be dangerous to the public safety—to be suspected of secret machinations against the Government; these can never be mistaken for legal rules or certain definitions. They leave everything to the President. His will is the law.

But it is not a legislative power only that is given to the President. He is to stand in the place of the judiciary also. His suspicion is the only evidence which is to convict; his order, the only judgment which is to be executed.

Thus it is the President whose will is to designate the offensive conduct; it is his will that is to ascertain the individuals on whom it is charged; and it is his will that is to cause the sentence to be executed. It is rightly affirmed, therefore, that the act unites legislative and judicial powers to those of the executive.

3. It is affirmed that this union of power subverts the general principles of free government.

It has become an axiom in the science of government, that a separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments is necessary to the preservation of public liberty. Nowhere has this axiom been better understood in theory, or more carefully pursued in practice, than in the United States.

4. It is affirmed that such a union of power subverts the particular organization and positive provisions of the Federal Constitution.

According to the particular organization of the Constitution, its legislative powers are vested in the Congress, its executive powers in the President, and its judicial powers in a supreme and inferior tribunals. The union of any two of these powers, and still more of all three, in any one of these departments, as has been shown to be done by the Alien Act, must, consequently, subvert the constitutional organization of them.

That positive provisions in the Constitution, securing to individuals the benefits of fair trial, are also violated by the union of powers in the Alien Act, necessarily results from the two facts that the Act relates to alien friends, and that alien friends, being under the municipal law only, are entitled to its protection.

The second object against which the resolution protests is the Sedition Act.

Of this Act it is affirmed: 1. That it exercises in like manner a power not delegated by the Constitution. 2. That the power, on the contrary, is expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments to the Constitution. 3. That this is a power which more than any other ought to produce universal alarm, because it is leveled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.

1. That it exercises a power not delegated by the Constitution.

Here, again, it will be proper to recollect that the Federal Government being composed of powers specifically granted, with a reservation of all others to the States or to the people, the positive authority under which the Sedition Act could be passed must be produced by those who assert its constitutionality. In what part of the Constitution, then, is this authority to be found?

Several attempts have been made to answer this question, which will be examined in their order. The committee will begin with one which has filled them with equal astonishment and apprehension, and which, they cannot but persuade themselves, must have the same effect on all who will consider it with coolness and impartiality, and with a reverence for our Constitution in the true character in which it issued from the sovereign authority of the people. The committee refer to the doctrine lately advanced, as a sanction to the Sedition Act,” that the common or unwritten law,” a law of vast extent and complexity, and embracing almost every possible subject of legislation, both civil and criminal, makes a part of the law of these States, in their united and national capacity.

The novelty, and, in the judgment of the committee, the extravagance of this pretension, would have consigned it to the silence in which they have passed by other arguments which an extraordinary zeal for the Act has drawn into the discussion; but the auspices”^under which this innovation presents itself have constrained the committee to bestow on it an attention which other considerations might have forbidden.

In executing the task, it may be of use to look back to the colonial state of this country, prior to the Revolution; to trace the effect of the Revolution which converted the Colonies into independent States; to inquire into the import of the Articles of Confederation, the first instrument by which the Union of the States was regularly established; and, finally, to consult the Constitution of 1787, which is the oracle that must decide the important question.

In the state prior to the Revolution, it is certain that the common law, under different limitations, made a part of the colonial codes. But whether it be understood that the original colonists brought the law with them, or made it their law by adoption, it is equally certain that it was the separate law of each colony within its respective limits, and was unknown to them as a law pervading and operating through the whole as one society.

It could not possibly be otherwise. The common law was not the same in any two of the Colonies; in some the modifications were materially and extensively different. There was no common legislature by which a common will could be expressed in the form of a law; nor any common magistracy by which such a law could be carried into practice. The will of each colony, alone and separately, had its organs for these purposes.

This stage of our political history furnishes no foothold for the patrons of this new doctrine.

Did, then, the principle or operation of the great event which made the Colonies independent States imply or introduce the common law as a law of the Union?

The fundamental principle of the Revolution was, that the Colonies were co-ordinate members with each other and with Great Britain, of an empire united by a common executive sovereign, but not united by any common legislative sovereign. The legislative power was maintained to be as complete in each American Parliament, as in the British Parliament. And the royal prerogative was in force in each Colony by virtue of its acknowledging the King for its executive magistrate, as it was in Great Britain by virtue of a like acknowledgment there. A denial of these principles by Great Britain, and the assertion of them by America, produced the Revolution.

There was a time, indeed, when an exception to the legislative separation of the several component and co-equal parts of the empire obtained a degree of acquiescence. The British Parliament was allowed to regulate the trade with foreign nations, and between the different parts of the empire. This was, however, mere practice without right, and contrary to the true theory of the Constitution. The convenience of some regulations, in both cases, was apparent; and as there was no legislature with power over the whole, nor any constitutional pre-eminence among the legislatures of the several parts, it was natural for the legislature of that particular part which was the eldest and the largest to assume this function, and for the others to acquiesce in it. This tacit arrangement was the less criticized, as the regulations established by the British Parliament operated in favor of that part of the empire which seemed to bear the principle share of the public burdens, and were regarded as an indemnification of its advances for the other parts. As long as this regulating power was confined to the two objects of conveniency and equity, it was not complained of nor much inquired into. But, no sooner was it perverted to the selfish views of the party assuming it, than the injured parties began to feel and to reflect; and the moment the claim to a direct and indefinite power was engrafted on the precedent of the regulating power, the whole charm was dissolved, and every eye opened to the usurpation. The assertion by Great Britain of a power to make laws for the other members of the empire in all cases whatsoever, ended in the discovery that she had a right to make laws for them in no cases whatsoever.

Such being the ground of our Revolution, no support nor color can be drawn from it for the doctrine that the common law is binding on these States as one society. The doctrine, on the contrary, is evidently repugnant to the fundamental principle of the Revolution.

The Articles of Confederation are the next source of information on this subject.

In the interval between the commencement of the Revolution and the final ratification of these Articles, the nature and extent of the Union was determined by the circumstances of the crisis, rather than by any accurate delineation of the general authority. It will not be alleged that the “common law” could have had any legitimate birth as a law of the United States during that state of things. If it came as such into existence at all the Charter of Confederation must have been its parent.

Here again, however, its pretensions are absolutely destitute of foundation. This instrument does not contain a sentence or a syllable that can be tortured into a countenance of the idea that the parties to it were, with respect to the objects of the common law, to form one community. No such law is named, or implied, or alluded to, as being in force, or as brought into force by that compact. No provision is made by which such a law could be carried into operation; whilst, on the other hand, every such inference or pretext is absolutely precluded by Article II, which declares “that each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled.”

Thus far it appears that not a vestige of this extraordinary doctrine can be found in the origin or progress of American institutions. The evidence against it has, on the contrary, grown stronger at every step, till it has amounted to a formal and positive exclusion, by written articles of compact among the parties concerned.

Is this exclusion revoked, and the common law introduced as national law by the present Constitution of the United States? This is the final question to be examined.

It is readily admitted that particular parts of the common law may have a sanction from the Constitution, so far as they are necessarily comprehended in the technical phrases which the powers delegated to the Government; and so far also as such other parts may be adopted by Congress as necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers expressly delegated. But the question does not relate to either of these portions of the common law. It relates to the common law beyond these limitations.

The only part of the Constitution which seems to have been relied on in this case is the 2d section of Article III: “The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made or which shall be made under their authority.”

It has been asked, what cases, distinct from those arising under the laws and treaties of the United States, can arise under the Constitution, other than those arising under the common law? and it is inferred that the common law is accordingly adopted or recognized by the Constitution.

Never, perhaps, was so broad a construction applied to a text so clearly unsusceptible of it. If any color for the inference could be found, it must be in the impossibility of finding any other cases in law and equity, within the provisions of the Constitution, to satisfy the expression; and rather than resort to a construction affecting so essentially the whole character of the Government, it would perhaps be more rational to consider the expression as a mere pleonasm or inadvertence. But it is not necessary to decide on such a dilemma. The expression is fully satisfied and its accuracy justified by two descriptions of cases to which the judicial authority is extended, and neither of which implies that the common law is the law of the United States. One of these descriptions comprehends the case growing out of the restrictions on the legislative power of the States. For example, it is provided that ” no State shall emit bills of credit,” or “make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts.” Should this prohibition be violated, and a suit between citizens of the same State be the consequence, this would be a case arising under the Constitution before the judicial power of the United States. A second description comprehends suits between citizens and foreigners, of citizens of different States, to be decided according to the State or foreign laws, but submitted by the Constitution to the judicial power of the United States, the judicial power being in several instances extended beyond the legislative power of the United States.

To this explanation of the text the following observations may be added:

The expression “cases in law and equity” is manifestly confined to cases of a civil nature, and would exclude cases of criminal jurisdiction. Criminal cases in law and equity would be a language unknown to the law.

The succeeding paragraph of the same section is in harmony with this construction. It is in these words: “In all cases affecting ambassadors, or other public ministers, and consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases (including cases of law and equity arising under the Constitution) the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction both as to law and fact; with such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make.”

This paragraph, by expressly giving an appellate jurisdiction in cases of law and equity arising under the Constitution, to fact as well as to law, clearly excludes criminal cases where the trial by jury is secured, because the fact in such cases is not a subject of appeal. And, although the appeal is liable to such exceptions and regulations as Congress may adopt, yet it is not to be supposed that an exception of all criminal cases could be contemplated, as well because a discretion in Congress to make or omit the exception would be improper, as because it would have been unnecessary. The exception could as easily have been made by the Constitution itself, as referred to the Congress.

Once more: the amendment last added to the Constitution deserves attention as throwing light on this subject. “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign power.” As it will not be pretended that any criminal proceeding could take place against a State, the terms law or equity must be understood as appropriate to civil in exclusion of criminal cases.

From these considerations it is evident that this part of the Constitution, even if it could be applied at all to the purpose for which it has been cited, would not include any cases whatever of a criminal nature, and consequently would not authorize the inference from it that the judicial authority extends to offences against the common law as offences arising under the Constitution.

It is further to be considered that, even if this part of the Constitution could be strained into an application to every common-law case, criminal as well as civil, it could have no effect in justifying the Sedition Act; which is an exercise of legislative and not of judicial power: and it is the judicial power only of which the extent is defined in this part of the Constitution.

There are two passages in the Constitution in which a description of the law of the United States is found. The first is contained in Article III, Sections, in the words following: “This Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made or which shall be made under their authority.” The second is contained in the second paragraph of Article VI, as follows: “This Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” The first of these descriptions was meant as a guide to the judges of the United States; the second, as a guide to the judges of the several States. Both of them consist of an enumeration which was evidently meant to be precise and complete. If the common law had been understood to be a law of the United States, it is not possible to assign a satisfactory reason why it was not expressed in the enumeration.

In aid of these objections the difficulties and confusion inseparable from a constructive introduction of the common law would afford powerful reasons against it.

Is it to be the common law with or without the British statutes?

If without the statutory amendments, the vices of the code would be insupportable.

If with these amendments, what period is to be fixed for limiting the British authority over our laws?

Is it to be the date of the eldest or the youngest of the Colonies?

Or are the dates to be thrown together and a medium deduced?

Or is our independence to be taken for the date?

Is, again, regard to be had to the various changes in the common law made by the local codes of America?

Is regard to be had to such changes, subsequent as well as prior to the establishment of the Constitution?

Is regard to be had to future as well as to past changes?

Is the law to be different in every State as differently modified by its code, or are the modifications of any particular State to be applied to all?

And, on the latter supposition, which, among the State codes would form the standard?

Questions of this sort might be multiplied with as much ease as there would be difficulty in answering them.

The consequences flowing from the proposed construction furnish other objections equally conclusive, unless the text were peremptory in its meaning and consistent with other parts of the instrument.

These consequences may be in relation to the legislative authority of the United States; to the executive authority; to the judicial authority; and to the governments of the several States.

If it be understood that the common law is established by the Constitution, it follows that no part of the law can be altered by the Legislature; such of the statutes already passed as may be repugnant thereto would be nullified, particularly the Sedition Act itself, which boasts of being a melioration of the common law; and the whole code, with all its incongruities, barbarisms, and bloody maxims, would be inviolably saddled on the good people of the United States.

Should this consequence be rejected and the common law be held, like other laws, liable to revision and alteration by the authority of Congress, it then follows that the authority of Congress is co-extensive with the objects of common law— that is to say, with every object of legislation; for to every such object does some branch or other of the common law extend. The authority of Congress would therefore be no longer under the limitations marked out in the Constitution. They would be authorized to legislate in all cases whatsoever.

In the next place, as the President possesses the executive powers of the Constitution, and is to see that the laws be faithfully executed, his authority also must be co-extensive with every branch of the common law. The additions which this would make to his power, though not readily to be estimated, claim the most serious attention.

This is not all; it will merit the most profound consideration, how far an indefinite admission of the common law, with a latitude in construing it, equal to the construction by which it is deduced from the Constitution, might draw after it the various prerogatives making part of the unwritten law of England. The English Constitution itself is nothing more than a composition of unwritten laws and maxims.

In the third place, whether the common law be admitted as of legal or of constitutional obligation, it would confer on the judicial department a discretion little short of a legislative power.

On the supposition of its having a constitutional obligation, this power in the judges would be permanent and irremediable by the Legislature. On the other supposition the power would not expire until the Legislature should have introduced a full system of statutory provisions. Let it be observed, too, that besides all the uncertainties above enumerated, and which present an immense field for judicial discretion, it would remain with the same department to decide what parts of the common law would, and what would not, be properly applicable to the circumstances of the United States.

A discretion of this sort has always been lamented as incongruous and dangerous, even in the Colonial and State courts, although so much narrowed by positive provisions in the local codes on all the principal subjects embraced by the common law. Under the United States, where so few laws exist on those subjects, and where so great a lapse of time must happen before the vast chasm could be supplied, it is manifest that the power of the judges over the law would, in fact, erect them into legislators, and that for a long time it would be impossible for the citizens to conjecture, either what was or would be law.

In the last place, the consequence of admitting the common law as the law of the United States, on the authority of the individual States, is as obvious as it would be fatal. As this law relates to every subject of legislation, and would be paramount to the Constitutions and laws of the States, the admission of it would overwhelm the residuary sovereignty of the States, and by one constructive operation new model the whole political fabric of the country.

From the review thus taken of the situation of the American colonies prior to their independence; of the effect of this event on their situation; of the nature and import of the Articles of Confederation; of the true meaning of the passage in the existing Constitution from which the common law has been deduced; of the difficulties and uncertainties incident to the doctrine; and of its vast consequences in extending the powers of the Federal Government, and in supers eding the authorities of the State governments—the committee feel the utmost confidence in concluding that the common law never was, nor by any fair construction ever can be, deemed a law for the American people as one community; and they indulge the strongest expectation that the same conclusion will finally be drawn by all candid and accurate inquirers into the subject. It is, indeed, distressing to reflect that it ever should have been made a question, whether the Constitution, on the whole face of which is seen so much labor to enumerate and define the several objects of Federal power, could intend to introduce in the lump, in an indirect manner, and by a forced construction of a few phrases, the vast and multifarious jurisdiction involved in the common law—a law filling so many ample volumes; a law overspreading the entire field of legislation; and a law that would sap the foundation of the Constitution as a system of limited and specified powers. A severer reproach could not, in the opinion of the committee, be thrown on the Constitution, on those who framed or on those who established it, than such a supposition would throw on them.

The argument, then, drawn from the common law, on the ground of its being adopted or recognized by the Constitution, being inapplicable to the Sedition Act, the committee will proceed to examine the other arguments which have been founded on the Constitution.

They will waste but little time on the attempt to cover the act by the preamble to the Constitution, it being contrary to every acknowledged rule of construction to set up this part of an instrument in opposition to the plain meaning expressed in the body of the instrument. A preamble usually contains the general mot1ves or reasons for the particular regulations or measures which follow it, and is always understood to be explained and limited by them. In the present instance, a contrary interpretation would have the inadmissible effect of rendering nugatory or improper every part of the Constitution which succeeds the preamble.

The paragraph in Article I, Section 8, which contains the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare, having been already examined, will also require no particular attention in this place. It will have been seen that, in its fair and consistent meaning, it cannot enlarge the enumerated powers vested in Congress.

The part of the Constitution which seems most to be recurred to, in the defense of the Sedition Act, is the last clause of the above section, empowering Congress “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.”

The plain import of this clause is, that Congress shall have all the incidental or instrumental powers necessary and proper for carrying into execution all the express powers, whether they be vested in the Government of the United States, more collectively, or in the several departments or officers thereof.

It is not a grant of new powers to Congress, but merely a declaration, for the removal of all uncertainty, that the means of carrying into execution those otherwise granted are included in the grant.

Whenever, therefore, a question arises concerning the constitutionality of a particular power, the first question is, whether the power be expressed in the Constitution. If it be, the question is decided. If it be not expressed, the next inquiry must be, whether it is properly an incident to an express power, and necessary to its execution. If it be, it may be exercised by Congress. If it be not, Congress cannot exercise it.

Let the question be asked, then, whether the power over the press exercised in the Sedition Act be found among the powers expressly vested in the Congress. This is not pretended.

Is there any express power, for executing which it is a necessary and proper power?

The power which has been selected, as least remote, in answer to this question, is that “of suppressing insurrections”; which is said to imply a power to prevent insurrections, by punishing whatever may lead or tend to them. But it surely cannot, with the least plausibility, be said, that the regulation of the press, and a punishment of libels, are exercises of a power to suppress insurrections. The most that could be said would be that the punishment of libels, if it had the tendency ascribed to it, might prevent the occasion of pass1ng or executing laws necessary and proper for the suppression of insurrections.

Has the Federal Government no power, then, to prevent as well as to punish resistance to the laws?

They have the power, which the Constitution deemed most proper, in their hands for the purpose. The Congress has power, before it happens, to pass laws for punishing it; and the executive and judiciary have power to enforce those laws when it does happen.

It must be recollected by many, and could be shown to the satisfaction of all, that the construction here put on the terms “necessary and proper” is precisely the construction which prevailed during the discussions and ratifications of the Constitution. It may be added, and cannot too often be repeated, that it is a construction absolutely necessary to maintain their consistency with the peculiar character of the Government, as possessed of particular and definite powers only, not of the general and indefinite powers vested in ordinary Governments; for if the power to suppress insurrections 1ncludes a power to punish libels, or if the power to punish includes a power to prevent, by all the means that may have that tendency, such is the relation and influence among the most remote subjects of leg1slation, that a power over a very few would carry with it a power over all. And it must be wholly immaterial whether unlimited powers be exercised under the name of unlimited powers, or be exercised under the name of unlimited means of carrying into execution limited powers.

This branch of the subject will be closed with a reflection which must have weight with all, but more especially with those who place peculiar reliance on the judicial exposition of the Constitution as the bulwark provided against undue extensions of the legislative power. If it be understood that the powers implied in the specified powers have an immediate and appropriate relation to them, as means necessary and proper for carrying them into execution, questions on the constitutionality of laws passed for this purpose will be of a nature sufficiently precise and determinate for judicial cognizance and control. If, on the other hand, Congress are not limited in the choice of means by any such appropriate relation of them to the specified powers; but may employ all such means as they may deem fitted to prevent as well as to punish crimes subjected to their authority; such as may have a tendency only to promote an object for which they are authorized to provide; every one must perceive that questions relating to means of this sort must be questions for mere policy and expediency, on which legislative discretion alone can decide, and from which the judicial interposition and control are completely excluded.

2. The next point which the resolution requires to be proved is, that the power over the press exercised by the Sedition Act is positively forbidden by one of the amendments to the Constitution.

The amendment stands in these words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In the attempts to vindicate the Sedition Act it has been contended—1. That the “freedom of the press” is to be determined by the meaning of these terms in the common law. 3. That the article supposes the power over the press to be in Congress, and prohibits them only from abridging the freedom allowed to it by the common law.

Although it will be shown, on examining the second of these positions, that the amendment is a denial to Congress of all power over the press, it may not be useless to make the following observations on the first of them:

It is deemed to be a sound opinion that the Sedition Act, in its definition of some of the crimes created, is an abridgment of the freedom of publication, recognized by principles of the common law in England.

The freedom of the press under the common law is, in the defenses of the Sedition Act, made to consist in an exemption from all previous restraint on printed publications by persons authorized to inspect and prohibit them. It appears to the committee that this idea of the freedom of the press can never be admitted to be the American idea of it; since a law inflicting penalties on printed publications would have a similar effect with a law authorizing a previous restraint on them. It would seem a mockery to say that no laws should be passed preventing publications from being made, but that laws might be passed for punishing them in case they should be made.

