Page:Memoir, correspondence, and miscellanies, from the papers of Thomas Jefferson - Volume 4 - 2nd ed.djvu/15
United States. But when I consider that the limits of the United States are precisely fixed by the treaty of 1783, that the consti- tution expressly declares itself to be made for the United States, I cannot help believing the intention was not to permit Congress to admit into the Union new States, which should be formed out of the territory for which, and under whose authority alone, they were then acting. I do not believe it was meant that they might receive England, Ireland, Holland, he. into it, which would be the case on your construction. When an instrument admits two constructions, the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe and precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of pov/er from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in the pos- session of a' written constitution. Let us not make it a blank pa- per by construction. I say the same as to the opinion of those who consider the grant of the treaty-making power as boundless. If it is, then we have no constitution. If it has bounds, they can be no others than the definitions of the powers which that instru- ment gives. It specifies and delineates the operations permitted to the federal government, and gives all the powers necessary to carry these into execution. Whatever of these enumerated ob- jects is proper for a law, Congress may make the law ; whatever is proper to be executed by way of a treaty, the President and Senate may enter into the treaty ; whatever is to be done by a judicial sentence, the judges may pass the sentence. Nothing is more likely than that their enumeration of powers is defective. This is the ordinary case of all human works. Let us go on then perfecting it, by adding, by way of amendment to the consthution, those powers which time and trial show are still wanting. But it has been taken too much for granted, that by this rigorous con- struction the treaty power would be reduced to nothing. I had occasion once to examine its effect on the French treaty, made by the old Congress, and found that out of thirty odd articles which that contained, there were one, two, or three only, which could not now be stipulated under our present constitution. I confess, then, I think it important, in the present case, to set an example against broad construction, by appealing for new power to the people. If, however, our friends shall think differently, certainly I shall acquiesce with satisfaction ; confiding, that the good sense of our country will correct the evil of construction when it shall produce ill effects.
No apologies for writing or speaking to me freely are neces- sary. On the contrary, nothing my friends can do is so dear to