The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
CONSTITUTION / UNITED STATES / AMENDING
The operations which have taken place in America lately, fill me with
pleasure. In the first place, they realize the confidence I had, that
whenever our affairs go obviously wrong, the good sense of the people
will interpose, and set them to rights. The example of changing a
constitution, by assembling the wise men of the State, instead of
assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as the former
examples we had given them. The Constitution, too, which was the
result of our deliberations, is unquestionably the wisest ever yet
presented to men, and some of the accommodations of interest which it
has adopted, are greatly pleasing to me, who have before had occasions
of seeing how difficult those interests were to accommodate. A general
concurrence df opinion seems to authorize us to say, it has some
defects. I am one of those who think it a defect, that the important
rights, not placed in security by the frame of the Constitution
itself, were not explicitly secured by a supplementary declaration.
There are rights which it is useless to surrender to the government,
and which governments have yet always been found to invade. These are
the rights of thinking, and publishing our thoughts by speaking or
writing; the right of free commerce; the right of personal freedom. .
. I hope to receive soon permission to visit America this summer, and
to possess myself anew, by conversation with my countrymen, of their
spirit and their ideas. I know only the Americans of the year 1784.
They tell me this is to be much a stranger to those of 1789. This
renewal of acquaintance is no indifferent matter to one, acting at
such a distance, as that instructions cannot be received hot and hot.
to Colonel Humphreys, 18 March 1789