James Madison Papers

Popular Election of the First Branch of the Legislature, [31 May] 1787

Popular Election of the First Branch
of the Legislature

[31 May 1787]

Mr. Madison considered the popular election of one branch of the national Legislature as essential to every plan of free Government. He observed that in some of the States one branch of the Legislature was composed of men already removed from the people by an intervening body of electors. That if the first branch of the general legislature should be elected by the State Legislatures, the second branch elected by the first—the Executive by the second together with the first; and other appointments again made for subordinate purposes by the Executive, the people would be lost sight of altogether; and the necessary sympathy between them and their rulers and officers, too little felt. He was an advocate for the policy of refining the popular appointments by successive filtrations, but thought it might be pushed too far. He wished the expedient to be resorted to only in the appointment of the second branch of the Legislature, and in the Executive & judiciary branches of the Government. He thought too that the great fabric to be raised would be more stable and durable, if it should rest on the solid foundation of the people themselves, than if it should stand merely on the pillars of the Legislatures.1

Ms (DLC).

1King’s version:

“Madison—agrees with Wilson—this mode immediately introduces the people, and naturally inspires that affection for the Genl. Govt. wh. takes place towards our own offspring—The alternative of a Legislative appt. removes the Genl. Govt. too far from the People—in Maryland the Senate is two removes from the People, a Depy. appointed by them will be three, the first Br. having power to appt. the 2d. Br. they will be four, the Genl. Legis. appts. the Executive which will be five removes from the People—if the Election is made by the Peop. in large Districts there will be no Danger of Demagogues” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 56).

Pierce’s version:

“Mr. Maddison was of the opinion that the appointment of the Members to the first branch of the national Legislature ought to be made by the people for two reasons,—one was that it would inspire confidence, and the other that it would induce the Government to sympathize with the people” (ibid., I, 57).

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