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Our Founders' Warning: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” (Thomas Jefferson)

What Did Founding Fathers Say Relevant to this Amendment?

Founding Fathers Contemporaneous Writings

The Founding Fathers in their contemporaneous writings and words (especially the Federalist Papers) shed much light on what they intended the Constitution to accomplish, how it might go wrong, and how it was to be corrected, as shown in some examples below:

Debates in the Federal Convention, June 6, 1787 by James Madison

Mr. WILSON justifies the concept of a random selection of IQA Members (not feasible at that time, of course) by stating: “The Govt. ought to possess not only 1st. the force, but 2dly. the mind or sense of the people at large. The Legislature ought to be the most exact transcript of the whole Society. Representation is made necessary only because it is impossible for the people to act collectively.”

Works of James Wilson 1790-1791 Volume II, Part II, Chapter I. Google Books

Lends credence to the favor shown by the Founding Fathers to powers such as Initiative, impossible then, entirely feasible today. “All power is originally in the people; and should be exercised by them in person, if that could be done with convenience, or even with little difficulty. In some of the small republicks of Greece, and in the first ages of the commonwealth of Rome, the people voted in their aggregate capacity. Among the ancient Germans also, this was done upon great occasions. … From their practices, some of the finest principles of modern governments are drawn. But in large states, the people cannot assemble together. As they cannot, therefore, act by themselves, they must act by their representatives.”

Federalist No.85

Alexander Hamilton, August 16, 1788. “Additional Security the Constitution Affords to Republican Government, to Liberty, and to Property” clarifies that the Founding Fathers fully anticipated problems such as the near permanent reelection of congresspersons, and that the only resolution would have to come through the States exercising the Article V 2nd Method of amending the Constitution.

“…the persons delegated to the administration of the national government will always be disinclined to yield up any portion of the authority of which they were once possessed.”

“By the fifth article of the plan, the Congres[s] will be obliged “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.” The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress “shall call a convention.” Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body. And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air.”

“We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.”

Federalist No.49

James Madison, February 2, 1788. “Method of Guarding Against the Encroachments of Any One Department of Government by Appealing to the People Through a Convention” confirms that the Founding Fathers fully expected the the people are responsible for resolving the problems that have now poisoned Congress.

“As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived, it seems strictly consonant to the republican theory, to recur to the same original authority, not only whenever it may be necessary to enlarge, diminish, or new-model the powers of the government, but also whenever any one of the departments may commit encroachments on the chartered authorities of the others.”

Federalist No.45

James Madison, January 26, 1788. “Alleged Danger From the Powers of the Union to the State Governments Considered” was concerned that the impious doctrine in the Old World, now a U.S. surrogate Plutocracy in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of wealthy special interests, large corporations, and the super-rich. Their hordes of lobbyists and media propagandists.arrange the election and reelection of representatives who govern as their surrogates.

” Was, then, the American Revolution effected, was the American Confederacy formed, was the precious blood of thousands spilt, and the hard-earned substance of millions lavished, not that the people of America should enjoy peace, liberty, and safety, but that the government of the individual States, that particular municipal establishments, might enjoy a certain extent of power, and be arrayed with certain dignities and attributes of sovereignty? We have heard of the impious doctrine in the Old World, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the New, in another shape that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? “

Federalist No.43

James Madison, January 23, 1788, “The Powers Conferred by the Constitution Further Considered” considered that the State governments to be equally responsible with the Federal Government in the amendment of errors.
“It, moreover, equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

Federalist No. 39

James Madison, January 16, 1788, “Conformity of the Plan to Republican Principles” made it clear that the titles National Initiative or Federal Initiative are not appropriate for this Amendment.

“The proposed Constitution, therefore, [even when tested by the rules laid down by its antagonists,] is, in strictness, neither a national nor a federal Constitution, but a composition of both.”

Federalist No. 10

James Madison, November 22, 1787, “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection”: believed that a pure democracy could not extend beyond a small number of citizens, not over the whole U.S., which is no longer true via initiatives and today’s Internet..

“…a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.”

“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.”