The essential difference between the British Government and the American Constitutions will place this subject in the clearest light.

In the British Government the danger of encroachments on the rights of the people is understood to be confined to the executive magistrate. The representatives of the people in the Legislature are not only exempt themselves from distrust, but are considered as sufficient guardians of the rights of their constituents against the danger from the Executive. Hence it is a principle, that the Parliament is unlimited in its power; or, in their own language, is omnipotent. Hence, too, all the ramparts for protecting the rights of the people—such as their Magna Charta, their Bill of Rights, &c.—are not reared against the Parliament, but against the royal prerogative. They are merely legislative precautions against executive usurpations. Under such a government as this, an exemption of the press from previous restraint, by licensers appointed by the King, is all the freedom that can be secured to it.

In the United States the case is altogether different. The People, not the Government, possess the absolute sovereignty. The Legislature, no less than the Executive, is under limitations of power. Encroachments are regarded as possible from the one as well as from the other. Hence, in the United States the great and essential rights of the people are secured against legislative as well as against executive ambition. They are secured, not by laws paramount to prerogative, but by constitutions paramount to laws. This security of the freedom of the press requires that it should be exempt not only from previous restraint by the Executive, as in Great Britain, but from legislative restraint also; and this exemption, to be effectual, must be an exemption not only from the previous inspection of licensers, but from the subsequent penalty of laws.

The state of the press, therefore, under the common law, cannot, in this point of view, be the standard of its freedom in the United States.

But there is another view under which it may be necessary to consider this subject. It may be alleged that although the security for the freedom of the press be different in Great Britain and in this country, being a legal security only in the former, and a constitutional security in the latter; and although there may be a further difference, in an extension of the freedom of the press, here, beyond an exemption from previous restraint, to an exemption from subsequent penalties also; yet that the actual legal freedom of the press, under the common law, must determine the degree of freedom which is meant by the terms, and which is constitutionally secured against both previous and subsequent restraints.

The committee is not unaware of the difficulty of all general questions which may turn on the proper boundary between the liberty and licentiousness of the press. They will leave it, therefore, for consideration only how far the difference between the nature of the British Government and the nature of the American Governments, and the practice under the latter may show the degree of rigor in the former to be inapplicable to and not obligatory in the latter.

The nature of governments elective, limited, and responsible in all their branches, may well be supposed to require a greater freedom of animadversion than might be tolerated by the genius of such a government as that of Great Britain. In the latter it is a maxim that the King, an hereditary, not a responsible magistrate, can do no wrong, and that the Legislature, which in two-thirds of its composition is also hereditary, not responsible, can do what it pleases. In the United States the executive magistrates are not held to be infallible, nor the Legislatures to be omnipotent; and both being elective, are both responsible. Is it not natural and necessary, under such different circumstances, that a different degree of freedom in the use of the press should be contemplated?

Is not such an inference favored by what is observable in Great Britain itself? Notwithstanding the general doctrine of the common law on the subject of the press, and the occasional punishment of those who use it with a freedom offensive to the Government, it is well known that with respect to the responsible members of the Government, where the reasons operating here become applicable there, the freedom exercised by the press and protected by public opinion far exceeds the limits prescribed by the ordinary rules of law. The ministry, who are responsible to impeachment, are at all times animadverted on by the press with peculiar freedom, and during the elections for the House of Commons, the other responsible part of the Government, the press is employed with as little reserve towards the candidates.

The practice in America must be entitled to much more respect. In every State, probably, in the Union, the press has exerted a freedom in canvassing the merits and measures of public men of every description which has not been confined to the strict limits of the common law. On this footing the freedom of the press has stood; on this footing it yet stands. And it will not be a breach either of truth or of candor to say, that no persons or presses are in the habit of more unrestrained animadversions on the proceedings and functionaries of the State governments than the persons and presses most zealous in vindicating the act of Congress for punishing similar animadversions on the Government of the United States.

The last remark will not be understood as claiming for the State governments an immunity greater than they have heretofore enjoyed. Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth, than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness? Had “Sedition Acts,” forbidding every publication that might bring the constituted agents into contempt or disrepute, or that might excite the hatred of the people against the authors of unjust or pernicious measures, been uniformly enforced against the press, might not the United States have been languishing at this day under the infirmities of a sickly Confederation? Might they not, possibly, be miserable colonies, groaning under a foreign yoke?

To these observations one fact will be added, which demonstrates that the common law cannot be admitted as the universal expositor of American terms, which may be the same with those contained in that law. The freedom of conscience and of religion are found in the same instruments which assert the freedom of the press. It will never be admitted that the meaning of the former, in the common law of England, is to limit their meaning in the United States.

Whatever weight may be allowed to these considerations, the committee do not, however, by any means intend to rest the question on them. They contend that the article of amendment, instead of suppos1ng in Congress a power that might be exercised over the press, provided its freedom was not abridged, was meant as a positive denial to Congress of any power whatever on the subject.

To demonstrate that this was the true object of the article, it will be sufficient to recall the circumstances which led to it, and to refer to the explanation accompanying the article.

When the Constitution was under the discussions which preceded its ratification, it is well known that great apprehensions were expressed by many, lest the omission of some positive exception, from the powers delegated, of certain rights, and of the freedom of the press particularly, might expose them to the danger of being drawn, by construction, within some of the powers vested in Congress, more especially of the power to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying their other powers into execution. In reply to this objection, it was invariably urged to be a fundamental and characteristic principle of the Constitution, that all powers not given by it were reserved; that no powers were given beyond those enumerated in the Constitution, and such as were fairly incident to them: that the power over the rights in question, and particularly over the press, was neither among the enumerated powers, nor incident to any of them; and consequently that an exercise of any such power would be manifest usurpation. It is painful to remark how much the arguments now employed in behalf of the Sedition Act are at variance with the reasoning which then justified the Constitution, and invited its ratification.

From this posture of the subject resulted the interesting question, in so many of the Conventions, whether the doubts and dangers ascribed to the Constitution should be removed by any amendments previous to the ratification, or be postponed in confidence that, as far as they might be proper, they would be introduced in the form provided by the Constitution. The latter course was adopted; and in most of the States, ratifications were followed by propositions and instructions for rendering the Constitution more explicit, and more safe to the rights not meant to be delegated by it. Among those rights, the freedom of the press, in most instances, is particularly and emphatically mentioned. The firm and very pointed manner in which it is asserted in the proceedings of the Convention of this State will be hereafter seen.

In pursuance of the wishes thus expressed, the first Congress that assembled under the Constitution proposed certain amendments, which have since, by the necessary ratifications, been made a part of it; among which amendments is the article containing, among other prohibitions on the Congress, an express declaration that they should make no law abridging the freedom of the press.

Without tracing farther the evidence on this subject, it would seem scarcely possible to doubt that no power whatever over the press was supposed to be delegated by the Constitution, as it originally stood, and that the amendment was intended as a positive and absolute reservation of it.

But the evidence is still stronger. The proposition of amendments made by Congress is introduced in the following terms:

“The Conventions of a number of the States having, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstructions or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added; and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

Here is the most satisfactory and authentic proof that the several amendments proposed were to be considered as either declaratory or restrictive, and, whether the one or the other as corresponding with the desire expressed by a number of the States, and as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government.

Under any other construction of the amendment relating to the press, than that it declared the press to be wholly exempt from the power of Congress, the amendment could neither be said to correspond with the desire expressed by a number of the States, nor be calculated to extend the ground of public confidence in the Government.

Nay, more; the construction employed to justify the Sedition Act would exhibit a phenomenon without a parallel in the political world. It would exhibit a number of respectable States, as denying, first, that any power over the press was delegated by the Constitution; as proposing, next, that an amendment to it should explicitly declare that no such power was delegated; and, finally, as concurring in an amendment actually recognizing or delegating such a power.

Is, then, the Federal Government, it will be asked, destitute of every authority for restraining the licentiousness of the press, and for shielding itself against the libelous attacks which may be made on those who administer it?

The Constitution alone can answer this question. If no such power be expressly delegated, and if it be not both necessary and proper to carry into execution an express power— above all, if it be expressly forbidden, by a declaratory amendment to the Constitution—the answer must be, that the Federal Government is destitute of all such authority.

And might it not be asked, in turn, whether it is not more probable, under all the circumstances which have been reviewed, that the authority should be withheld by the Constitution, than that it should be left to a vague and violent construction, whilst so much pains were bestowed in enumerating other powers, and so many less important powers are included in the enumeration?

Might it not be likewise asked, whether the anxious circumspection which dictated so many peculiar limitations on the general authority would be unlikely to exempt the press altogether from that authority? The peculiar magnitude of some of the powers necessarily committed to the Federal Government; the peculiar duration required for the functions of some of its departments; the peculiar distance of the seat of its proceedings from the great body of its constituents; and the peculiar difficulty of circulating an adequate knowledge of them through any other channel; will not these considerations, some or other of which produced other exceptions from the powers of ordinary governments, all together, account for the policy of binding the hand of the Federal Government from touching the channel which alone can give efficacy to its responsibility to its constituents, and of leaving those who administer it to a remedy, for their injured reputations, under the same laws, and in the same tribunals, which protect their lives, their liberties, and their properties?

But the question does not turn either on the wisdom of the Constitution or on the policy which gave rise to its particular organization. It turns on the actual meaning of the instrument, by which it has appeared that a power over the press is clearly excluded from the number of powers delegated to the Federal Government.

3. And, in the opinion of the committee, well may it be said, as the resolution concludes with saying, that the unconstitutional power exercised over the press by the Sedition Act ought, “more than any other, to produce universal alarm; because it is leveled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed the only effectual guardian of every other right.”

Without scrutinizing minutely into all the provisions of the Sedition Act, it will be sufficient to cite so much of section 2d as follows: “And be it further enacted, that if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings against the Government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with an intent to defame the said Government or either house of the said Congress, or the President, or to bring them or either of them into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, &c.—then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.”

On this part of the act, the following observations present themselves:

  1.  The Constitution supposes that the President, the Congress, and each of its Houses, may not discharge their trusts, either from defect of judgment or other causes. Hence they are all made responsible to their constituents, at the returning periods of election; and the President, who is singly entrusted with very great powers, is, as a further guard, subjected to an intermediate impeachment.
  2.  Should it happen, as the Constitution supposes it may happen, that either of these branches of the Government may not have duly discharged its trust; it is natural and proper, that, according to the cause and degree of their faults, they should be brought into contempt or disrepute, and incur the hatred of the people.
  3.  Whether it has, in any case, happened that the proceedings of either or all of those branches evince such a violation of duty as to justify a contempt, a disrepute, or hatred among the people, can only be determined by a free examination thereof, and a free communication among the people thereon.
  4.  Whenever it may have actually happened that proceedings of this sort are chargeable on all or either of the branches of the Government, it is the duty, as well as right, of intelligent and faithful citizens to discuss and promulgate them freely, as well to control them by the censorship of the public opinion, as to promote a remedy according to the rules of the Constitution. And it cannot be avoided that those who are to apply the remedy must feel, in some degree, a contempt or hatred against the transgressing party.
  5.  As the act was passed on July 14, 1798, and is to be in force until March 3, 1801, it was of course that, during its continuance, two elections of the entire House of Representatives, an election of a part of the Senate, and an election of a President, were to take place.
  6.  That, consequently, during all these elections, intended by the Constitution to preserve the purity or to purge the faults of the Administration, the great remedial rights of the people were to be exercised, and the responsibility of their public agents to be screened, under the penalties of this act.

May it not be asked of every intelligent friend to the liberties of his country, whether the power exercised in such an act as this ought not to produce great and universal alarm? Whether a rigid execution of such an act, in time past, would not have repressed that information and communication among the people which is indispensable to the just exercise of their electoral rights? And whether such an act, if made perpetual, and enforced with rigor, would not, in time to come, either destroy our free system of government, or prepare a convulsion that might prove equally fatal to it?

In answer to such questions, it has been pleaded that the writings and publications forbidden by the act are those only which are false and malicious, and intended to defame; and merit is claimed for the privilege allowed to authors to justify, by proving the truth of their publications, and for the limitations to which the sentence of fine and imprisonment is subjected.

To those who concurred in the act, under the extraordinary belief that the option lay between the passing of such an act and leaving in force the common law of libels, which punishes truth equally with falsehood, and submits the fine and imprisonment to the indefinite discretion of the court, the merit of good intentions ought surely not to be refused. A like merit may perhaps be due for the discontinuance of the corporal punishment, which the common law also leaves to the discretion of the court. This merit of intention, however, would have been greater, if the several mitigations had not been limited to so short a period; and the apparent inconsistency would have been avoided, between justifying the act, at one time, by contrasting it with the rigors of the common law otherwise in force; and at another time, by appealing to the nature of the crisis, as requiring the temporary rigor exerted by the act.

But, whatever may have been the meritorious intentions of all or any who contributed to the Sedition Act, a very few reflections will prove that its baleful tendency is little diminished by the privilege of giving in evidence the truth of the matter contained in political writings.

In the first place, where simple and naked facts alone are in question, there is sufficient difficulty in some cases, and sufficient trouble and vexation in all, of meeting a prosecution from the Government with the full and formal proof necessary in a court of law.

But in the next place, it must be obvious to the plainest minds, that opinions and inferences, and conjectural observations, are not only in many cases inseparable from the facts, but may often be more the objects of the prosecution than the facts themselves; or may even be altogether abstracted from particular facts; and that opinions, and inferences, and conjectural observations, cannot be subjects of that kind of proof which appertains to facts, before a court of law.

Again: it is no less obvious that the intent to defame, or bring into contempt, or disrepute, or hatred—which is made a condition of the offence created by the act—cannot prevent its pernicious influence on the freedom of the press. For, omitting the inquiry, how far the malice of the intent is an inference of the law from the mere publication, it is manifestly impossible to punish the intent to bring those who administer the Government into disrepute or contempt, without striking at the right of freely discussing public characters and measures; because those who engage in such discussions must expect and intend to excite these unfavorable sentiments, so far as they may be thought to be deserved. To prohibit, therefore, the intent to excite those unfavorable sentiments against those who administer the Government, is equivalent to a prohibition of the actual excitement of them; and to prohibit the actual excitement of them is equivalent to a prohibition of discussions having that tendency and effect; which, again, is equivalent to a protection of those who administer the Government, if they should at any time deserve the contempt or hatred of the people, against being exposed to it by free animadversions on their characters and conduct. Nor can there be a doubt, if those in public trust be shielded by penal laws from such strictures of the press as may expose them to contempt, or disrepute or hatred, where they may deserve it, that, in exact proportion as they may deserve to be exposed, will be the certainty and criminality of the intent to expose them, and the vigilance of prosecuting and punishing it; nor a doubt that a government thus entrenched in penal statutes against the just and natural effects of a culpable administration will easily evade the responsibility which is essential to a faithful discharge of its duty.

Let it be recollected, lastly, that the right of electing the members of the Government constitutes more particularly the essence of a free and responsible government. The value and efficacy of this right depends on the knowledge of the comparative merits and demerits of the candidates for public trust, and on the equal freedom, consequently, of examining and discussing these merits and demerits of the candidates respectively. It has been seen that a number of important elections will take place while the act is in force, although it should not be continued beyond the term to which it is limited. Should there happen, then, as is extremely probable in relation to some or other of the branches of the Government, to be competitions between those who are and those who are not members of the Government, what will be the situations of the competitors? Not equal; because the characters of the former will be covered by the Sedition Act from animadversions exposing them to disrepute among the people, whilst

the latter may be exposed to the contempt and hatred of the people without a violation of the act. What will be the situation of the people? Not free; because they will be compelled to make their election between competitors whose pretensions they are not permitted by the act equally to examine, to discuss, and to ascertain. And from both these situations will not those in power derive an undue advantage for continuing themselves in it, which, by impairing the right of election, endangers the blessings of the Government founded on it?

It is with justice, therefore, that the General Assembly have affirmed, in the resolution, as well that the right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication thereon, is the only effectual guardian of every other right, as that this particular right is leveled at by the power exercised in the Sedition Act.

The Resolution next in order is as follows:

“That this State having, by its Convention, which ratified the Federal Constitution, expressly declared that, among other essential rights, ‘the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States;’ and, from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry and ambition, having, with other States, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency, and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.”

To place this Resolution in its just light, it will be necessary to recur to the act of ratification by Virginia, which stands in the ensuing form:

“We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared, as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon—Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression; and that every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will. That, therefore, no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and that, among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States.”

Here is an express and solemn declaration by the Convention of the State, that they ratified the Constitution in the sense that no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Government of the United States, or any part of it, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution; and in the sense, particularly, “that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and freedom of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of these United States.”

Words could not well express in a fuller or more forcible manner the understanding of the Convention, that the liberty of conscience and the freedom of the press were equally and completely exempted from all authority whatever of the United States.

Under an anxiety to guard more effectually these rights against every possible danger, the Convention, after ratifying the Constitution, proceeded to prefix to certain amendments proposed by them a declaration of rights, in which are two articles providing, the one for the liberty of conscience, the other for the freedom of speech and of the press.

Similar recommendations having proceeded from a number of other States, and Congress, as has been seen, having, in consequence thereof, and with a view to extend the ground of public confidence, proposed, among other declaratory and restrictive clauses, a clause expressly securing the liberty of conscience and of the press, and Virginia having concurred in the ratifications which made them a part of the Constitution, it will remain with a candid public to decide whether it would not mark an inconsistency and degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to a palpable violation of one of those rights— the freedom of the press; and to a precedent, therein, which may be fatal to the other—the free exercise of religion.

That the precedent established by the violation of the former of these rights may, as is affirmed by the resolution, be fatal to the latter, appears to be demonstrable by a comparison of the grounds on which they respectively rest, and from the scope of reasoning by which the power over the former has been vindicated.

  1. Both of these rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press, rest equally on the original ground of not being delegated by the Constitution, and, consequently, withheld from the Government. Any construction, therefore, that would attack this original security for the one must have the like effect on the other.
  2. They are both equally secured by the supplement to the Constitution, being both included in the same amendment, made at the same time, and by the same authority. Any construction or argument, then, which would turn the amendment into a grant or acknowledgment of power with respect to the press, might be equally applied to the freedom of religion.
  3. If it be admitted that the extent of the freedom of the press secured by the amendment is to be measured by the common law on this subject, the same authority may be resorted to for the standard which is to fix the extent of the “free exercise of religion.” It cannot be necessary to say what this standard would be; whether the common law be taken solely as the unwritten, or as varied by the written law of England.
  4. If the words and phrases in the amendment are to be considered as chosen with a studied discrimination, which yields an argument for a power over the press under the limitation that its freedom be not abridged, the same argument results from the same consideration for a power over the exercise of religion, under the limitation that its freedom be not prohibited.

For if Congress may regulate the freedom of the press, provided they do not abridge it, because it is said only “they shall not abridge it,” and is not said “they shall make no law respecting it, “the analogy of reasoning is conclusive that Congress may regulate and even abridge the free exercise of religion, provided they do not prohibit it; because it is said only “they shall not prohibit it,” and is not said “they shall make no law respecting, or no law abridging it.”

The General Assembly were governed by the clearest reason, then, in considering the Sedition Act, which legislates on the freedom of the press, as establishing a precedent that may be fatal to the liberty of conscience; and it will be the duty of all, in proportion as they value the security of the latter, to take the alarm at every encroachment on the former.

The two concluding resolutions only remain to be examined. They are in the words following:

“That the good people of this Commonwealth having ever felt, and continuing to feel, the most sincere affection for their brethren of the other States, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the Union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship and the instrument of mutual happiness, the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions in the other States, in confidence that they will concur with this Commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional; and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for co-operating with this State in maintaining, unimpaired, the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

“That the Governor be desired to transmit a copy of the foregoing resolutions to the executive authority of each of the other States, with a request that the same may be communicated to the Legislature thereof; and that a copy be furnished to each of the Senators and Representatives representing this State in the Congress of the United States.”

The fairness and regularity of the course of proceeding here pursued have not protected it against objections even from sources too respectable to be disregarded.

It has been said that it belongs to the judiciary of the United States, and not the State Legislatures, to declare the meaning of the Federal Constitution.

But a declaration that proceedings of the Federal Government are not warranted by the Constitution is a novelty neither among the citizens nor among the Legislatures of the States; nor are the citizens or the Legislature of Virginia singular in the example of it.

