Page:The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 Volume 3.djvu/454
a conditional reference to others which combined therewith would vary the character of the whole.
But whatever might have been the opinions entertained in forming the Constitution, it was the duty of all to support it in its true meaning as understood by the Nation at the time of its ratification. No one felt this obligation more than I have done; and there are few perhaps whose ultimate & deliberate opinions on the merits of the Constitution, accord in a greater degree with that obligation.
CCCXLII. James Madison: Note to his Speech on the Right of Suffrage.
Note to the Speech of J.M. on the day of
These observations (in the speech of J.M. See debates in the Convention of 1787. on the day of ) do not convey the speaker’s more full & matured view of the subject, which is subjoined. He felt too much at the time the example of Virginia
The right of suffrage is a fundamental Article in Republican Constitutions. The regulation of it is, at the same time, a task of peculiar delicacy. Allow the right exclusively to property, and the rights of persons may be oppressed. The feudal polity alone sufficiently proves it. Extend it equally to all, and the rights of property or the claims of justice may be overruled by a majority without property, or interested in measures of injustice. Of this abundant proof is afforded by other popular Govts. and is not without examples in our own, particularly in the laws impairing the obligation of contracts.
In civilized communities, property as well as personal rights is an essential object of the laws, which encourage industry by securing the enjoyment of its fruits: that industry from which property results, & that enjoyment which consists not merely in its immediate use, but in its posthumous destination to objects of choice and of kindred affection.
In a just & a free, Government, therefore, the rights both of property & of persons ought to be effectually guarded. Will the former be so in case of a universal & equal suffrage? Will the latter be so in case of a suffrage confined to the holders of property?
As the holders of property have at stake all the other rights common to those without property, they may be the more restrained from infringing, as well as the less tempted to infringe the rights of
- Documentary History of the Constitution, V. 440–449.
- This note seems to have been written about 1821, when Madison was preparing his Debates for publication.