James Madison Papers

Revisionary Power of the Executive and the Judiciary, [4 June] 1787

Revisionary Power of
the Executive and the Judiciary

[4 June 1787]

This speech preceded Wilson’s motion, seconded by JM, to combine the judiciary with the executive in vetoing legislative acts.

Mad. The Judicial ought to be introduced in the business of Legislation—they will protect their Department, and uniting wh. the Executive render their Check or negative more respectable—there is weight in the objections agt. this measure—but a Check is necessary experience proves it, and teaches us that what we once thought the Calumny of the Enemies of Republican Govts. is undoubtedly true—There is diversity of Interest in every Country the Rich & poor, the Dr. & Cr. the followers of different Demagogues, the diversity of religious Sects—The Effects of these parties are obvious in the ant’. Govts.—the same causes will operate with us—

We must introduce the Checks, which will destroy the measures of an interested majority—in this view a negative in the Ex: is not only necessary for its own safety, but for the safety of a minority in Danger of oppression from an unjust and interested majority—The independent condition of the Ex. who has the Eyes of all Nations on him will render him a just Judge—add the Judiciary and you increase the respectability—1

Farrand, Records description begins Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (4 vols.; New Haven, 1911–37). description ends , I, 108 (King).

1Pierce’s version:

“Mr. Maddison in a very able and ingenious Speech, ran through the whole Scheme of the Government,—pointed out all the beauties and defects of ancient Republics; compared their situation with ours wherever it appeared to bear any anology, and proved that the only way to make a Government answer all the end of its institution was to collect the wisdom of its several parts in aid of each other whenever it was necessary. Hence the propriety of incorporating the Judicial with the Executive in the revision of the Laws. He was of opinion that by joining the Judges with the Supreme Executive Magistrate would be strictly proper, and would by no means interfere with that indepence so much to be approved and distinguished in the several departments” (ibid., I, 110).

J. Franklin Jameson believed that Pierce here fused JM’s two speeches of 6 June. However, the present editors concur with Farrand’s opinion that Pierce was recording a second speech made by JM on 4 June (ibid., I, 110 n.).

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