Nor can the declarations of either, whether affirming or denying the constitutionality of measures of the Federal Government, or whether made before or after judicial decisions thereon, be deemed, in any point of view, an assumption of the office of the judge. The declarations in such cases are expressions of opinion, unaccompanied with any other effect than what they may produce on opinion by exciting reflection. The expositions of the judiciary, on the other hand, are carried into immediate effect by force. The former may lead to a change in the legislative expression of the general will—possibly, to a change in the opinion of the judiciary; the latter enforces the general will, whilst that will and that opinion continue unchanged.

And if there be no impropriety in declaring the unconstitutionality of proceedings in the Federal Government, where can be the impropriety of communicating the declaration to other States, and inviting their concurrence in a like declaration? What is allowable for one must be allowable for all; and a free communication among the States, where the Constitution imposes no restraint, is as allowable among the State governments as among other public bodies or private citizens. This consideration derives a weight that cannot be denied to it, from the relation of the State Legislatures to the Federal Legislature as the immediate constituents of one of its branches.

The Legislatures of the States have a right also to originate amendments to the Constitution, by a concurrence of two thirds of the whole number, in applications to Congress for the purpose. When new States are to be formed by a junction of two or more States, or parts of States, the Legislatures of the States concerned are, as well as Congress, to concur in the measure. The States have a right also to enter into agreements or compacts, with the consent of Congress. In all such cases a communication among them results from the object which is common to them.

It is, lastly, to be seen whether the confidence expressed by the resolution, that the necessary and proper measures would be taken by the other States for co-operating with Virginia in maintaining the rights reserved to the States or to the people, be in any degree liable to the objections which have been raised against it.

If it be liable to objection it must be because either the object or the means are objectionable.

The object being to maintain what the Constitution has ordained, is in itself a laudable object.

The means are expressed in the terms “the necessary and proper measures.” A proper object was to be pursued by means both necessary and proper.

To find an objection, then, it must be shown that some meaning was annexed to these general terms which was not proper; and for this purpose either that the means used by the General Assembly were an example of improper means, or that there were no proper means to which the terms could refer.

In the example given by the State of declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts to be unconstitutional, and of communicating the declaration to other States, no trace of improper means has appeared. And if the other States had concurred in making a like declaration, supported, too, by the numerous applications flowing immediately from the people, it can scarcely be doubted that these simple means would have been as sufficient as they are unexceptionable.

It is no less certain, that other means might have been employed which are strictly within the limits of the Constitution. The Legislatures of the States might have made a direct representation to Congress with a view to obtain a rescinding of the two offensive acts; or they might have represented to their respective Senators in Congress their wish that two-thirds thereof would propose an explanatory amendment to the Constitution; or two-thirds of themselves, if such had been their option, might, by an application to Congress, have obtained a Convention for the same object.

These several means, though not equally eligible in themselves, nor, probably, to the States, were all constitutionally open for consideration. And if the General Assembly, after declaring the two acts to be unconstitutional, the first and most obvious proceeding on the subject, did not undertake to point out to the other States a choice among the farther measures that might become necessary and proper, the reserve will not be misconstrued by liberal minds into any culpable imputation.

These observations appear to form a satisfactory reply to every objection which is not founded on a misconception of the terms employed in the resolutions. There is one other, however, which may be of too much importance not to be added. It cannot be forgotten, that among the arguments addressed to those who apprehend danger to liberty from the establishment of the General Government over so great a country, the appeal was emphatically made to the intermediate existence of the State governments, between the people and that Government; to the vigilance with which they would descry the first symptoms of usurpation; and to the promptitude with which they would sound the alarm to the public. This argument was probably not without its effect; and if it was a proper one then to recommend the establishment of the Constitution, it must be a proper one now to assist in its interpretation.

The only part of the two concluding resolutions that remains to be noticed is, the repetition, in the first, of that warm affection to the Union and its members, and of that scrupulous fidelity to the Constitution, which have been invariably felt by the people of this State. As the proceedings were introduced with these sentiments, they could not be more properly closed than in the same manner. Should there be any so far misled as to call in question the sincerity of these professions, whatever regret may be excited by the error, the General Assembly cannot descend into a discussion of it. Those who have listened to the suggestion can only be left to their own recollection of the part which this State has borne in the establishment of our National Independence, in the establishment of our National Constitution, and in maintaining under it the authority and laws of the Union, without a single exception of internal resistance or commotion. By recurring to these facts they will be able to convince themselves that the Representatives of the people of Virginia must be above the necessity of opposing any other shield to attacks on their national patriotism than their own conscientiousness and the justice of an enlightened public, who will perceive in the resolutions themselves the strongest evidence of attachment both to the Constitution and to the Union, since it is only by maintaining the different governments and departments within their respective limits that the blessings of either can be perpetuated.

The extensive view of the subject thus taken by the committee has led them to report to the House, as the result of the whole, the following Resolution:

Resolved, That the General Assembly having carefully and respectfully attended to the proceedings of a number of the States, in answer to their resolutions of December 21, 1798, and having accurately and fully re-examined and reconsidered the latter, find it to be their indispensable duty to adhere to the same, as founded in truth, as consonant with the Constitution, and as conducive to its preservation; and more especially to be their duty to renew, as they do hereby renew, their protest against “the Alien and Sedition Acts,” as palpable and alarming infractions of the Constitution.

Source: The Writings of James Madison: 1790-1802 by James Madison

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James Madison Encroaches upon Our Liberties by Government

James Madison Quote General Welfare

James Madison Regarding the General Welfare Clause (Click to enlarge)

ADDRESS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA.

Fellow-citizens,— Unwilling to shrink from our representative responsibility, conscious of the purity of our motives, but acknowledging your right to supervise our conduct, we invite your serious attention to the emergency which dictated the subjoined resolutions. Whilst we disdain to alarm you by ill-founded jealousies, we recommend an investigation, guided by the coolness of wisdom, and a decision bottomed on firmness but tempered with moderation.

It would be perfidious in those entrusted with the guardianship of the State sovereignty, and acting under the solemn obligation of the following oath, “I do swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States,” not to warn you of encroachments which, though clothed with the pretext of necessity, or disguised by arguments of expediency, may yet establish precedents which may ultimately devote a generous and unsuspicious people to all the consequences of usurped power.

Encroachments springing from a government whose organization cannot be maintained without the co-operation of the States, furnish the strongest excitements upon the State Legislatures to watchfulness, and impose upon them the strongest obligation to preserve unimpaired the line of partition.

James Madison State Rights vs Federal Government

James Madison regarding State Rights vs Federal Government (Click to enlarge)

The acquiescence of the States under infractions of the federal compact, would either beget a speedy consolidation, by precipitating the State governments into impotency and contempt; or prepare the way for a revolution, by a repetition of these infractions, until the people are roused to appear in the majesty of their strength. It is to avoid these calamities that we exhibit to the people the momentous question, whether the Constitution of the United States shall yield to a construction which defies every restraint and overwhelms the best hopes of republicanism.

Exhortations to disregard domestic usurpation, until foreign danger shall have passed, is an artifice which may be forever used; because the possessors of power, who are the advocates for its extension, can ever create national embarrassments, to be successively employed to soothe the people into sleep, whilst that power is swelling, silently, secretly, and fatally. Of the same character are insinuations of a foreign influence, which seize upon a laudable enthusiasm against danger from abroad, and distort it by an unnatural application, so as to blind your eyes against danger at home.

The sedition act presents a scene which was never expected by the early friends of the Constitution. It was then admitted that the State sovereignties were only diminished by powers specifically enumerated, or necessary to carry the specified powers into effect. Now, Federal authority is deduced from implication; and from the existence of State law, it is inferred that Congress possess a similar power of legislation; whence Congress will be endowed with a power of legislation in all cases whatsoever, and the States will be stripped of every right reserved, by the concurrent claims of a paramount Legislature.

The sedition act is the offspring of these tremendous pretensions, which inflict a death-wound on the sovereignty of the States.

For the honor of American understanding, we will not believe that the people have been allured into the adoption of the Constitution by an affectation of defining powers, whilst the Preamble would admit a construction which would erect the will of Congress into a power paramount in all cases, and therefore limited in none. On the contrary, it is evident that the objects for which the Constitution was formed were deemed attainable only by a particular enumeration and specification of each power granted to the Federal Government; reserving all others to the people, or to the States. And yet it is in vain we search for any specified power embracing the right of legislation against the freedom of the press.

Had the States been despoiled of their sovereignty by the generality of the preamble, and had the Federal Government been endowed with whatever they should judge to be instrumental towards union, justice, tranquility, common defense, general welfare, and the preservation of liberty, nothing could have been more frivolous than an enumeration of powers.

It is vicious in the extreme to calumniate meritorious public servants; but it is both artful and vicious to arouse the public indignation against calumny in order to conceal usurpation. Calumny is forbidden by the laws, usurpation by the Constitution. Calumny injures individuals, usurpation, States. Calumny may be redressed by the common judicatures; usurpation can only be controlled by the act of society. Ought usurpation, which is most mischievous, to be rendered less hateful by calumny, which, though injurious, is in a degree less pernicious? But the laws for the correction of calumny were not defective. Every libelous writing or expression might receive its punishment in the State courts, from juries summoned by an officer, who does not receive his appointment from the President, and is under no influence to court the pleasure of Government, whether it injured public officers or private citizens. Nor is there any distinction in the Constitution empowering Congress exclusively to punish calumny directed against an officer of the General Government; so that a construction assuming the power of protecting the reputation of a citizen officer will extend to the case of any other citizen, and open to Congress a right of legislation in every conceivable case which can arise between individuals.

In answer to this, it is urged that every Government possesses an inherent power of self-preservation, entitling it to do whatever it shall judge necessary for that purpose.

This is a repetition of the doctrine of implication and expediency in different language, and admits of a similar and decisive answer, namely, that as the powers of Congress are defined, powers inherent, implied, or expedient, are obviously the creatures of ambition; because the care expended in defining powers would otherwise have been superfluous. Powers extracted from such sources will be indefinitely multiplied by the aid of armies and patronage, which, with the impossibility of controlling them by any demarcation, would presently terminate reasoning, and ultimately swallow up the State sovereignties.

So insatiable is a love of power that it has resorted to a distinction between the freedom and licentiousness of the press for the purpose of converting the third amendment of the Constitution, which was dictated by the most lively anxiety to preserve that freedom, into an instrument for abridging it. Thus usurpation even justifies itself by a precaution against usurpation; and thus an amendment universally designed to quiet every fear is adduced as the source of an act which has produced general terror and alarm.

The distinction between liberty and licentiousness is still a repetition of the Protean doctrine of implication, which is ever ready to work its ends by varying its shape. By its help, the judge as to what is licentious may escape through any constitutional restriction. Under it men of a particular religious opinion might be excluded from office, because such exclusion would not amount to an establishment of religion, and because it might be said that their opinions are licentious. And under it Congress might denominate a religion to be heretical and licentious, and proceed to its suppression. Remember that precedents once established are so much positive power; and that the nation which reposes on the pillow of political confidence, will sooner or later end its political existence in a deadly lethargy. Remember, also, that it is to the press mankind are indebted for having dispelled the clouds which long encompassed religion, for disclosing her genuine luster, and disseminating her salutary doctrines.

The sophistry of a distinction between the liberty and the licentiousness of the press is so forcibly exposed in a late memorial from our late envoys to the Minister of the French Republic, that we here present it to you in their own words:

“The genius of the Constitution, and the opinion of the people of the United States, cannot be overruled by those who administer the Government. Among those principles deemed sacred in America, among those sacred rights considered as forming the bulwark of their liberty, which the Government contemplates with awful reverence and would approach only with the most cautious circumspection, there is no one of which the importance is more deeply impressed on the public mind than the liberty of the press. That this liberty is often carried to excess; that it has sometimes degenerated into licentiousness, is seen and lamented, but the remedy has not yet been discovered. Perhaps it is an evil inseparable from the good with which it is allied; perhaps it is a shoot which cannot be stripped from the stalk without wounding vitally the plant from which it is torn. However desirable those measures might be which might correct without enslaving the press, they have never yet been devised in America. No regulations exist which enable the Government to suppress whatever calumnies or invectives any individual may choose to offer to the public eye, or to punish such calumnies and invectives otherwise than by a legal prosecution in courts which are alike open to all who consider themselves as injured.”

As if we were bound to look for security from the personal probity of Congress amidst the frailties of man, and not from the barriers of the Constitution, it has been urged that the accused under the sedition act is allowed to prove the truth of the charge. This argument will not for a moment disguise the unconstitutionality of the act, if it be recollected that opinions as well as facts are made punishable, and that the truth of an opinion is not susceptible of proof. By subjecting the truth of opinion to the regulation, fine, and imprisonment, to be inflicted by those who are of a different opinion, the free range of the human mind is injuriously restrained. The sacred obligations of religion flow from the due exercise of opinion, in the solemn discharge of which man is accountable to his God alone; yet, under this precedent the truth of religion itself may be ascertained, and its pretended licentiousness punished by a jury of a different creed from that held by the person accused. This law, then, commits the double sacrilege of arresting reason in her progress towards perfection, and of placing in a state of danger the free exercise of religious opinions. But where does the Constitution allow Congress to create crimes and inflict punishment, provided they allow the accused to exhibit evidence in his defense? This doctrine, united with the assertion, that sedition is a common law offence, and therefore within the correcting power of Congress, opens at once the hideous volumes of penal law, and turns loose upon us the utmost invention of insatiable malice and ambition, which, in all ages, have debauched morals, depressed liberty, shackled religion, supported despotism, and deluged the scaffold with blood.

All the preceding arguments, arising from a deficiency of constitutional power in Congress, apply to the alien act; and this act is liable to other objections peculiar to itself. If a suspicion that aliens are dangerous constitute the justification of that power exercised over them by Congress, then a. similar suspicion will justify the exercise of a similar power over natives; because there is nothing in the Constitution distinguishing between the power of a State to permit the residence of natives and of aliens. It is, therefore, a right originally possessed, and never surrendered, by the respective States, and which is rendered dear and valuable to Virginia, because it is assailed through the bosom of the Constitution, and because her peculiar situation renders the easy admission of artisans and laborers an interest of vast importance.

But this bill contains other features, still more alarming and dangerous. It dispenses with the trial by jury; it violates the judicial system; it confounds legislative, executive, and judicial powers; it punishes without trial; and it bestows upon the President despotic power over a numerous class of men. Are such measures consistent with our constitutional principles? And will an accumulation of power so extensive in the hands of the Executive, over aliens, secure to natives the blessings of republican liberty?

If measures can mold governments, and if an uncontrolled power of construction is surrendered to those who administer them, their progress may be easily foreseen, and their end easily foretold. A lover of monarchy, who opens the treasures of corruption by distributing emolument among devoted partisans, may at the same time be approaching his object and deluding the people with professions of republicanism. He may confound monarchy and republicanism, by the art of definition. He may varnish over the dexterity which ambition never fails to display, with the pliancy of language, the seduction of expediency, or the prejudices of the times; and he may come at length to avow that so extensive a territory as that of the United States can only be governed by the energies of monarchy; that it cannot be defended, except by standing armies; and that it cannot be united except by consolidation.

Measures have already been adopted which may lead to these consequences. They consist—

In fiscal systems and arrangements, which keep a host of commercial and wealthy individuals embodied, and obedient to the mandates of the treasury.

In armies and navies, which will, on the one hand, enlist the tendency of man to pay homage to his fellow-creature who can feed or honor him; and on the other, employ the principle of fear, by punishing imaginary insurrections, under the pretext of preventive justice.

In the extensive establishment of a volunteer militia, rallied together by a political creed, armed and officered by executive power, so as to deprive the States of their constitutional right to appoint militia officers, and to place the great bulk of the people in a defenseless situation.

In swarms of officers, civil and military, who can inculcate political tenets tending to consolidation and monarchy both by indulgencies and severities; and can act as spies over the free exercise of human reason.

In destroying, by the sedition act, the responsibility of public servants and public measures to the people, thus retrograding towards the exploded doctrine “ that the administrators of the Government are the masters, and not the servants, of the people,” and exposing America, which acquired the honor of taking the lead among nations towards perfecting political principles, to the disgrace of returning first to ancient ignorance and barbarism.

In exercising a power of depriving apportion of the people of that representation in Congress bestowed by the Constitution.

In the adoration and efforts of some known to be rooted in enmity to Republican Government, applauding and supporting measures by every contrivance calculated to take advantage of the public confidence, which is allowed to be ingenious, but will be fatally injurious.

In transferring to the Executive important legislative powers; particularly the power of raising armies, and borrowing money without limitation of interest.

In restraining the freedom of the press, and investing the Executive with legislative, executive, and judicial powers, over a numerous body of men.

And, that we may shorten the catalog, in establishing, by successive precedents, such a mode of construing the Constitution as will rapidly remove every restraint upon Federal power.

Let history be consulted; let the man of experience reflect: nay, let the artificers of monarchy be asked what further materials they can need for building up their favorite system.

These are solemn but painful truths; and yet we recommend it to you not to forget the possibility of danger from without, although danger threatens us from within. Usurpation is indeed dreadful; but against foreign invasion, if that should happen, let us rise with hearts and hands united, and repel the attack with the zeal of freemen who will strengthen their title to examine and correct domestic measures, by having defended their country against foreign aggression.

Pledged as we are, fellow-citizens, to these sacred engagements, we yet humbly and fervently implore the Almighty Disposer of events to avert from our land war and usurpation, the scourges of mankind; to permit our fields to be cultivated in peace; to instill into nations the love of friendly intercourse; to suffer our youth to be educated in virtue, and to preserve our morality from the pollution invariably incident to habits of war; to prevent the laborer and husbandman from being harassed by taxes and imposts; to remove from ambition the means of disturbing the commonwealth; to annihilate all pretexts for power afforded by war; to maintain the Constitution; and to bless our nation with tranquility, under whose benign influence we may reach the summit of happiness and glory, to which we are destined by nature and nature’s God.

Attest: JOHN STEWART, C. H. D. 1799, January 23. Agreed to by the Senate. H. BROOKE, C. S.

A true copy from the original deposited in the office of the General Assembly. JOHN STEWART, Keeper of Rolls.

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James Madison Regarding Religious Duty and Religious Liberty

James Madison Concerning Rights of Conscience or Religious Liberty

James Madison Concerning Rights of Conscience or Religious Liberty (Click to enlarge)

“The moral sense is the first excellence of a well organized man” ~Thomas Jefferson to John Adams 1823

PREFACE:

It isn’t really that hard to understand the Founders and their intent. I grew up among a people “Primitive Christians” who hold the same sentiments as the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers were far from being Anti-Christian, atheists or deists. they were Christians and greatly promoted True Christianity in all they did and said on the subject, they were very religious and very right in their beliefs. Understanding the great depth of their religious beliefs isn’t that complicated to someone who grew up around it.

To begin with, government should never support any religion by taxes. Men who are in the ministry are or should be called by the Lord, Jesus is the Head of the Church, it is by him and only him that men should be lifted up. If the Lord is behind a man’s ministry, the Lord will lay it on peoples hearts to support that minister with their tithes and offerings. The Lord doesn’t need the governments help to support his ministers. nor his people, all the earth belongs to the Lord.

Among the people I grew up with, ministers are not voted for by the people, the people & ministry are not responsible for choosing ministers, God is. If a man feels that he is called to the ministry, he starts preaching, if the Lord has anointed him to be a pastor, teacher, etc., the gift will make room for itself and he will gain as the Holy Ghost reveals the gift to the Saints and members will be added to his church. If the man i.e. minister becomes abusive or if he becomes corrupt, just as the Holy Ghost led people to his church or ministry, again the Holy Ghost will lead them away and to where the Lord would have each individual member, (or lively stones of Christ’s Church as called in scripture), to be, under what ever minister. If the “gift” does not bear fruit, then the “gift” was obviously never a gift and therefore it doesn’t make room for the man. I’ve known a number of men who tried numerous times to start churches, who never had more than a hand-full of people, whose “churches” failed just as many times as they started them. Only the Lord can add to the ministry, and only the Lord can add to his people, or as God gives to his son Christ Jesus.

Our Founding Fathers also expected all school children to learn from the Bible, not only the history found there, but also how to be virtuous, how to act, how to reason, they expected them to be taught the principles of Christ not only at home, but in the public schools and universities. This is why so many of them put so much emphasis on society in America being moral and virtuous, they knew the more corruption, and the greater the lack of integrity among the people, the more numerous the laws and regulations needed to keep society from falling apart and turning on each other like beasts and devouring one another.

