James Madison Papers

Power of the Executive to Veto Laws, [4 June] 1787

Power of the Executive to Veto Laws

[4 June 1787]

Wilson and Hamilton moved to give the executive an absolute veto on laws.

Mr. Madison supposed that if a proper proportion of each branch should be required to overrule the objections of the Executive, it would answer the same purpose as an absolute negative. It would rarely if ever happen that the Executive constituted as ours is proposed to be would have firmness eno’ to resist the legislature, unless backed by a certain part of the body itself.1 The King of G.B. with all his splendid attributes would not be able to withstand the unanimous and eager wishes of both houses of Parliament. To give such a prerogative would certainly be obnoxious to the temper of this Country;2 its present temper at least.3

Ms (DLC).

1Before Eppes copied the Debates, JM here interlined and then deleted: “or actuated by some foreign support agst. his own Country.”

2JM first wrote: “… be obnoxious in our present situation,” but substituted the present wording before Eppes copied the Debates.

3Some time after Eppes copied the Debates, JM heavily deleted a sentence and interlined the concluding clause.

Yates’s version:

“Mr. Madison against it—because of the difficulty of an executive venturing on the exercise of this negative, and is therefore of opinion that the revisional authority is better” (Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 106).

King’s version:

“Mad: I am opposed to the complete negative, because no man will dare exercise it whn. the law was passed almost unanimously. I doubt whether the Kng of Eng. wd. have firmness sufficient to do it” (ibid., I, 107).

Pierce’s version:

“Mr. Maddison was of opinion that no Man would be so daring as to place a veto on a Law that had passed with the assent of the Legislature” (ibid., I, 109).

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