The more laws, rules and regulations you need to enforce decent behavior, the less freedom and liberty there will be, to enjoy life and pursue happiness. It’s just that simple.

Paul said in Philippians 1:12-19 “But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”

Paul is saying even though Christ is not always preached out of pure motives, nor in truth. He, Paul rejoiced in all, because just by Christ being preached it transforms men, society, etc., and works to the salvation of some who would never have been saved if they had not been exposed to the partial truth preached by others. The name of Christ Jesus ‘higher than all other names’ has the power to change hearts, lives, and destinies. Reminds me of the old hymn, “There’s power in the name of the Lord”.

The Principles of the Bible and more specifically those taught by Jesus were of great value and of great importance to the Founding Fathers. Everything they did in the founding of the United States was based on what they learned from history, what they had experienced at the time they lived and most importantly what they learned from the Bible. There was not a house in colonial America that did not have a well-worn Bible in it. Everything that had been happening in Europe in the last number of centuries led up to the Founding of this great country, the founding of America was the culmination of one of the greatest movements of God that had ever occurred in history. It was also by this education that they expected to end slavery.

Introductory quotes by some of the other Founding Fathers

“To obtain Religious, as well as Civil Liberty, I entered zealously into the Revolution. God grant that this Religious Liberty may be preserved in these States to the end of time.” ~ Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832)

John Adams said in a letter to his wife Abigail dated November 5, 1775, he discourses on the relations of religion to patriotism as follows: “Statesmen may plan and speculate for Liberty but it is Religion and Morality alone which can establish the principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. A true patriot must be a religious man. I have been led to think . . . that he who neglects his duty to his Maker may well be expected to be deficient and insincere in his duties towards the public. Even suppose him to possess a large share of what is called honor and public spirit, yet do not these men, by their bad example, by a loose immoral conduct, corrupt the minds of youth and vitiate the morals of the age and thus injure the public more than they can compensate by intrepidity, generosity and honor.”

John Adams view of the Christian religion as a factor in political education appears in one of the last entries in his diary: “One great advantage of the Christian religion is, that it brings the great principle of the law of nature and nations—Love your neighbor as yourself, and do to others as you would that others should do to you—to the knowledge, belief, and veneration of the whole people. . . No other institution for education, no kind of political discipline, could diffuse this kind of necessary information, so universally. . . . The duties and rights of the man and the citizen are thus taught from early infancy to every creature.”

“In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings 1 In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance ? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this ; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests ; our projects will be confounded ; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Dear Friends, Your reflections on our situation, compared with that of many nations of Europe, are very sensible and just. Let me add, that only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.Benjamin Franklin When asked in France what was the secret of statesmanship, he replied: “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of primitive Christianity will change the face of the world.” About his religion he wrote to Dr. Stiles, President of Yale, as follows: “You desire to know something of my religion. It is the first time I have been questioned upon it. But I cannot take your curiosity amiss, and shall endeavor in a few words to gratify it. Here is my creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to Him is doing good to His other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points in all sound religion, and I regard them as you do in whatever sect I meet with them.—As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think His system of morals and His religion, as He left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is like to see.”

“The fundamentals of Christianity as found in the gospels are 1. Faith, 2. Repentance. That faith is every [where ?] explained to be a belief that Jesus was the Messiah who had been promised. Repentance was to be proved sincerely by good works. The advantages accruing to mankind from our Saviour’s mission are these.

  1. The knowledge of one god only.
  2. A clear knowledge of their duty, or system of morality, delivered on such authority as to give it sanction.
  3. The outward forms of religious worship wanted to be purged of that farcical pomp & nonsense with which they were loaded.
  4. An inducement to a pious life, by revealing clearly a future existence in bliss, & that it was to be the reward of the virtuous.

The Epistles were written to persons already Christians. A person might be a Christian then before they were written. Consequently the fundamentals of Christianity were to be found in the preaching of our Saviour, which is related in the gospels. ” Written by Thomas Jefferson in his ‘Notes on Religion‘ See more of Jefferson’s religious views here. And for his treatise on ‘Morality in Government’ go here.

In a Letter from John Quincy Adams to John Adams

Dated: Washington, 27th April, 1837

John Quincy Adams made the following statement: “I am encouraged to infer a widely spread attachment to the principles by which they [the Founding Fathers] were actuated, and which they maintained with the well redeemed pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. If, at one of the most trying periods of that conflict, in March, 1779, you find Mr. Adams complaining of the dangers which beset the cause, and the difficulties which it had to encounter from the weakness, the selfishness, flattery, vanity, and corruption of the times, yet confiding without the admission of a doubt in the ultimate success of the cause itself,—may we not take it, in these times when the cause has succeeded, and the nation, formed by the labors and sufferings of those days, has enjoyed such a career of prosperity as was never before by Divine Providence allotted to man; may we not take it as an admonition, that the adherence to those principles of our fathers has been among the principal causes of that prosperity? Should we not proceed a step further, and inquire whether that half-century of unexampled prosperity might not have been still more resplendent with glory, but for our own aberrations from those principles, the contemplation of which had fired the soul of the writer of the inclosed letter with visions of an approaching kingdom of the just, to result from the success of that Revolution? In reviewing its history and our own, while we remember with exultation and gratitude the triumphant issue of the cause, and the favors of heaven by which it has been followed, is there not remaining an augury, both retrospective and prospective, upon ourselves? That kingdom of the just, which had floated in the virtuous visions of John Adams, while he was toiling for his country’s independence,—that kingdom of our Father in Heaven, for which His Son taught us to approach Him in daily prayer,—has it yet come; and if not, have our advances towards it been as pure, as virtuous, as self-denying, as were those of our fathers in the days of their trial of adversity? And if we lay these questions in seriousness to our souls, are we not bound to interrogate them still further?—to cross-examine them if they answer with too confident assurance of their own righteousness, and ask them whether of late, and even now, we are not stationary, or more than stationary, moving backwards, from that progress towards the kingdom of the just, which was among the anticipated fruits of our Revolutionary warfare? The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution was this—it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the precepts of Christianity. If it has never been considered in that light, it is because its compass has not been perceived.

Patrick Henry regarding Our Patriotic Duty as Christians (Click to enlarge)

Patrick Henry regarding Our Patriotic Duty as Christians (Click to enlarge)

Background:

There were two measures put before the Virginia House of Delegates to which Patrick Henry lent his support, which James Madison opposed, they were, the incorporation of the protestant Episcopal church, and what is called “a general assessment.” These measures have been frequently stated, in conversation, as proofs of a leaning on the part of Mr. Henry toward an established church, and that, too, the aristocratic church of England. To test the justness of this charge, the journals of the house of delegates have been examined, and this is the result of the evidence which they furnish: on the 17th of November, 1784, Mr. Matthews reported from the committee of the whole house, on the state of the commonwealth, the following resolution:

“Resolved, That it is the opinion of this committee, that acts ought to pass for the incorporation of all societies of the Christian religion, which may apply for the same.”

The ayes and noes having been called for, on the passage of this resolution, were, ayes sixty-two, noes twenty-three; Mr. Henry being with the majority.

The principle being thus established in relation to all religious societies, which should desire a legal existence for the benefit of acquiring and holding property to the use of their respective churches, leave was given, on the same day, to bring in a bill to incorporate the clergy of the protestant Episcopal church, which had brought itself within that principle by having applied for an act of incorporation; and Mr. Henry was one, but not the chairman, [The chairman was Mr. Carter H. Harrison; the rest of the committee were Mr. Henry, Mr. Thomas Smith, Mr. William Anderson, and Mr. Tazewell] of the committee appointed to bring in that bill. How a measure which holds out to all religious societies, equally, the same benefit, can be charged with partiality, because accepted by one only, it is not very easy to discern. It would seem, to an ordinary mind, that, on the same principle, the Christian religion itself might be charged with partiality, since its offers, though made to all, are accepted but by few; and it is very certain, that if Mr. Henry is to be suspected of a bias toward an established church, on account of this vote, the charge will reach some of the foremost and best established republicans in the state, whose names stand recorded with Mr. Henry’s on this occasion, and who hold to this day the undiminished confidence of their countrymen.

The other measure, the general assessment, proceeded from a number of petitions from different counties of the commonwealth, which prayed, that as all persons enjoyed the benefits of religion, all might be required to contribute to the expense of supporting some form of worship or other. The committee, to whom these petitions were referred, reported a bill whose preamble sets forth the grounds of the proceeding, and furnishes a conclusive refutation of the charge of partiality to any particular form of religion. The bill is entitled, “A bill, establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion;” and its preamble is in the following words:— “Whereas the general diffusion of Christian knowledge hath a natural tendency to correct the morals of men, restrain their vices, and preserve the peace of society; which cannot be effected without a competent provision for learned teachers, who may be thereby enabled to devote their time and attention to the duty of instructing such citizens as, from their circumstances and want of education, cannot otherwise attain such knowledge; and it is judged such provision may be made by the legislature, without counteracting the liberal principle heretofore adopted and intended to be preserved, by abolishing all distinctions of pre-eminence amongst the different societies or communities of Christians.” The provisions of the bill are in the strictest conformity with the principles announced in the close of the preamble; the persons subject to taxes are required, at the time of giving in a list of their titheables, to declare to what particular religious society they choose to appropriate the sums assessed upon them, respectively; and, in the event of their failing or declining to specify any appropriation, the sums thus circumstanced are directed to be paid to the treasurer, and applied by the general assembly to the encouragement of seminaries of learning, in the counties where such sums shall arise. If there be any evidence of a leaning toward any particular religious sect in this bill, or any indication of a desire for an established church, the author of these sketches has not been able to discover them. Mr. Henry was a sincere believer in the Christian religion, and had a strong desire for the successful propagation of the gospel, but there was no tincture of bigotry or intolerance in his sentiments; nor have I been able to learn that he had a punctilious preference for any particular form of worship. His faith regarded the vital spirit of the gospel, and busied itself not at all with external ceremonies or controverted tenets.

Both these bills, “for incorporating the protestant Episcopal church,” and “establishing a provision for teachers of the Christian religion,” were reported after Mr. Henry had ceased to be a member of the house; but the resolutions on which they were founded were adopted while he continued a member, and had his warmest support. The first bill passed into a law; the last was rejected by a small majority, on the third reading.

MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE AGAINST RELIGIOUS ASSESSMENTS.(fn. 1)

To The Honorable The General Assembly

OF

The Commonwealth Of Virginia.
A Memorial And Remonstrance.

Written By James Madison

1 Corinthians 10:29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another [man’s] conscience?

We, the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving but that the same, if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State, to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,

1: Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”‘ The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also ; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true, that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

2: Because if religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited : it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power may be invariably maintained ; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves, nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

3: Because, it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of [the] noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

4: Because, the bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensible, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,”‘ all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of conscience” * Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to men, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens; so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? Can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others, with extraordinary privileges, by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations, to believe that they either covet pre-eminencies over their fellow citizens, or that they will be seduced by them, from the common opposition to the measure.

5: Because the bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious truth ; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: The second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

6: Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself ; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them ; and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence, and the ordinary care of Providence: Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence, and the patronage of its Author ; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits.

7: Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries, has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks; many of them predict its downfall. On which side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

8: Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure & perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

9: Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy, which, offering an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a luster to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be, in its present form, from the Inquisition it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer under this cruel scourge in foreign Regions, must view the Bill as a Beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthrophy in their due extent may offer a more certain repose from his troubles.

10: Because, it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd [add (something) to what has already been added] a fresh motive to emigration, by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.

11: Because, it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion, has produced amongst its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinions. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs, that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bonds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed that ” Christian forbearance, ‘ love and charity,” which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?

12: Because, the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it, with a wall of defence, against the encroachments of error.

13: Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? and what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority.

14: Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens: and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. “The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly.” But the representation must be made equal, before the voice either of the Representatives or of the Counties, will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.

15: Because, finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the “basis and foundation of Government,”‘ it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis. Either then, we must say, that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say, that they may controul the freedom of the press, may abolish the trial by jury, may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary Powers of the State; nay that they may despoil us of our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independant and hereditary assembly: or we must say, that they have no authority to enact into law the Bill under consideration. We the subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them : and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity, and the Happiness of the Commonwealth.

James Madison concerning State Rights vs Federal (Click to enlarge)

James Madison concerning State Powers vs Federal in the Constitution (Click to enlarge)

Footnotes: (1) By a vote of ayes 48, noes 38, the third reading of the engrossed bill to establish a provision for the teachers of the Christian religion was postponed December 24, 1784, to the fourth Thursday in the next November. Among those voting against the postponement were Benjamin Harrison, Joseph Jones, John Marshall, Philip Barbour, Richard Bland Lee, Richard Henry Lee, and Henry Tazewell. Washington also favored the bill. It was printed for distribution among the voters in order that their sentiments towards it might be ascertained. Among its opponents were Wilson Cary Nicholas and George Nicholas. A copy of the bill is found among the Washington MSS. The copy of the Remonstrance used here is one of the broadsides printed by the Phenix Press of Alexandria, now in the Virginia Historical Society, with a number of signatures appended to it. It has been collated with the notes in Madison’s hand found among the Madison MSS.

“My brother informs me that he conversed with you on the propriety of remonstrating against certain measures of the last session of Assembly and that you seemed to think it would be best that the counties opposed to the measure should be silent. I fear this would be construed into an assent especially to the law for establishing a certain provision for the clergy : for as the Assembly only postponed the passing of it that they might know whether it was disagreeable to the people I think they may justly conclude that all are for it who do not say to the contrary. A majority of the counties are in favor of the measure undecipherable] a great majority of the people against it, but if this majority should not appear by petition the fact will be denied. Another reason why all should petition is that some will certainly do it and those who support the bills will insist that those who petition are all the opposition. Would it not add greatly to the weight of the petition if they all hold the same language? by discovering an exact uniformity of sentiment in a majority of the country it would certainly deter the majority of the assembly from proceeding. All my expectations are from their fears, and not their justice. … If you think with me that it will be proper to say something to the Assembly, will you commit it to paper. I risk this because I know you are most capable of doing it properly and because it will be most likely to be generally adopted. I can get it sent to Amherst Buckingham Albemarle, Fluvanna, Augusta, Botetourt, Rock Bridge and Rockingham and have no doubt that Bedford and the counties Southward of it will readily join in the measure. I will also send it to Frederick and Berkeley and if it goes from your county to P’arquieur Culpeper and Loudoun it will be adopted by the most populous part of the country.”— George Nicholas to Madison, Charlottesville, April 22″d 1785, Mad. MSS.

“I found that no alteration could be made to the remonstrance without injury and immediately had it copied and sent to the counties I mentioned in a former letter.”—Nicholas to Madison, Sweet Springs, July 24, 1785, Mad. MSS. ‘Decl. Rights, Art: 16. [Note in the original.]

Sources: The Writings of James Madison: 1783-1787 By James Madison
The life of Patrick Henry By William Wirt

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GOD AND CAESAR Being a Good Citizen

Thomas Jefferson concerning the 1st Amendment Religious Freedom (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson concerning the 1st Amendment Religious Freedom (Click to enlarge)

By religious freedom, or soul liberty, is meant the natural and inalienable right of every soul to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and to be unmolested in the exercise of that right, so long, at least, as he does not infringe upon the rights of others; that religion is, and must be, a voluntary service; that only such service is acceptable to God; and, hence, that no earthly power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, has any right to compel conformity to any creed or to any species of worship, or to tax a man for its support.

This principle gives to “Caesar” “the things that are Caesar’s,” but it denies to Caesar “the things, that are God’s.” It does not make it a matter of indifference what a man believes or how he acts, but it places all on the same footing before God, the only lord of the conscience, and makes us responsible to him alone for our faith and practice. This doctrine is now very generally accepted, not only in Virginia, but also throughout the United States. It has been incorporated into our National and State Constitutions, and it is the basis of our civil liberties. And yet at the date of the American Revolution it was not so. No government in the Old World had recognized this doctrine, and, unless Rhode Island be an exception, it did not find full and unequivocal recognition in any of the colonies of the New World. Virginia was the first to recognize it in her organic law, and this she did in Article XVI. of her Bill of Rights, which was adopted on the 12th day of June, 1776. From that time down to January 19, 1786, when Jefferson’s “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” became the law of the State, the battle for soul liberty was on.

History proves how the Light of “True” Christianity had to advance out of the Dark Ages in order for Religious Liberty to advance, which then allowed civil society to advance in large degrees. ~ Editor

GOD AND CAESAR Duty of American Citizens

Our Lord’s saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” being rightly interpreted for us, means, “Render unto President and Congress, to governor and legislature, and to all courts and magistrates, all that is due to them according to the constitution and laws.” Our Lord set a limit to the civil power, and thus guarded religious liberty. The things of Caesar and the things of God are to be distinguished from each other, but they cannot be separated from each other. To be a good citizen and to be a good Christian are two quite distinct things, but they cannot be two separate things. A good Christian cannot knowingly neglect his duty to his country; a citizen cannot do his best for his country if he disregards his religious obligations. He who disregards the things that are Caesar’s therein disobeys God. He who is regardless of the things which are God’s is not helping to secure to his country the favor of God.

Thomas Jefferson Concerning the Rights of Conscience (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson Concerning the Rights of Conscience (Click to enlarge)

All duties of citizenship are really religious duties. The Christian can no more exclude religion from his politics than from the training of his family. He should adopt his political opinions as conscientiously as his religious opinions. He should defend the former with as scrupulous truthfulness as the latter. He should go to the polls and to the primary meeting with as serious reference to the will of God as to the prayer meeting. He should choose his party as conscientiously as he chooses his church, and should have no connection with any party unless he honestly thinks that he can thus best promote whatever is true and pure and right. He may no more allow his party than his church to control his conscience or constrain him to violate his principles.

Thomas Jefferson Concerning Christian and Religious Duty (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson Concerning Christian and Religious Duty (Click to enlarge)

The obligation to “render unto God the things which are God’s” is as binding upon Caesar as upon his lowliest subject. Rulers have personally the same religious duties and needs as if they were not rulers; and there are obligations to God resting upon rulers as such, over and above those which rest upon them in common with other men. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” This obligation rests upon every ruler, no matter in what way he has acquired his power—whether by birth, by conquest or by the choice of the people. It follows irresistibly that a free people ought always to elect rulers who are “just, fearing God.” Every Christian citizen ought to give his vote and use his political influence as wisely as he can to this end.

The government has no right to pursue a policy which prevents its subjects from rendering unto God the things that are God’s. So far as worship and the profession of religious belief are concerned, this is well settled in our country. The people are unanimous and the national constitution is explicit in denying to our rulers the right either to require or to forbid the adoption of any creed or the practice of any religious rites whatsoever. But it would be a false view of religion to regard it as consisting only in creed and worship. If religion is not a spiritual power pervading practical life, it is worthless.

Jefferson regarding Jesus' Mission (Click to enlarge)

Jefferson regarding Jesus’ Mission (Click to enlarge)

The government has no right either to forbid or to command us to pray or to keep the Sabbath religiously; but it ought to protect us all in our right to pray and to keep the Sabbath holy. It does repress and forbid noisy demonstrations and the public prosecution of trades and business, which would destroy the quietness that is necessary for religious Sabbath-keeping. Our government has always done this, at least so far as to commit it to the principle, yet it does not consistently carry out this principle. The principle requires cessation from labor in all departments of government service, and forbids the running of trains for postal or other service, on the Sabbath, as clearly as it requires foundries and mills and anvils to cease from their din and noise.

There is an application of this principle to our public education, which calls for more thorough investigation than it has yet received. It is strenuously asserted that no religious teaching can be given in schools supported by taxation without violating religious liberty, because, in the vast variety of religious belief and unbelief, no religious teaching can be given which will not be contrary to the religious belief or unbelief of some tax-payer. So Christians are told that they must teach religion at home and in the Sabbath-school, and let the state teach arithmetic and geography and grammar.

Jefferson Concerning the Necessity of Morality in Society (Click to enlarge)

Jefferson Concerning the Necessity of Morality in Society (Click to enlarge)

If religion with us meant a creed or a catechism or a rite, this might do; but if religion means a spiritual power pervading and controlling practical life, it will not do. What would infidels say of a man who should propose to confine the religion of his family to Sunday and the daily half hour of family worship? They would call him a hypocrite. They would justly say, “If that man honestly believed what he teaches the children on Sunday and what he reads from his Bible and sings from his hymn-book and solemnly utters on his knees, it would go with him to the field and to the table and in all the various work and play and intercourse of the family He would do just as his Bible bids him, where it says, “And these words which I command thee shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” But is such a sincere Christian, being a father, willing to have religion excluded from the whole school-life of his children— to have their intellects formed and trained under a system which forbids their teachers to find moral principles in the Ten Commandments, or wisdom in the Proverbs, or history in the Pentateuch, or poetry in David and Isaiah, or God in chemistry and astronomy?

May the government rightly take for its treasury the money which such a father would use for the education of his children, and give him in return only an education which has all religion excluded from it? Must the government be so tender of the atheist’s conscience, at the expense of putting such a strain as that upon the Christian conscience? Is the conscience, whose supreme law is “Fear God, and keep his commandments,” so much less entitled to the respect of rulers than that which says, “There is no God, there is no immortality, there is no immutable moral right”?

Jefferson Regarding Religious Liberty (Click to enlarge)

Jefferson Regarding Religious Liberty (Click to enlarge)

The Synod of New York at its last meeting affirmed its conviction that our national vigor and permanence are guaranteed only by a religiously-grounded morality; that there should be in every school maintained by the state the inculcation of such principles of dependence upon God and obligation to him as are essential to sound learning, safe character and wholesome citizenship; that the synod should bring the entire weight of its influence to bear against whatever, by statement or suggestion, shall antagonize the claims of the God upon whom we depend and to whom we owe obligations. The synod instructed its ministers publicly to recognize the difficulties in which the case is involved, and to bring those difficulties to bear as an argument for more thorough, intelligent and faithful religious instruction on the part of the family, the Sunday-school and the church. Surely these are words of truth and soberness.

Sources: The Church at Home and Abroad, Volume 3 January, 1888
Documentary History of the Struggle for Religious Liberty in Virginia by Charles Fenton James, 1899

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James Madison Amendments to the Constitution 1789

James Madison Concerning the General Welfare Clause (Click to enlarge)

James Madison Concerning the General Welfare Clause (Click to enlarge)

[Editor’s Note: This should be read in conjunction with this and this:]

James Madison Amendments to the Constitution: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; June 8, 1789

I am sorry to be accessory 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 fur 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 laudable in its motive. ‘There is a great body of the people falling under this description, who at present are 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 acquiescence 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 [Federal] 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 fur a reconsideration of the whole structure of the Government—for are 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 [Federal] 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 vested 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 Representatives.”

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 [vicinity], 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 of 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 departments.

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; bat 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 arc 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 maybe 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 minority.

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 this 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 minority.

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 bill 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 Slates 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 (hat 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 [Federal] 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 Slate 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 in decorum 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, (hat 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 interdicts 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 Slate shall pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law,” &c. were wise and proper restrict ions 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 Stale ..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. 1 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 Slate Governments are as liable to attack these 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 on 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 Stales. Perhaps words which may define (his more precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as superfluous. 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 lake 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 it 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 ray duty, in bringing before this House the subject of amendment?, 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 (his 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.

 

AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION: Debates; Saturday, August 15, 1789

The House again went into a Committee of the whole on the proposed amendments to the constitution, Mr. Boudinot in the chair.

The fourth proposition being under consideration, as follows:

Article 1. Section 9. Between paragraphs two and three insert ” no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed.”

Sylvester had some doubts of the propriety of the mode of expression used in this paragraph. He” apprehended that it was liable to a construction different from what had been made by the committee. He feared it might be thought to have a tendency to abolish religion altogether.

Vining suggested the propriety of transposing the two members of the sentence.

Gerry said it would read better if it was, that no religious doctrine shall be established by law.

Sherman thought the amendment altogether unnecessary, inasmuch as Congress had no authority whatever delegated to them by the constitution to make religious establishments; he would, therefore, move to have it struck out.

Carroll.—As the rights of conscience are, in their nature, of peculiar delicacy, and will little bear the gentlest touch of governmental hand; and as many sects have concurred in opinion that they are not well secured under the present constitution, he slid he was much in favor of adopting the word!. He thought it would tend more towards conciliating the minds of the people to the Government than almost any other amendment he had heard proposed. He would not content with gentlemen about the phraseology, his object was to secure the substance in such a manner as to satisfy the wishes of the honest part of the community.

Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enf’orce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the State Conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the constitution, which gave power to Congress to mate all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience, and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.

Huntington said that he feared, with the gentleman first up on this subject, that the words might be taken in such latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the cause of religion. He understood the amendment to mean what had been expressed by the gentleman from Virginia; but others might find it convenient to put another construction upon it. The ministers of their congregations to the Eastward were maintained by the contributions of those who belonged to their society; the expense of building meeting-houses was contributed in the same manner. These things were regulated by by-laws. If an action was brought before a Federal Court on any of these cases, the person who had neglected to perform his engagements could not be compelled to do it; for a support of ministers, or building of places of worship might be construed into a religious establishment.

By the charter of Rhode Island, no religion could be established by law; he could give a history of the effects of such a regulation; indeed the people were now enjoying the blessed fruits of it. He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure the rights of conscience, and a free exercise of the rights of religion, but not to patronize those who professed no religion at all.

Madison thought, if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.

[Note: States at the time had Established State Religions; Virginia; Anglican i.e. Church of England (fn1): New York; Anglican, Church of England (fn2): Massachusetts; Congregationalist Church (fn3): Maryland; Anglican, Church of England (fn4): Delaware; No State sponsored church (fn5): Connecticut; Congregationalist Church (fn6): New Hampshire; Congregationalist Church (fn7): Rhode Island; No State sponsored church (fn8): Georgia; No State sponsored church (fn9): North Carolina; Anglican, Church of England (fn10): South Carolina; Anglican, Church of England (fn11): Pennsylvania; No State sponsored church (fn12): New Jersey No State sponsored church

Livermore was not satisfied with that amendment; but he did not wish them to dwell long on the subject He thought it would be better if it was altered, and made to read in this mariner, that Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience.

Gerry did not like the term national, proposed by the gentleman from Virginia, and he hoped it would not be adopted by the House. It brought to his mind some observations that had taken place in the conventions at the time they were considering the present constitution. It had been insisted upon by those who were called antifederalists, that this form of Government consolidated the Union; the honorable gentleman’s motion shows that he considers it in the same light. Those who were called antifederalists at that time complained that they had injustice done them by the title, because they were in favor of a Federal Government, and the others were in favor of a national one; the federalists were for ratifying the constitution as it stood, and the others not until amendments were made. Their names then ought not to have been distinguished by federalists and antifederalists, but rats and antirats.

Madison withdrew his motion, but observed that the words “no national religion shall be established by law,” did not imply that the Government was a national one; the question was then taken on Mr. Livermore’s motion, and passed in the affirmative, thirtyone for, and twenty against it.

James Madison Concerning the Bill of Rights (Click to enlarge)

James Madison Concerning the Bill of Rights (Click to enlarge)

Madison’s Report on the Resolutions of Congress; House of Delegates: 1799-1800

[Excerpt concerning the Bill of Rights]

“That this State having, by its Convention, which ratified the Federal Constitution, expressly declared that, among other essential rights, ‘the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States;’ and, from its extreme anxiety to guard these rights from every possible attack of sophistry and ambition, having, with other States, recommended an amendment for that purpose, which amendment was in due time annexed to the Constitution, it would mark a reproachful inconsistency, and criminal degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to the most palpable violation of one of the rights thus declared and secured, and to the establishment of a precedent which may be fatal to the other.”

To place this Resolution in its just light, it will be necessary to recur to the act of ratification by Virginia, which stands in the ensuing form:

“We, the delegates of the people of Virginia, duly elected in pursuance of a recommendation from the General Assembly and now met in Convention, having fully and freely investigated and discussed the proceedings of the Federal Convention, and being prepared, as well as the most mature deliberation hath enabled us, to decide thereon—Do, in the name and in behalf of the people of Virginia declare and make known that the powers granted under the Constitution, being derived from the people of the United States, may be resumed by them whensoever the same shall be perverted to their injury or oppression; and that every power not granted thereby remains with them, and at their will. That, therefore, no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Congress, by the Senate or House of Representatives, acting in any capacity, by the President, or any department or officer of the United States, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution for those purposes; and that, among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States.”

Here is an express and solemn declaration by the Convention of the State, that they ratified the Constitution in the sense that no right of any denomination can be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by the Government of the United States, or any part of it, except in those instances in which power is given by the Constitution; and in the sense, particularly, “that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and freedom of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained, or modified, by any authority of the United States.”

Words could not well express in a fuller or more forcible manner the understanding of the Convention, that the liberty of conscience and the freedom of the press were equally and completely exempted from all authority whatever of the United States.

Under an anxiety to guard more effectually these rights against every possible danger, the Convention, after ratifying the Constitution, proceeded to prefix to certain amendments proposed by them a declaration of rights, in which are two articles providing, the one for the liberty of conscience, the other for the freedom of speech and of the press.

Similar recommendations having proceeded from a number of other States, and Congress, as has been seen, having, in consequence thereof, and with a view to extend the ground of public confidence, proposed, among other declaratory and restrictive clauses, a clause expressly securing the liberty of conscience and of the press, and Virginia having concurred in the ratifications which made them a part of the Constitution, it will remain with a candid public to decide whether it would not mark an inconsistency and degeneracy, if an indifference were now shown to a palpable violation of one of those rights— the freedom of the press; and to a precedent, therein, which may be fatal to the other—the free exercise of religion.

That the precedent established by the violation of the former of these rights may, as is affirmed by the resolution, be fatal to the latter, appears to be demonstrable by a comparison of the grounds on which they respectively rest, and from the scope of reasoning by which the power over the former has been vindicated.

  1. Both of these rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press, rest equally on the original ground of not being delegated by the Constitution, and, consequently, withheld from the Government. Any construction, therefore, that would attack this original security for the one must have the like effect on the other.
  2. They are both equally secured by the supplement to the Constitution, being both included in the same amendment, made at the same time, and by the same authority. Any construction or argument, then, which would turn the amendment into a grant or acknowledgment of power with respect to the press, might be equally applied to the freedom of religion.
  3. If it be admitted that the extent of the freedom of the press secured by the amendment is to be measured by the common law on this subject, the same authority may be resorted to for the standard which is to fix the extent of the “free exercise of religion.” It cannot be necessary to say what this standard would be; whether the common law be taken solely as the unwritten, or as varied by the written law of England.
  4. If the words and phrases in the amendment are to be considered as chosen with a studied discrimination, which yields an argument for a power over the press under the limitation that its freedom be not abridged, the same argument results from the same consideration for a power over the exercise of religion, under the limitation that its freedom be not prohibited.

For if Congress may regulate the freedom of the press, provided they do not abridge it, because it is said only “they shall not abridge it,” and is not said “they shall make no law respecting it, “the analogy of reasoning is conclusive that Congress may regulate and even abridge the free exercise of religion, provided they do not prohibit it; because it is said only “they shall not prohibit it,” and is not said “they shall make no law respecting, or no law abridging it.”

The General Assembly were governed by the clearest reason, then, in considering the Sedition Act, which legislates on the freedom of the press, as establishing a precedent that may be fatal to the liberty of conscience; and it will be the duty of all, in proportion as they value the security of the latter, to take the alarm at every encroachment on the former.

The two concluding resolutions only remain to be examined. They are in the words following:

“That the good people of this Commonwealth having ever felt, and continuing to feel, the most sincere affection for their brethren of the other States, the truest anxiety for establishing and perpetuating the Union of all, and the most scrupulous fidelity to that Constitution which is the pledge of mutual friendship and the instrument of mutual happiness, the General Assembly doth solemnly appeal to the like dispositions in the other States, in confidence that they will concur with this Commonwealth in declaring, as it does hereby declare, that the acts aforesaid are unconstitutional; and that the necessary and proper measures will be taken by each for co-operating with this State in maintaining, unimpaired, the authorities, rights, and liberties reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

 

Footnote(s)
1: Governor Argall’s Decree; 1617
“Every Person should go to church, Sundays and Holidays, or lye Neck and Heels that Night, and be a Slave to the Colony the following Week; for the second Offence, he should be a Slave for a Month; and for the third, a Year and a Day.”

Virginia Declaration of Rights; 1776
“That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom; 1786
“Section I. The opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own…

Section II. We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

 

2: “The Dutch Colony of the seventeenth century was officially intolerantly Protestant but was in practice tolerant and fair to people of other faiths who dwelt within New Netherland.

When the English took the province from the Dutch in 1664, they granted full religious toleration to the other forms of Protestantism, and preserved the property rights of the Dutch Reformed Church, while recognizing its discipline.

In 1697, Trinity Church was founded in the City of New York by royal charter, and received many civil privileges and the munificent grants of land which are the source of its present great wealth.”

New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges; 1683
“THAT Noe person or persons which professe ffaith in God by Jesus Christ Shall at any time be any wayes molested punished disquieted or called in Question for any Difference in opinion or Matter of Religious Concernment”

New York Constitution; 1777
“Article XXXVIII. And whereas we are required, by the benevolent principles of the rational liberty, not only to expel civil tyranny, but also to guard against that spiritual oppression and intolerance wherewith the bigotry and ambition of weak and wicked priests and princes have scourged mankind, this convention doth further, in the name and by the authority of the good people of this state, ordain, determine, and desire, that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall be forever hereafter be allowed, within this state, to all mankind: PROVIDED That the liberty of conscience, hereby granted, shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of this state.

Article XXXIX. And whereas the ministers of the gospel are, by their profession, dedicated to the service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function, therefore, no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time hereafter, under and preference or description whatever, be eligible to, or capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within this state.”

 

3: Massachusetts Bay charter became the constitution of an semi-independent Commonwealth in 1630, they adjusted the charter to a Bible Commonwealth. Representation came about through the assembling all of the freemen to the General Court in person. In 1634 the freemen of every town sent one or two deputies to act as personal representatives. Men were made freemen or voters by special act of the General Court, and no one was eligible but members of the Puritan churches. A unique relationship of church and State was settled on. The ministers, chosen by the congregations, were ineligible for political office, but they had great influence, and as a body their opinion was consulted on constitutional questions. “Moses, his judicial” were originally declared the code of law, but this gave such extensive power of interpretation to the judges that a Bill of Rights, the Body of Liberties was established in 1641.

The Pilgrim Colony, older than Massachusetts Bay, had up till 1691 no other constitution than the Mayflower Compact of 1620. The Massachusetts Bill of Rights of 1780 declared it the duty of the legislature to require the support of Protestant worship and the authority to compel attendance thereon where conscientious scruples did not prevent the individual citizen. It did however leave each town or parish free to choose the minister of the citizens choice without stipulating he should be of the Congregational church. Taxes were levied for this support till 1818 when the constitution made all religious bodies equal before the law and severed all ties between church and state.

Massachusetts Constitution, Article XI; 1833
“[A]ll religious sects and denominations, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good citizens of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law.”

 

4: Maryland State Constitution, 1776
“Article XXXIII. That, as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to him; all persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice; unless, under colour of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others, in their natural, civil, or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain any particular place of worship, or any particular ministry; yet the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general and equal tax for the support of the Christian religion; leaving to each individual the power of appointing the payment over of the money, collected from him, to the support of any particular place of worship or minister, or for the benefit of the poor of his own denomination, or the poor in general of any particular county: but the churches, chapels, globes, and all other property now belonging to the church of England, ought to remain to the church of England forever…

Article XXXV. That no other test or qualification ought to be required, on admission to any office of trust or profit, than such oath of support and fidelity to this State, and such oath of office, as shall be directed by this Convention or the Legislature of this State, and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion.”

 

5: Charter of Delaware, 1701

“BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting in this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge Our almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the world; and professes him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their consciencious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or suffer any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion.

AND that all Persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World, shall be capable (notwithstanding their other Persuasions and Practices in Point of Conscience and Religion) to serve this Government in any Capacity, both legislatively and executively…”

Delaware Declaration of Rights and Fundamental Rules; 1776
“That all Men have a natural and unalienable Right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates Of their own conscience and understandings; that no Man ought or of right can he compelled to attend any religious Worship or maintain any Ministry contrary to or against his own free Will and Consent, and that no Authority can or Ought to be vested in, or assumed by any Power whatever that shall in any Case interfere with, or in any Manner control the Right of Conscience in the Free exercise of Religious Worship.

That all Persons professing the Christian Religion ought forever to enjoy equal Rights and Privileges in this State…”

Delaware State Constitution; 1776
“Article 22. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either House, or appointed to any office or place of trust… shall take the following oath: ‘I _______, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, One God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.’

Article 29. There shall be no establishment of any religious sect in this State in preference to another; and no clergyman or preacher of the gospel, of any denomination, shall be capable of holding any civil office in this state, or of being a member of either of the branches of the legislature, while they continue in the exercise of the pastoral function.”

 

6: Connecticut Colony Charter; 1692
“[O]ur said people, Inhabitants there, may bee soe religiously, peaceably and civilly Governed as their good life and orderly Conversacon may wynn and invite the Natives of the Country to the knowledge and obedience of the onely true God and Saviour of mankind, and the Christian faith, which in our Royall intencons and the Adventurers free profession is the onely and principall end of this Plantacon.”

Connecticut Constitution; 1818
“Article I. Section 3. The exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be free to all persons in this State, provided that the right hereby declared and established shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or to justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the State.

Article I. Section 4. No preference shall be given by law to any Christian sect or mode of worship.

Article VII. Section 1. It being the duty of all men to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and their right to render that worship in the mode most consistent with the dictates or their consciences, no person shall by law be compelled to join or support, nor be classed with, or associated to, any congregation, church, or religious association; but every person now belonging to such congregation, church, or religious association, shall remain a member thereof until he shall have separated himself therefrom, in the manner hereinafter provided. And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges; and shall have power and authority support and maintain the ministers or teachers of their respective denominations, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of any such society only, to be laid by a major vote of the legal voters assembled at any society meeting, warned and held according to law, or in any other manner.”

 

7: New Hampshire Constitution; 1784
“Article III. When men enter into a State of society they surrender up some of their natural rights to that society, in order to ensure the protection of others…

Article IV. Among the natural rights, some are in their very nature unalienable, because no equivalent can be given or received for them. Of this kind are the RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE…

Article V. Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship GOD according to the dictates of his own conscience and reason; and no person shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in is person, liberty, or estate for worshipping God in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession, sentiments, or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace or disturb others in their religious worship.

Senate. Provided, nevertheless, That no person shall be capable of being elected a senator who is not of the Protestant religion…
House of Representatives. Every member of the house of representatives… shall be of the Protestant religion…
President. [H]e shall be of the Protestant religion.”

The Toleration Act; 1819
“And be it further enacted, that each religious sect or denomination of Christians in this State may associate and form societies, may admit members, may establish rules and bylaws for their regulation and government, and shall have all the corporate powers which may be necessary to assess and raise money by taxes upon the polls and ratable estate of the members of such associations, and to collect and appropriate the same for the purpose of building and repairing houses of public worship, and for the support of the ministry; and the assessors and collectors of such associations shall have the same powers in assessing and collecting, and shall be liable to the same penalties as similar town officers have and are liable to–Provided that no person shall be compelled to join or support, or be classed with, or associated to any congregation, church or religious society without his express consent first had and obtain–Provided also, if any person shall choose to separate himself from such society, or association to which he may belong, and shall leave a written notice thereof with the clerk of such society or association, he shall thereupon be no longer liable for any future expenses which may be incurred by said society or association–Provided also, that no association or society shall exercise the powers herein granted until it shall have assumed a name and stile by which such society may be known and distinguished in law, and shall have recorded the same in a book of records to be kept by the clerk of said Society, and shall have published the same in some newspaper in the County where such society may be formed if any be printed therein, and if not then in some paper published in some adjoining County.”

 

8: Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; 1663
“That [the inhabitants], pursueing, with peaceable and loyall minces, their sober, serious and religious intentions, of goalie edifieing themselves, and one another, in the holy Christian faith and worship, as they werepersuaded; together with the gaining over and conversion of the poor ignorant Indian natives, in thoseparts of America, to the sincere profession and obedience of the same faith and worship…

true pietye rightly grounded upon gospell principles, will give the best and greatest security to sovereignetye, and will lay in the hearts of men the strongest obligations to true loyaltye: Now know bee, that wee beinge willinge to encourage the hopefull undertakeinge of oure sayd lovall and loveinge subjects, and to secure them in the free exercise and enjovment of all theire civill and religious rights, appertaining to them, as our loveing subjects; and to preserve unto them that libertye, in the true Christian ffaith and worshipp of God…

That our royall will and pleasure is, that noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments…

and to direct, rule, order and dispose of, all other matters and things, and particularly that which relates to the makinge of purchases of the native Indians, as to them shall seeme meete; wherebv oure sayd people and inhabitants, in the sayd Plantationes, may be soe religiously, peaceably and civilly governed, as that, by theire good life and orderlie conversations, they may win and invite the native Indians of the countrie to the knowledge and obedience of the onlie true God, and Saviour of mankinde…”

Rhode Island Constitution, Article I, Section 3; 1842
“Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; and all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and whereas a principal object of our venerable ancestors, in their migration to this country and their settlement of this state, was, as they expressed it, to hold forth a lively experiment that a flourishing civil state may stand and be best maintained with full liberty in religious concernments; we, therefore, declare that no person shall be compelled to frequent or to support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatever, except in fulfillment of such person’s voluntary contract; nor enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in body or goods; nor disqualified from holding any office; nor otherwise suffer on account of such person’s religious belief; and that every person shall be free to worship God according to the dictates of such person’s conscience, and to profess and by argument to maintain such person’s opinion in matters of religion; and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect the civil capacity of any person.”

 

9: Georgia Constitution; 1777
“Article VI. [R]epresentatives… shall be of the Protestant religion…

Article LVI. All persons whatever shall have the free exercise of their religion; provided it be not repugnant to the peace and safety of the State; and shall not, unless by consent, support any teacher or teachers except those of their own profession.”

Georgia Constitution Amended; 1789
Article I. Section 3. The ‘representatives… shall be of the Protestant religion…’ requirement was removed.

“Article IV. Section 5. All persons shall have the free exercise of religion, without being obligated to contribute to the support of any religious but their own.”

Georgia Constitution Amended; 1798
“Article IV. Section 10. No person within this state shall, upon any pretense, be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping God in any manner agreeable to his own conscience, nor be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith and judgment; nor shall he ever be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or any other rate, for the building or repairing any place of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right, or hath voluntarily engaged. To do. No one religious society shall ever be established in this state, in preference to another; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles.”

 

10: North Carolina Constitution; 1776
“Article XIX. That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

Article XXXI. That no clergyman, or preacher of the gospel, of any denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of pastoral function.

Article XXXII. That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

Article XXXIV. That there shall be no establishment of any one religious church or denomination in this State, in preference to any other; neither shall any person, on any presence whatsoever, be compelled to attend any place of worship contrary to his own faith or judgment, nor be obliged to pay, for the purchase of any glebe, or the building of any house of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes right, of has voluntarily and personally engaged to perform; but all persons shall be at liberty to exercise their own mode of worship: — Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt preachers of treasonable or seditious discourses, from legal trial and punishment.”

All religious requirements were removed in 1875

 

11: South Carolina Constitution; 1778
“Article XXXVIII. That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State. That all denominations of Christian Protestants in this State, demeaning themselves peaceably and faithfully, shall enjoy equal religious and civil privileges. To accomplish this desirable purpose without injury to the religious property of those societies of Christians which are by law already incorporated for the purpose of religious worship, and to put it fully into the power of every other society of Christian Protestants, either already formed or hereafter to be formed, to obtain the like incorporation, it is hereby constituted, appointed, and declared that the respective societies of the Church of England that are already formed in this State for the purpose of religious worship shall still continue Incorporate and hold the religious property now in their possession. And that whenever fifteen or more male persons, not under twenty-one years of age, professing the Christian Protestant religion, and agreeing to unite themselves in a society for the purposes of religious worship, they shall, (on complying with the terms hereinafter mentioned,) be, and be constituted, a church, and be esteemed and regarded in law as of the established religion of the state, and on a petition to the legislature shall be entitled to be incorporated and to enjoy equal privileges. That every society of Christians so formed shall give themselves a name or denomination by which they shall be called and known in law, and all that associate with them for the purposes of worship shall be esteemed as belonging to the society so called. But that previous to the establishment and incorporation of the respective societies of every denomination as aforesaid, and in order to entitle them thereto, each society so petitioning shall have agreed to and subscribed in a book the following five articles, without which no agreement or union of men upon pretense of religion shall entitle them to be incorporated and esteemed as a church of the established religion of this State:

1st. That there is one eternal God, and a future state of rewards and punishments.

2d. That God is publicly to be worshipped.

3d. That the Christian religion is the true religion.

4th. That the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are of divine inspiration, and are the rule of faith and practice.

5th That it is lawful and the duty of every man being thereunto called by those that govern, to bear witness to the truth.”

South Carolina Constitution; 1790
“Article VIII, Section 1. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever hereafter be allowed within this State to all mankind, PROVIDED, That the liberty of conscience thereby declared shall not be construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of this State.”

 

12: Pennsylvania Constitution; 1776
“Section. 2. That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their Own consciences and understanding: And that no man ought or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, contrary to, or against, his own free will and consent: nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account or his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship: And that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or In any manner controul, the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.

Section 10… shall each [representative] before they proceed to business take… the following oath or affirmation:

‘I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.’

And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this state.”

Pennsylvania Constitution, Article IX, Section 4; 1790
“That no person, who acknowledges the being of God and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth.”

 

13: New Jersey Constitution; 1776
“XVIII. That no person shall ever, within this Colony, be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; nor, under any pretense whatever, be compelled to attend any place of worship, contrary to his own faith and judgment; nor shall any person, within this Colony, ever be obliged to pay tithes, taxes, or any other rates, for the purpose of building or repairing any other church or churches, place or places of worship, or for the maintenance of any minister or ministry, contrary to what he believes to be right, or has deliberately or voluntarily engaged himself to perform.

XIX. That there shall be no establishment of any one religious sect in this Province, in preference to another; and that no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right, merely on account of his religious principles; but that all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect, who shall demean themselves peaceably under the government, as hereby established, shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust, or being a member of either branch of the Legislature, and shall fully and freely enjoy every privilege and immunity, enjoyed by others their fellow subjects.”

New Jersey Constitution, Rights and Privileges, Article I, Section 4; 1844
“There shall be no establishment of one religious sect in preference to another; no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust; and no person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right merely on account of his religious principles.”

 

Source(s):
Annals of the Congress of the United States; by United States. Congress, Joseph Gales, Sr.
A History of the Congregational Churches in the United States; by Williston Walker
A View of the Constitution(s) of the British Colonies: In North America; by Anthony Stokes
Pleas for religious liberty and the rights of conscience; by George Ticknor Curtis, Franklin S. Richards

Copyright © 2014 © 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis

Declaration and Protest on Violations of the Principles of the Constitution

Jefferson Concerning the 1st Amendment (Click to enlarge(

Jefferson Concerning the 1st Amendment Wall of Separation (Click to enlarge)

DECLARATION AND PROTEST OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

This paper was entitled by Jefferson, “The Solemn Declaration and Protest of the Commonwealth of Virginia, on the Principles of the Constitution of the United States of America, and on the violations of them “. Jefferson sent it to Madison in December. 1825, with an explanatory letter (vii, 422. FORD ED., in which he said: “It may intimidate the wavering. It may break the western coalition, by offering the same thing in a different form. It will be viewed with favor in contrast with the Georgia opposition, and fear of strengthening that. It will be an example of a temperate mode of opposition in future and similar cases.”—Editor.

We, the General Assembly of Virginia, on behalf, and in the name of the people thereof, do declare as follows:

The States of North America which confederated to establish their independence of the government of Great Britain, of which Virginia was one, became, on that acquisition free and independent States, and as such, authorized to constitute governments, each for itself, in such form as it thought best.

They entered into a compact (which is called the Constitution of the United States of America), by which they agreed to unite in a single government as to their relations with each other, and with foreign nations, and as to certain other articles particularly specified. They retained at the same time, each to itself, the other rights of independent government, comprehending mainly their domestic interests.

For the administration of their Federal branch, they agreed to appoint, in conjunction, a distinct set of functionaries, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the manner settled in that compact; while to each, severally, and of course remained its original right of appointing, each for itself, a separate set of functionaries, legislative, executive and judiciary, also, for administering the domestic branch of their respective governments.

These two sets of officers, each independent of the other, constitute thus a whole of government, for each State separately; the powers ascribed to the one, as specifically made federal, exercised over the whole, the residuary powers, retained to the other, exercisable exclusively over its particular State, foreign herein, each to the others, as they were before the original compact.

Thomas Jefferson Concerning (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson Concerning the 1st Amendment and General [Federal] Government (Click to enlarge)

To this construction of government and distribution of its powers, the Commonwealth of Virginia does religiously and affectionately adhere, opposing, with equal fidelity and firmness, the usurpation of either set of functionaries of the rightful powers of the other.

But the Federal branch has assumed in some cases, and claimed in others, a right of enlarging its own powers by constructions, inferences, and indefinite deductions from those directly given, which this Assembly does declare to be usurpations of the powers retained to the independent branches, mere interpolations into the compact, and direct infractions of it.

They claim, for example, and have commenced the exercise of a right to construct roads, open canals, and effect other internal improvements within the territories and jurisdictions exclusively belonging to the several States, which this Assembly does declare has not been given to that branch by the constitutional compact, but remains to each State among its domestic and unalienated powers, exercisable within itself and by its domestic authorities alone.

This Assembly does further disavow and declare to be most false and unfounded, the doctrine that the compact, in authorizing its Federal branch to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States, has given them thereby a power to do whatever they may think, or pretend, would promote the general welfare, which construction would make that, of itself, a complete government, without limitation of powers; but that the plain sense and obvious meaning were, that they might levy the taxes necessary to provide for the general welfare, by the various acts of power therein specified and delegated to them, and by no others.

Nor is it admitted, as has been said, that the people of these States, by not investing their Federal branch with all the means of bettering their condition, have denied to themselves any which may effect that purpose; since, in the distribution of these means they have given to that branch those which belong to its department, and to the States have reserved separately the residue which belong to them separately. And thus by the organization of the two branches taken together, have completely secured the first object of human association, the full improvement of their condition, and reserved to themselves all the faculties of multiplying their own blessings.

Whilst the General Assembly thus declares the rights retained by the States, rights which they have never yielded, and which this State will never voluntarily yield, they do not mean to raise the banner of dissatisfaction, or of separation from their sister States, co-parties with themselves to this compact. They know and value too highly the blessings of their Union as to foreign nations and questions arising among themselves, to consider every infraction as to be met by actual resistance. They respect too affectionately the opinions of those possessing the same rights under the same instrument, to make every difference of construction a ground of immediate rupture. They would, indeed, consider such a rupture as among the greatest calamities which could befall them; but not the greatest. There is yet one greater, submission to a government of unlimited powers. It is only when the hope of avoiding this shall have become absolutely desperate, that further forbearance could not be indulged. Should a majority of the co-parties, therefore, contrary to the expectation and hope of this Assembly, prefer, at this time, acquiescence in these assumptions of power by the Federal member of the government, we will be patient and suffer much, under the confidence that time, ere it be too late, will prove to them also the bitter consequences in which that usurpation will involve us all. In the meanwhile, we will breast with them, rather than separate from them, every misfortune, save that only of living under a government of unlimited powers. We owe every other sacrifice to ourselves, to our federal brethren, and to the world at large, to pursue with temper and with perseverance the great experiment which shall prove that man is capable of living in society, governing itself by laws self-imposed, and securing to its members the enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and peace; and further to show, that even when the government of its choice shall manifest a tendency to degeneracy, we are not at once to despair but that the will and the watchfulness of its sounder parts will reform its aberrations, recall it to original and legitimate principles, and restrain it within the rightful limits of self-government. And these are the objects of this Declaration and Protest.

Supposing, then, that it might be for the good of the whole, as some of its co-States seem to think, that the power of making roads and canals should be added to those directly given to the Federal branch, as more likely to be systematically and beneficially directed, than by the independent action of the several States, this Commonwealth, from respect to these opinions, and a desire of conciliation with its co-States, will consent, in concurrence with them, to make this addition, provided it be done regularly by an amendment of the compact, in the way established by that instrument, and provided also, it be sufficiently guarded against abuses, compromises, and corrupt practices, not only of possible, but of probable occurrence.

And as a further pledge of the sincere and cordial attachment of this Commonwealth to the Union of the whole, so far as has been consented to by the compact called “The Constitution of the United States of America” (constructed according to the plain and ordinary meaning of its language, to the common intendment of the time, and of those who framed it); to give also to all parties and authorities, time for reflection and consideration, whether, under a temperate view of the possible consequences, and especially of the constant obstructions which an equivocal majority must ever expect to meet, they will still prefer the assumption of this power rather than its acceptance from the free will of their constituents; and to preserve peace in the meanwhile, we proceed to make it the duty of our citizens, until the Legislature shall otherwise and ultimately decide, to acquiesce under those acts of the Federal branch of our government which we have declared to be usurpations, and against which, in point of right, we do protest as null and void, and never to be quoted as precedents of right.

Thomas Jefferson on Foreseeing Abuses by Government (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson on Foreseeing Abuses by Government (Click to enlarge)

We, therefore, do enact, and Be It Enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That all citizens of this Commonwealth, and persons and authorities within the same, shall pay full obedience at all times to the acts which may be passed by the Congress of the United States, the object of which shall be the construction of post roads, making canals of navigation, and maintaining the same in any part of the United States, in like manner as if said acts were totidem verbis, passed by the Legislature of this Commonwealth.—ix, 496. Ford ed., X, 349. (Dec. 34, 1825)

Copyright © 2014 © 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis

Virginia Protest Prepared by Jefferson for the Legislature of Virginia

ThomasJeffersonQuoteFederalGovtAdministration

Jefferson Tells How the Federal Government should be Administered

Protest Prepared by Thomas Jefferson for the Legislature of Virginia; December, 1825

The solemn Declaration and Protest of the Commonwealth of Virginia, on the principles of the Constitution of the United Stales of America, and on the violations of them. We, the General Assembly of Virginia, on behalf, and in the name of the people thereof, do declare as follows:

The States in North America which confederated to establish their independence on the Government of Great Britain, of which Virginia was one, became, on that acquisition, free and independent States, and, as such, authorized to constitute Governments, each for itself, in such forms as it thought best.

They entered into a compact, (which is called the Constitution of the United States of America,) by which they agreed to unite in a single Government, as to their relations with each other, and with foreign nations, and as to certain other articles particularly specified. They retained at the same time, each to itself, the other rights of independent government, comprehending, mainly, their domestic interests.

For the administration of their Federal branch, they agreed to appoint, in conjunction, a distinct set of functionaries. Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, in the manner settled in that compact: while to each, severally and of course, remained its original right of appointing, each for itself, a separate set of functionaries, Legislative, Executive, aud Judiciary, also, for administering the domestic branch of their respective Governments.

These two sets of officers, each independent of the other, constitute thus a whole of government, for each State separately; the powers ascribed to the one, as specifically made Federal, exercised over the whole; the residuary powers, retained to the other, exercisable exclusively over its particular States, foreign herein, each to the other, as they were before the original compact.

To this construction of government and distribution of its power, the Commonwealth of Virginia does religiously and affectionately adhere, opposing with equal fidelity and firmness, the usurpation of either set of functionaries on the rightful powers of the other.

But the Federal branch has assumed, in some cases, and claimed in others, a right of enlarging its own powers by constructions, inferences, and indefinite -deductions from those directly given, which this Assembly does declare to be usurpations of the powers retained to the independent branches; mere interpolations into the compact, and direct infractions of it.

They claim, for example, and have commenced the exercise of, a right to construct roads, open canals, and effect other internal improvements within the territories and jurisdictions exclusively belonging to the several States, which this Assembly does declare has not been given to that branch by the constitutional compact, but remains to each State, among its domestic and unalienated powers, exercisable within itself, and by its domestic authorities alone.

This Assembly does further disavow and declare to be most false and unfounded, the doctrine that the compact, in authorizing its Federal branch to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises; to pay all debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States, has given them thereby a power to do whatever they may think, or pretend, would promote the general welfare; which construction would make that, of itself, a complete government, without limitation of powers; but that the plain sense and obvious meaning was, that they might levy the taxes necessary to provide for the general welfare, by the various acts of power therein specified and delegated to them, and by no others.

Nor is it admitted, as has been said, that the people of these States, by not investing their Federal branch with all the means of bettering their condition, have denied to themselves any which may effect that purpose, since, in the distribution of these means, they have given to that branch those which belong to its departments, and to the States have reserved, separately, the residue which belong to them separately. And thus, by the organization of the two branches taken together, have completely secured the first object of human association, the full improvement of their condition, and reserved to themselves all the faculties of multiplying their own blessings.

Whilst the General Assembly thus declares the rights retained by the State, rights which they never have yielded, and which tho Stale never will voluntarily yield, they do not mean to raise the banner of disaffection, or of separation from their sister States, co-parties with themselves to this compact. They know and value too highly the blessings of their Union, as to foreign nations and questions arising among themselves, to consider every infraction to be met by actual resistance. They respect too affectionately the opinions of those possessing the same rights, under the same instrument, to make every difference of construction a ground of immediate rupture. They would, indeed,consider such a rupture as among the greatest calamities which could befall them; but not the greatest. There is yet One Greater—submission to a Government of Unlimited Powers.

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Thomas Jefferson: Encroaches on Liberty & Rights by Government

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From Thomas Jefferson to Noah Webster, Jr.

Philadelphia Dec. 4. 1790.

Sir

Your favor of Oct. 4, came to my hands on the 20th. of November. Application was made a day or two after to Mr. Dobson for the copies of your essays, which were recieved, and one of them lodged in the office. For that intended for myself be pleased to accept my thanks. I return you the order on Mr. Allen, that on Dobson having been made use of instead of it. I submit to your consideration whether it might not be adviseable to record a second time your right to the Grammatical institutes in order to bring the lodging of the copy in my office within the 6. months made a condition by the law? I have not at this moment an opportunity of turning to the law to see if that may be done: but I suppose it possible that the failure to fulfill the legal condition on the first record might excite objections against the validity of that.

In mentioning me in your essays, and canvassing my opinions, you have done what every man has a right to do, and it is for the good of society that that right should be freely exercised. No republic is more real than that of letters, and I am the last in principles, as I am the least in pretensions to any dictatorship in it. Had I other dispositions, the philosophical and dispassionate spirit with which you have expressed your own opinions in opposition to mine, would still have commanded my approbation. A desire of being set right in your opinion, which I respect too much not to entertain that desire, induces me to hazard to you the following observations. It had become an universal and almost uncontroverted position in the several states, that the purposes of society do not require a surrender of all our rights to our ordinary governors: that there are certain portions of right not necessary to enable them to carry on an effective government, and which experience has nevertheless proved they will be constantly incroaching on, if submitted to them. That there are also certain fences which experience has proved peculiarly efficacious against wrong, and rarely obstructive of right, which yet the governing powers have ever shewn a disposition to weaken and remove. Of the first kind for instance is freedom of religion: of the second, trial by jury, Habeas corpus laws, free presses. These were the settled opinions of all the states, of that of Virginia, of which I was writing, as well as of the others. The others had in consequence delineated these unceded portions of right, and these fences against wrong, which they meant to exempt from the power of their governors, in instruments called declarations of rights and constitutions: and as they did this by Conventions which they appointed for the express purpose of reserving these rights, and of delegating others to their ordinary legislative, executive and judiciary bodies, none of the reserved rights can be touched without resorting to the people to appoint another convention for the express purpose of permitting it. Where the constitutions then have been so formed by Conventions named for this express purpose they are fixed and unalterable but by a Convention or other body to be specially authorised. And they have been so formed by I believe all the states except Virginia. That state concurs in all these opinions, but has run into the wonderful error that her constitution, tho made by the ordinary legislature, cannot yet be altered by the ordinary legislature. I had therefore no occasion to prove to them the expediency of a constitution alterable only by a special convention. Accordingly I have not in my notes advocated that opinion, tho it was and is mine, as it was and is theirs. I take that position as admitted by them: and only proceed to adduce arguments to prove that they were mistaken in supposing their constitution could not be altered by the common legislature. Among other arguments I urge that the Convention which formed the constitution had been chosen merely for ordinary legislation, that they had no higher power than every subsequent legislature was to have, that all their acts are consequently repealable by subsequent legislatures, that their own practice at a subsequent session proved they were of this opinion themselves, that the opinion and practice of several subsequent legislatures had been the same, and so conclude ‘that their constitution is alterable by the common legislature.’ Yet these arguments urged to prove that their constitution is alterable, you cite as if urged to prove that it ought not to be alterable, and you combat them on that ground. An argument which is good to prove one thing, may become ridiculous when exhibited as intended to prove another thing. I will beg the favor of you to look over again the passage in my Notes, and am persuaded you will be sensible that you have misapprehended the object of my arguments, and therefore have combated them on a ground for which they were not intended. My only object in this is the rectification of your own opinion of me, which I repeat that I respect too much to neglect. I have certainly no view of entering into the contest whether it be expedient to delegate unlimited power to our ordinary governors? My opinion is against that expediency. But my occupations do not permit me to undertake to vindicate all my opinions, nor have they importance enough to merit it. It cannot however but weaken my confidence in them when I find them opposed to yours, there being no one who respects the latter more than Sir

Your most obedt. & most humble servt,

Th. Jefferson

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Thomas Jefferson Concerning His Personal Privacy Rights

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Thomas Jefferson to Colonel James Monroe

Monticello, May 20th, 1782

Dear Sir,—I have been gratified with your two favors of the 6th and 11th inst. It gives me pleasure that your county has been wise enough to enlist your talent into their service. I am much obliged by the kind wishes you express of seeing me also in Richmond, and am always mortified when anything is expected from me which I cannot fulfill, and more especially if it relate to the public service. Before I ventured to declare to my countrymen my determination to retire from public employment, I examined well my heart to know whether it were thoroughly cured of every principle of political ambition, whether no lurking particle remained which might leave me uneasy, when reduced within the limits of mere private life. I became satisfied that every fibre of that passion was thoroughly eradicated. I examined also, in other views, my right to withdraw. I considered that I had been thirteen years engaged in public service— that, during that time, I had so totally abandoned all attention to my private affairs as to permit them to run into great disorder and ruin—that I had now a family advanced to years which require my attention and instruction—that, to these, was added the hopeful offspring of a deceased friend, whose memory must be forever dear to me, and who have no other reliance for being rendered useful to themselves or their country—that by a constant sacrifice of time, labor, parental and friendly duties, I had, so far from gaining the affection of my countrymen, which was the only reward I ever asked or could have felt, even lost the small estimation I had before possessed.

That, however I might have comforted myself under the disapprobation of the well-meaning but uninformed people, yet, that of their representatives was a shock on which I had not calculated. That this, indeed, had been followed by an exculpatory declaration. But, in the meantime, I had been suspected in the eyes of the world, without the least hint then or afterwards being made public, which might restrain them from supposing that I stood arraigned for treason of the heart, and not merely weakness of the mind ; and I felt that these injuries, for such they have been since acknowledged, had inflicted a wound on my spirit which will only be cured by the all-healing grave. If reason and inclination unite in justifying my retirement, the laws of my country are equally in favor of it. Whether the State may command the political services of all its members to an indefinite extent, or, if these be among the rights never wholly ceded to the public power, is a question which I do not find expressly decided in England. Obiter dictums on the subject I have indeed met with, but the complexion of the times in which these have dropped would generally answer them. Besides that, this species of authority is not acknowledged in our possession. In this country, however, since the present government has been established, the point has been settled by uniform, pointed and multiplied precedents. Offices of every kind, and given by every power, have been daily and hourly declined and resigned from the Declaration of Independence to this moment. The General Assembly has accepted these without discrimination of office, and without ever questioning them in point of right. If the difference between the office of a delegate and any other could ever have been supposed, yet in the case of Mr. Thompson Mason, who declined the office of delegate, and was permitted so to do by the House, that supposition has been proved to be groundless. But, indeed, no such distinction of offices can be admitted. Reason, and the opinions of the lawyers, putting all on a footing as to this question, and so giving to the delegate the aid of all the precedents of the refusal of other offices. The law then does not warrant the assumption of such a power by the State over its members. For if it does, where is that law ? nor yet does reason. For though I will admit that this does subject every individual, if called on, to an equal tour of political duty, yet it can never go so far as to submit to it his whole existence. If we are made in some degree for others, yet, in a greater, are we made for ourselves. It were contrary to feeling, and indeed ridiculous to suppose that a man had less rights in himself than one of his neighbors, or indeed all of them put together. This would be slavery, and not that liberty which the bill of rights has made inviolable, and for the preservation of which our government has been charged. Nothing could so completely divest us of that liberty as the establishment of the opinion, that the State has a perpetual right to the services of all its members. This, to men of certain ways of thinking, would be to annihilate the blessings of existence, and to contradict the Giver of life, who gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness. And certainly, to such it were better that they had never been born. However, with these, I may think public service and private misery inseparably linked together, I have not the vanity to count myself among those whom the State would think worth oppressing with perpetual service. I have received a sufficient memento to the contrary. I am persuaded that, having hitherto dedicated to them the whole of the active and useful part of my life, I shall be permitted to pass the rest in mental quiet. I hope, too, that I did not mistake modes any more than the matter of right when I preferred a simple act of renunciation, to the taking sanctuary under those disqualifications (provided by the law for other purposes indeed but) affording asylum also for rest to the wearied. I dare say you did not expect by the few words you dropped on the right of renunciation to expose yourself to the fatigue of so long a letter, but I wished you to see that, if I had done wrong, I had been betrayed by a semblance of right at least. I take the liberty of enclosing to you a letter for General Chattellux, for which you will readily find means of conveyance. But I mean to give you more trouble with the one to Pelham, who lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and to ask the favor of you to send it by your servant—express—which I am in hopes may be done without absenting him from your person, but during those hours in which you will be engaged in the house. I am anxious that it should be received immediately. ****** it will give me great pleasure to see you here whenever you can favor us with your company. You will find me still busy, but in lighter occupations. But in these and all others you will find me to retain a due sense of your friendship, and to be, with sincere esteem, dear Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant. of the 12th instant, renewing my appointment as one of their ministers plenipotentiary for negotiating a peace — and beg leave, through you, to return my sincere thanks to that august body, for the confidence they are pleased to repose in me, and to tender the same to yourself for the obliging manner in which you have notified it. I will employ in this arduous charge, with diligence and integrity, the best of my poor talents, which I am conscious are far short of what it requires. This, I hope, will ensure to me from Congress a kind construction of all my transactions. And it gives me no small pleasure, that my communications will pass through the hands of a gentleman with whom I have acted in the earlier stages of this contest, and whose candor and discernment I had the good fortune then to approve and esteem. Your letter finds me at a distance from home, attending my family under inoculation. This will add to the delay which the arrangements of my particular affairs would necessarily occasion. I shall lose no moment, however, in preparing for my departure, and shall hope to pay my respects to Congress and yourself at sometime between the 20th and the last of December.

I have the honor to be, with very great esteem and respect, dear Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant.

Jefferson was replying to the following letter by Monroe, dated

Richmond, 11th of May, 1782.

Dear Sir,—As I so lately wrote you by Mr. Short, and have since daily expected to see you here, I did not propose writing to you till after I should have that pleasure; but as I begin to fear you will not abate that firmness and decision which you have frequently shown in the service of your country, even upon this occasion, and as I have had an opportunity since I last wrote of being better informed of the sentiments of those whom I know you put the greatest value on, I think it my duty to make you acquainted therewith. It is publicly said here, that the people of your country informed you that they had frequently elected you in times of less difficulty and danger than the present to please you; but that now they had called you forth into public office to serve themselves. This is a language which has been often used in my presence ; and you will readily conceive that, as it furnishes those who argue on the fundamental maxims of a Republican government with ample field for declamation, the conclusion has always been, that you should not decline the service of your country. The present is generally conceived to be an important era, which, of course, makes your attendance particularly necessary. And as I have taken the liberty to give you the public opinion and desire upon this occasion, and as I am warmly interested in whatever concerns the public interest or has relation to you, it will be necessary to add, it is earnestly the desire of, dear Sir,

Your sincere friend and obedient servant.

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Resolutions of the freeholders of Albermarle County, Virginia July 26, 1774

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At a Meeting of the Freeholders of the County of Albemarle, assembled in their collective body, at the Court House of the said County, on the 26th of July, 1774:

Resolved, That the inhabitants of the Several States of British America are subject to the laws which they adopted at their first settlement, and to such others as have been since made by their respective Legislatures, duly constituted and appointed with their own consent. That no other Legislature whatever can rightly exercise authority over them; and that these privileges they hold as the common rights of mankind, confirmed by the political constitutions they have respectively assumed, and also by several charters of compact from the Crown.

Resolved, That these their natural and legal rights have in frequent instances been invaded by the Parliament of Great Britain and particularly that they were so by an act lately passed to take away the trade of the inhabitants of the town of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay; that all such assumptions of unlawful power are dangerous to the right of the British empire in general, and should be considered as its common cause, and that we will ever be ready to join with our fellow-subjects in every part of the same, in executing all those rightful powers which God has given us, for the re-establishment and guaranteeing such their constitutional rights, when, where, and by whomsoever invaded.

It is the opinion of this meeting, that the most eligible means of affecting these purposes, will be to put an immediate stop to all imports from Great Britain, (cotton, osnabrigs, striped duffil, medicines, gunpowder, lead, books and printed papers, the necessary tolls and implements for the handicraft arts and manufactures excepted, for a limited term) and to all exports thereto, after the first day of October, which shall be in the year of our Lord, 1775; and immediately to discontinue all commercial intercourse with every part of the British Empire which shall not in like manner break off their commerce with Great Britain.

It is the opinion of this meeting, that we immediately cease to import all commodities from every part of the world, which are subjected by the British Parliament to the payment of duties in America.

It is the opinion of this meeting, that these measures should be pursued until a repeal be obtained of the Act for blocking up the harbour of Boston; of the Acts prohibiting or restraining internal manufactures in America; of the Acts imposing on any commodities duties to be paid in America; and of the Act laying restrictions on the American trade; and that on such repeal it will be reasonable to grant to our brethren of Great Britain such privileges in commerce as may amply compensate their fraternal assistance, past and future.

Resolved, However, that this meeting do submit these their opinions to the Convention of Deputies from the several counties of this Colony, and appointed to be held at Williamsburg on the first day of August next, and also to the General Congress of Deputies from the several American States, when and wheresoever held; and that they will concur in these or any other measures which such convention or such Congress shall adopt as most expedient for the American good; and we do appoint Thomas Jefferson and John Walker our Deputies to act for this county at the said Convention, and instruct them to conform themselves to these our Resolutions and Opinions.

Source: Resolutions Of Albemarle County. Writings of Jefferson; Paul L. Ford Ed., i, 419. (July 26, 1774.) & The Works of Thomas Jefferson Volume 2; By Thomas Jefferson.

 

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Prophetic Letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison; Paris Dec 20, 1787

Thomas Jefferson concerning Separation of Powers

Thomas Jefferson concerning Separation of Powers

FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JAMES MADISON.

Paris, December 20, 1787.

Dear Sir,

My last to you was of October the 8th, by the Count de Moustier. Yours of July the 18th, September the 6th, and October the 25th, were successively received, yesterday, the day before, and three or four days before that. I have only had time to read the letters; the printed papers communicated with them, however interesting, being obliged to lie over till I finish my despatches for the packet, which despatches must go from hence the day after to-morrow. I have much to thank you for, first and most for the cyphered paragraph respecting myself. These little informations are very material towards forming my own decisions. I would be glad even to know when any individual member thinks I have gone wrong in any instance. If I know myself it would not excite ill blood in me, while it would assist to guide my conduct, perhaps, to justify it, and to keep me to my duty alert. I must thank you, too, for the information in Thomas Burk’s case; though you will have found, by a subsequent letter, that I have asked of you a further investigation of that matter. It is to gratify the lady who is at the head of the convent wherein my daughters are, and who, by her attachment and attention to them, lays me under great obligations. I shall hope, therefore, still to receive from you the result of all the further inquiries my second letter had asked. The parcel of rice, which you informed me had miscarried, accompanied my letter to the delegates of South Carolina. Mr. Bourgoin was to be the bearer of both, and both were delivered together into the hands of his relation here, who introduced him to me, and who, at a subsequent moment, undertook to convey them to Mr. Bourgoin. This person was an engraver, particularly recommended to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Hopkinson. Perhaps he may have mislaid the little parcel of rice among his baggage. I am much pleased that the sale of western lands is so successful. I hope they will absorb all the certificates of our domestic debt speedily, in the first place, and that then, offered for cash, they will do the same by our foreign ones.

The season admitting of operations in the Cabinet, and those being in a great measure secret, I have little to fill a letter. I will therefore make up the deficiency by adding a few words on the constitution proposed by our Convention.

I like much the general idea of framing a Government which would go on of itself peaceably, without needing continual recurrence to the State Legislatures. I like the organization of the Government into legislative, judiciary, and executive. I like the power given the Legislature to levy taxes, and for that reason solely, I approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For, though I think a house so chosen, will be very far inferior to the present Congress, will be very illy qualified to legislate for the Union, for foreign nations, &c, yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. I am captivated by the compromise of the opposite claims of the great and little States, of the latter to equal, and the former to proportional influence. I am much pleased, too, with the substitution of the method of voting by persons instead of that of voting by States; and I like the negative given to the Executive, conjointly with a third of either House, though I should have liked it better had the judiciary been associated for that purpose, or invested separately with a similar power. There are other good things of less moment.

I will now tell you what I do not like: First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly and without the aid of sophism for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land, and not by the laws of nations. To say, as Mr. Wilson does, that a bill of rights was not necessary, because all is reserved in the case of the General Government which is not given, while in the particular ones all is given which is not reserved, might do for the audience to which it was addressed, but it is surely a gratis dictum, the reverse of which might just as well be said; and it is opposed by strong inferences from the body of the instrument, as well as from the omission of the clause of our present Confederation, which had made the reservation in express terms. It was hard to conclude, because there has been a want of uniformity among the States as to the cases triable by jury, because some have been so incautious as to dispense with this mode of trial in certain cases, therefore the more prudent States shall be reduced to the same level of calamity. It would have been much more just and wise to have concluded by the other way, that as most of the States had preserved with jealousy this sacred palladium of liberty, those which had wandered should be brought back to it; and to have established general right rather than general wrong. For I consider all the ill as established which may be established. I have a right to nothing which another has a right to take away; and Congress will have a right to take away trials by jury in all civil cases. Let me add, that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every Government on earth, general or particular, and which no just Government should refuse, or rest on inference. Roman Emperors, the Popes while they were of any importance, the German Emperors till they became hereditary in practice, the Kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependencies. It may be said that if elections are to be attended with these disorders, the less frequently they are repeated the better. But experience says, that to free them from disorder they must be rendered less interesting by a necessity of change. No foreign Power, nor domestic party, will waste their blood and money to elect a person who must go out at the end of a short period. The power of removing every fourth year by the vote of the people is a power which they will not exercise, and if they were disposed to exercise it, they would not be permitted. The King of Poland is removable every day by the Diet, but they never remove him. Nor would Russia, the Emperor, Sic, permit them to do it. Smaller objections are, the appeals on matters of fact as well as law, and the binding all persons, legislative, executive, and judiciary, by oath to maintain that Constitution. I do not pretend to decide what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in this Constitution, and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it in hopes of future amendments; or, after it shall have been only weighed and canvassed by the people, after seeing the parts they generally dislike and those they generally approve, to say to them: “We see now ‘what you wish. You are willing to give to your Federal Government such and such powers, but you wish at the same time to have ‘such and such fundamental rights secured to you, and certain sources ‘of convulsion taken away. Be it so. Send together your deputies ‘again. Let them establish your fundamental rights by a sacrosanct ‘declaration, and let them pass the parts of the Constitution you ‘have approved. These will give powers to your Federal Government sufficient for your happiness.”

The second feature I dislike, and strongly dislike, is the abandonment, in every instance, of the principle of rotation in office, and most particularly in the case of the President. Reason and experience tell us that the first magistrate will always be reelected, if he may be reelected. He is then an officer for life. This once observed, it becomes of so much consequence to certain nations to have a friend or a foe at the head of our affairs, that they will interfere with money and with arms. A Galloman or an Angloman will be supported by the nation he befriends. If once elected, and at a second or third election out-voted by one or two votes, he will pretend false votes, foul play, hold possession of the reins of Government, be supported by the States voting for him, especially if they be the central ones, lying in a compact body themselves, and separating their opponents; and they will be aided by one nation in Europe, while the majority are aided by another. The election of a President of America, some years hence, will be much more interesting to certain nations of Europe than ever the election of a King of Poland was. Reflect on all the instances in history, ancient and modern, of the elective Monarchies, and say if they do not give foundation for my fears; the Roman Emperors, the Popes while they were of any importance, the German Emperors till they became hereditary in practice, the Kings of Poland, the Deys of the Ottoman dependencies. It may be said that if elections are to be attended with these disorders, the less frequently they are repeated the better. But experience says, that to free them from disorder, they must be rendered less interesting by a necessity of change. No foreign power, nor domestic party, will waste their blood and money to elect a person who must go out at the end of a short period. The power of removing every fourth year by the vote of the people, is a power which they will not exercise, and if the were disposed to exercise it, they would not be permitted. The king of Poland is removeable every day by the Diet, but they never remove him. Nor would Russia, the Emperor, &0. permit them to do it. Smaller objections are, the appeals on matters of fact as well as law; and the binding all persons, legislative, executive, and judiciary, by oath to maintain the constitution. I. do not pretend to decide what would be the best method of procuring the establishment of the manifold good things in this constitution, and of getting rid of the bad. Whether by adopting it in hopes of future amendments; or after it shall have been only weighed and canvassed by the people, after seeing the parts they generally dislike, and those . they generally approve, to say to them, ‘We see now what you wish. You are willing to give to your federal government such and such powers, but you wish, at the same time, to have such and such fundamental rights secured to you, and certain sources of convulsion taken away. Be it so. Send together your deputies again. Let them establish your fundamental rights by a sacro-sancl declaration, and let them pass the parts of the constitution you have approved. These will give powers to your federal government sufficient for your happiness.’

This is what might be said, and would probably produce a speedy, more perfect, and more permanent form of Government. At all events I hope you will not be discouraged from making other trials, if the present one should fail. We are never permitted to despair of the Commonwealth. I have thus told you freely which I like and what I dislike, merely as a matter of curiosity; for I know it is not in my power to offer matter of information to your judgment, which has been formed after hearing and weighing everything which the wisdom of man could offer on these subjects. I own I am not a friend to a very energetic Government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors, indeed, more at ease, at the expense of the people. The late rebellion in Massachusetts has given more alarm than I think it should have done. Calculate that one rebellion in thirteen States in the course of eleven years is but one for each State in a century and a half. No country should be as long without one. Nor will any degree of power in the hands of Government prevent insurrection. In England, where the hand of power is heavier than with us, there are seldom half a dozen years without an insurrection. In France, where it is still heavier, but less despotic, as Montesquieu supposes, than in some other countries, and where there are always two or three hundred thousand men ready to crush insurrections, there have been three in the course of the three years I have been here, in every one of which greater numbers were engaged than in Massachusetts, and a great deal more blood spilt. In Turkey, where the sole nod of the despot is death, insurrections are the events of every day. Compare again the ferocious depredations of their insurgents with the order, the moderation, and the almost self-extinguishment of ours; and say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the Government or information to the people. This last is the most certain and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. After all, it is my principle that the will of the majority should prevail. If they approve the proposed Constitution in all its parts, I shall concur in it cheerfully, in hopes they will amend it whenever they shall find it works wrong. This reliance cannot deceive us as long as we remain virtuous; and I think we shall be so as long as agriculture is our principal object, which will be the case while there remain vacant lands in any part of America. When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as they do there. I have tired you by this time with disquisitions which you have already heard repeated by others, a thousand and a thousand times, and therefore shall only add assurances of the esteem and attachment with which I have the honor to be, &c,

TH: JEFFERSON.

P. S. The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our Constitution that there shall always be a twelvemonth between the engrossing a bill and passing it—that it should then be offered to its passage without changing a word; and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both Houses instead of a bare majority.

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THOMAS JEFFERSON: VIRGINIA BILL FOR ESTABLISHING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

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Section I. Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will, but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint: that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone: that the impious presumption of legislature and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men. have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind, that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; and therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to office of trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injudiciously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminals who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way; that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because, he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless, by human interposition, disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Sect, II. We, the General Assembly of Virginia, do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Sect. III. And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies, constituted with powers equal to our own, and that, therefore, to declare this act to be irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter parsed to repeal the present or to narrow its operations, such act will be an infringement of natural right.—Writings of Jefferson: Paul Ford Ed., ii, 237. (1786.)

Copyright © 2014 © 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis

The Problems Associated with a Paternal Government

Does the following excerpt remind you of the way many in the U.S. government (Democrats mainly, but certain so-called Republicans) see the American citizenry today? i.e. In need of a Paternal Government 

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Excerpt from “Kant’s Principles of Politics” by Immanuel Kant

The Liberty of every Member of the State As A Man, is the first Principle in the constitution of a rational Commonwealth. I would express this Principle in the following form:—’ No one has a right to compel me to be happy in the peculiar way in which he may think of the well-being of other men; but everyone is entitled to seek his own happiness in the way that seems to him best, if it does not infringe the liberty of others in striving after a similar end for themselves when their Liberty is capable of consisting with the Right of Liberty in all others according to possible universal laws.’—A Government founded upon the principle of Benevolence towards the people—after the analogy of a father to his children, and therefore called a paternal Government—would be one in which the [Citizens] would be regarded as children or minors unable to distinguish what-is beneficial or injurious to them. These [citizens] would be thus compelled to act in a merely passive way; and they would be trained to expect solely from the Judgment of the [Government] and just as [it] might will it, merely out of [its] goodness, all that ought to make them happy. Such a Government would be the greatest conceivable Despotism; for it would present a Constitution that would abolish all Liberty in the [Citizenry] and leave them no Rights. It is not a paternal Government, but only a patriotic Government that is adapted for men who are capable of Rights, and at the same time fitted to give scope to the good-will of the [government].

By ‘patriotic’ is meant that condition of mind in which everyone in the State—the Head of it not excepted—regards the Commonwealth as the maternal bosom, and the country as the paternal soil out of and on which he himself has sprung into being, and which he also must leave to others as a dear inheritance. Thus, and thus only, can he hold himself entitled to protect the Rights of his [countrymen] by laws of the common will, but not to subject it to an unconditional purpose of his own at pleasure.—This Right of Liberty thus belongs to him as a man, while he is a Member of the Commonwealth; or, in point of fact, so far as he is a being capable of rights generally.

source: Kant’s Principles of Politics and Perpetual Peace
Copyright © 2014 © 2015 TeaPartyEdu http://teapartyedu.net Foundation Truths http://captainjamesdavis.net The Patriot Brotherhood @CaptainJDavis

MORALITY OF GOVERNMENT by Thomas Jefferson 1810

Separation of Power ~ Jefferson

This could very well have been written about the government of the United States in this day and time.

Morality of government.—It may be asked, what, in the nature of her government, unfits England for the observation of moral duties? In the first place, her King is a cipher; his only function being to name the oligarchy which is to govern her. The parliament is, by corruption, the mere instrument of the will of the administration. The real power and property in the government is in the great aristocratical families of the nation. The nest of office being too small for all of them to cuddle into at once, the contest is eternal, which shall crowd the other out. For this purpose, they are divided into two parties, the ” Ins” and the “Outs,” so equal in weight that a small matter turns the balance. To keep themselves in, when they are in. every stratagem must be practiced, every artifice used which may flatter the pride, the passions or power of the nation. Justice, honor, faith, must yield to the necessity of keeping themselves in place. The question whether a measure is moral, is never asked; but whether it will nourish the avarice of their merchants, or the piratical spirit of their navy, or produce any other effect which may strengthen them in their places. As to engagements, however positive, entered by the predecessors of the “Ins,” why, they were their enemies: they did everything which was wrong; and to reverse everything which they did, must, therefore, be right. This is the true character of the English government in practice, however different its theory; and it presents the singular phenomenon of a nation, the individuals of which are as faithful to their private engagements and duties, as honorable, as worthy, as those of any nation on earth, and whose government is yet the most unprincipled at this day known. In an absolute government there can be no such equiponderant [having equal weight] parties. The despot is the government. His power suppressing all opposition, maintains his ministers firm in their places. What he has contracted, therefore, through them, he has the power to observe with good faith; and he identifies his own honor and faith with that of his nation. —To John Langdon; March 1810.

Source: The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia: A Comprehensive Collection of the Views of Thomas Jefferson, by Thomas Jefferson; ‎John P. Foleypublished 1900

GOD GOVERNS IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN Speech by Benjamin Franklin During the Constitutional Convention

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GOD GOVERNS IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN Speech by Benjamin Franklin During the Constitutional Convention, supporting his motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention. While the important question of the representation of the states in the senate was the subject of debate, and the states were almost equally divided upon it, Dr. Franklin moved that prayers should be attended in the convention every morning, and in support of his motion, thus addressed the president.

“Mr. President.—The small progress we have made after four or five weeks close attendance and continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many nays, as ayes—is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this ; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests ; our projects will be confounded ; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move—that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”

To understand what the Founding Fathers meant by separation of Church and State you have to look at the history of Europe. They did not mean for us to push God and Jesus out of the public square or out of the governmental domain. They simply meant the government and the church would not join together to oppress the people as they had done historically, they were also against the establishment of a theological hierarchy, just as they were against the Divine Right of Kings to rule, as had been historically taught by the Church of England, the Catholic Church and the establishment religious organizations of the time. Far too often the Church was controlled by the King, or the King was controlled by the church, in all cases it was to the detriment of the common people. To misinterpret the Constitution as they do in this present time is a radical departure from it’s true meaning. Just as is proven, when they always conveniently leave out the second part of the religious freedom clause.

First Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

They always conveniently leave out “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”, it does not say “freedom from religion”, it says freedom of religious expression. When you deny people in government the right to talk about God, Jesus, the Bible, from wearing crosses, denying their right to pray, etc. you are going against everything the founders stood for and denying their right to the “free exercise” of their religious beliefs, and you are also denying their right to free speech. This has gone on far too long and runs counter to everything the founding fathers believed and fought for.

See also: THE TRANSCENDENT GLORY OF THE REVOLUTION by John Quincy Adams
THE DECLARATION OF THE REPRESENTATIVES IN 1775 by John Dickinson
OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM; AND OF TRAITORS by John Dickinson 1732-1808
THE MEANING OF THE REVOLUTION and CONTROVERSY OF INDEPENDENCE
A PATRIOT’S THANKSGIVING by John Woolman; Quaker and Early Anti-Slavery Spokesman
A WARNING TO AMERICANS by John Dickinson 1732-1808
Never Judge a Book by it’s Cover: In memory of a great man I once knew

THE HOLY BIBLE IN AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE

PrecedentOriginally Titled “THE BIBLE AS A PERSUASIVE JUDICIAL AUTHORITY” in The Mercantile Adjuster, and the Lawyer and the Credit Man. Published 1900

It is a noteworthy fact in the history of the Anglo~Saxon Jurisprudence and a signiflcant commentary on the life-work of men like lngersoll and Paine that the Bible is cited by our judges oftener and more approvingly than any other publication, excepting those technical “law” books which constitute the ordinary working tools of the legal profession. Adjuster readers, who are curious in such matters, are referred to the following judicial authorities:

Reddin v. Dunn, 2 Col. Apps, 518; Groth v. Kersting, 4 Col. Apps, 595; Ex Parte Schneider, 21 Dist.Col., 433; Times Publishing Company v. Carlisle, 94 Fed. Rep, 762; Giles v. State, 6 Ga., 276; Epps v. State, 19 Ga., 102; Jackson v. Jackson. 32 Ga, 325; Stein v. Hauck, 56 Ind. 65; Dascomb v. Marston, 80 Me., 233; ill. Cent. R. R. Co. v. James (Miss), 16 Sou. Rep, 300; Farrell v. Fire Ins. Co., 60 Mo. Apps, 165; Schoonmaker v. Ref. Prot. Dutch Church, 5 How. Pr. (N. Y.); Thomas v. Thomas, 24 Ore., 251; Miller’s Estate, 150 Penn. St., 562; Rex v. Camb. University, 1 Strange. 557; Bansock Mach. Co. v. Woodrum, 88 Va., 512; Day v. Essex County Bank, 13 Vt., 97.

In very many instances the exact language of the sacred text is quoted and the book. chapter and verse specified, thus indicating that Anglo-Saxon judges are commendably familiar with the Book of books.

For example: Eccl. xxxiii, 19-38; Gen. xxiii; Job xxx. 3; John iii. 8; Luke xi, 46; I Sam. xxi, will be found specified in the above cases.

In the New York case above cited the judge refers to Gen. xxiii as the earliest known instance of a recorded title to land; but that chapter indicates very much more, in the midsummer of 1897 the Commercial Travelers‘ Adjuster quoted that part of the Bible as showing not only a “bargain and sale of land,” but also showing a distinct recognition of “business custom and usage;” because the agreed price, 400 shekels of silver, was to be and was paid in “current money with the merchant.” The simple formalities by which the sons of Heth transferred the field of Ephron to Abraham constituted “livery of seizin;” as much so as the formalities by which, in December, 1803, France transferred Louisiana to the United States, or those by which Spain transferred Santiago to the United States. Livery of seizin, as that term has always been understood in the common law, was the method by which Abraham acquired a parcel of land “wherein he might bury his dead out of his sight;” and it has been a recognized muniment of title ever since. The contract of “bailment,” which is essential to the daily life of the business world, became perfect when “Benjamin was lent to Judah,” the only condition on which Joseph would grant audience to his brethren. Samuel was not only a judge, but he was a “circuit” judge, going yearly to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh, judging Israel at each of those places, as well as at Ramah.

An instrument possessing all essential common law requisites of a conveyance in fee simple, an instrument witnessed and scaled before delivery, is described in Jere. xxxil, 9-13. Nehemiah, full of the altruistic spirit, zealous to rebuild the waste places and restore the ancient glories of Jerusalem, quitted his favored position at the Persian court, only to find himself face to face with complaining brethren. who said: “We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.” The concessions exacted from King John, at Runnymede, have come down to us, embodied in what is called Magna Charta. But a still greater charter is to be found in the book of Nehemiah: the sealed covenant of the leaders of Israel, their solemn promise to abide in the faith sworn to their fathers.

An instance of the redemption of “labor” is found in the book of Numbers. Moses paid to Aaron 1365 shekels of the sanctuary, and thereby actually redeemed 273 fighting men. In the book of Ruth we have a. perfect instance of the redemption of “land.” Elimelech and his sons having died without issue, their inheritance was liable to “escheat” to the commonwealth of Israel. But that escheat was prevented and that inheritance redeemed by the intermarriage of Boaz and Ruth. There was a “senior redemptioner,” but he waived his right in favor of Boaz.

The latter, as a junior redemptioner, espoused Ruth and redeemed the inheritance. David’s royal patrimony included the land thus redeemed. It was known as Bethlehem of the Gentiles. Under the operation of Israel’s law of descents, it passed from generation to generation.

Some of the reasons why our judges so often quote Scripture are not far to seek. The magnificent “Arch of Titus,” reared to commemorate Judah’s downfall, the desecration of her altars, the dispersion of her people, the total extinction of her laws and the final and grandest triumph of imperial Rome, is but a crumbling ruin—a favorite haunt of the owl and the bat. For almost twenty centuries the children of Judah have been wanderers on the face of the earth, exiles from their own land, strangers and pilgrims, without a government, a city, a temple or a home. While all other peoples have multiplied (the Anglo-Saxons having increased about sevenfold during the present century) Judah has remained stationary. At the date of the crucifixion the Jews numbered about seven millions, which is about their present numerical strength. But the Mosaic law, which the admirers of Titus so ostentatiously consigned to endless oblivion, remains a living, growing force. Translated into hundreds of languages, printed in thousands of editions, scattered broadcast by hundreds of millions of copies that law has penetrated to the remotest corners of the earth. In this closing year [1900 AD] of the nineteenth century there is no spot on the habitable globe where either female virtue, personal liberty, private property or human life are safe unless that spot has been visited by the Bible and subjected to its teachings. In the Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence of to-day there is very little to be found which cannot be traced to its source in the Mosaic code; and the little thus found is scarcely worth either fighting or praying for. To readers who do their own thinking, who delve beneath the surface, who follow the truth wherever it may lead, we commend the subjoined quotation.

It is borrowed from a charge given almost sixty years ago to a jury in one of the Atlantic States; and it doubtless voices the prevailing sentiment of the Anglo-Saxon bench and bar. Replying to some criticisms of the Mosaic code, made by counsel in the course of argument, the judge said this: “When these giants in human intellect can tell me whence Moses derived his science in legislation without admitting the superlative and divine authority of the ten commandments I shall begin to listen with more reverence to the teachers of human perfectibility. In that short and comprehensive code we find given us a perfect rule of action, covering the whole ground of man’s existence; a rule not only prescribing our duty to God and man in our external behavior, but reaching to the thoughts and feelings of the hearts in every possible condition of life, and in all our relations to our Maker and our fellow-beings. The wisdom of ages, the learning and philosophy of the schools, have never discovered a single defect in that code. Not a virtue which is not there inculcated. Not a vice in its most doubtful and shadowy form which is not there prohibited.

“Whence, then, I ask. did that great Jewish lawgiver derive his spirit of legislation? If that code was written by the finger of the Almighty, let us bow to it with reverence and seek no better rule of life, nor any wiser principle of action. But if they emanated only from the capacious mind and were dictated by the wisdom of Moses. Then Moses was a wiser, a more learned man than any of our new teachers; and I had rather be under his jurisdiction

“l keep his commandments than to learn new rules of civil polity and social intercourse from the most wise and learned of the present day.”

From Alex De Tocqueville who came to America in the 1830’s traveling here extensively. Afterwards he wrote about his experience in volumes called Democracy in America from which he cites a court case in New York.

While I was in America, a witness, who happened to be called at the assizes of the county of Chester (state of New York), declared that he did not believe in the existence of God or in the immortality of the soul. The judge refused to admit his evidence, on the ground that the witness had destroyed beforehand all confidence of the court in what he was about to say. The newspapers related the fact without any further comment. The New York Spectator of August 23rd, 1831, relates the fact in the following terms:

“The court of common pleas of Chester county (New York), a few days since rejected a witness who declared his disbelief in the existence of God. The presiding judge remarked, that he had not before been aware that there was a man living who did not believe in the existence of God; that this belief constituted the sanction of all testimony in a court of justice: and that he knew of no case in a Christian country, where a witness had been permitted to testify without such belief.”

NOTE: Christian Principles are the bedrock of this Republic to separate them from our government you’d have to eliminate the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our Courts, all past precedent, and our whole form of government.

RELIGIOUS VIEWS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON; source: The Jefferson Bible

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See also: Thomas Jefferson Notes of Religion October 1776
 
Dear Sir: In the ancient feudal times of our good old forefathers,when the Seigneur married his daughter or knighted his son, it was the usage for his vassals to give him a year’s rent extra, in the name of an aid. I think it as reasonable, when our Pastor builds a house, that each of his flock should give him an aid of a year’s contribution. I enclose mine, as a tribute of justice, which of itself, indeed, is nothing, but as an example, if followed, may become something. In any event, be pleased to accept it as an offering of duty and a testimony of my friendly attachment and high respect.—Thomas Jefferson to his minister Rev. Mr. Hatch, an Episcopal minister, who was settled in Charlottsville, Virginia, two miles from the residence of Mr. Jefferson, as rector of the parish; Monticello, December 8, 1821
 
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire them, and to effect this, they have perverted the best religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.” Thomas Jefferson to H. G. Spafford, 1814

RELIGIOUS VIEWS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON; Source The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth edited by Thomas Jefferson published 1902 by order of Congress:

Editors Note: As Jefferson tells us in his letter to Benjamin Rush he was a Christian, he was however like many of the Christians I have grown up with, and known throughout my life, disenchanted with organized religion and opposed to the corrupting of the pure and simple religion which Jesus declared to his followers. I grew up with this same attitude and have told others “if you have to tell someone you’re a Christian then you are not.” It is time for the lies, put out by the left and those opposed to Christianity in this country to end!

“The moral precepts of Jesus are more pure, correct and sublime than those of the ancient philosophers.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Apr 19, 1803 in a letter to Edward Dowse

"the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then 
promised you that one day or other,I would give you my views 
of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, 
and very different from that Anti-Christian system imputed to 
me by those who know nothing of my opinions." ~ Jefferson

 

Thomas Jefferson Concerning those who Misinterpreted his Religious views (Click to enlarge)

Thomas Jefferson Concerning those who Misinterpreted his Religious views (Click to enlarge)

Begin excerpt:

“Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”

In a letter to his daughter, written in 1803, Mr. Jefferson said: “A promise made to a friend some years ago, but executed only lately, has placed my religious creed on paper. I have thought it just that my family, by possessing this, should be enabled to estimate the , libels published against me on this, as on every other possible subject.” The “religious creed” to which he referred was a comparison of the doctrines of Jesus with those of others, prepared in fulfillment of a promise made to Dr. Benjamin Rush. This paper, with the letter to Dr. Rush which accompanied it, is a fit introduction to the “Jefferson Bible.”

Under date of April 21, 1803, Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, sending him the syllabus of an estimate of the merits of the doctrines of Jesus compared with those of others. This is the communication to which he had referred in his letter to Dr. Priestley. In the letter accompanying the syllabus he tells Dr. Rush that he is sending this for his own eye, simply in performance of his promise, and indicates its confidential character in the following words: “And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies. I am, moreover, averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public, because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavoured to draw them before that tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquest over the rights of conscience, which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others, or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own.”

ThomasJeffersonQuotesFreedomThought

Letter to Benjamin Rush:
Dear Sir: In some of the delightful conversations with you, in the evenings of 1798-99, and which served as an anodyne to the afflictions of the crisis through which our country was then laboring, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that Anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.

At the short intervals since these conversations, when I could justifiably abstract my mind from public affairs, this subject has been under my contemplation; but the more I considered it, the more it expanded beyond the measure of either my time or information. In the moment of my late departure from Monticello, I received from Dr. Priestly his little treatise of “Socrates and Jesus Compared.” This being a section of the general view I had taken of the field, it became a subject of reflection while on the road, and unoccupied otherwise. The result was to arrange in my mind a syllabus, or outline, of such an estimate of the comparative merits of Christianity, as I wished to see executed by some one of more leisure and information for the task than myself. This I now send you, as the only discharge of my promise I can probably ever execute. And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies.

I am moreover averse to the communication of my religious tenets to the public; because it would countenance the presumption of those who have endeavored to draw them before that, tribunal, and to seduce public opinion to erect itself into that inquisition over the rights of conscience which the laws have so justly proscribed. It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself to resist invasions of it in the case of others, or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own. It behooves him, too, in his own case, to give no example of concession, betraying the right, of independent opinion by answering questions of faith, which the laws have left between God and himself.

Accept my affectionate salutations.                                                 ******

ThomasJeffersonQuotesMoralityJesus

Another note from me:
As you can see when Jefferson wrote “And in confiding it to you, I know it will not be exposed to the malignant perversions of those who make every word from me a text for new misrepresentations and calumnies.” It is apparent just like the democrats, the liberal news media and pundits do to Republican politicians now, (especially those who are of a Tea Party or Reagan conservative persuasion) they are misquoted, their words taken out of context, etc., which is exactly what they obviously did to him back then.

This is shown also in the misinterpretation of The Bill of Rights today, it does not say “Wall of Separation” It says” “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

It was not meant to keep Christians and their Speech out of the public sphere. It was meant however to keep the government out of churches and out of peoples right to freely express their religious beliefs!

In Jefferson’s so-called “Wall of Separation Letter” he was expressing a personal opinion, get the word express, as in exercising his free right to religious expression. To have convoluted his words in that letter into having no religious expression in the public or political sphere is a direct contradiction of “free expression” and puts the first amendment of the Constitution in direct opposition to its original meaning.

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More from Jefferson on his religious views:

Under date of January 29, 1815, Jefferson wrote from Monticello to Charles Clay: “Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order, and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man.” In this letter however Jefferson disclaims any intention of publishing this little compilation, saying: “I not only write nothing on religion, but rarely permit myself to speak on it.”

As you see in his letter to Rush he did not speak of his religious views because he knew his words would be perverted, misconstrued, misused and misrepresented. We have seen this done in recent history when they constantly refer to the Wall of Separation letter, by those who wish to restrict people first amendment protected God-given right to the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of their own conscience.

Again, in a letter to Charles Thomson, written from Monticello, under date of January 9, 1816, he says: “I, too, have made a wee little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”

NOTE: See Jefferson was not an atheist or deist as many claim today. Indeed I would argue that he was somewhat of a coward, for not standing up publicly more than he did, for what he actually believed. Granted he was concerned about how religious leaders would use his words or opinions to promote their pet causes, and he was also concerned how others would misuse and misguide people by taking his words out of context. However in so doing he made it so as we see today how greatly they indeed have been taken his words out of context, in ways he never imagined they would be.