The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


Mr. Carrington was so kind as to send me the second volume of the American Philosophical Transactions, the Federalist, and some other interesting pamphlets; and I am to thank you for another copy of the Federalist, and the report of the instructions to the ministers, for negotiating peace. The latter, unluckily, omitted exactly the passage I wanted, which was what related to the navigation of the Mississippi. With respect to the Federalist, the three authors had been named to me. I read it with care, pleasure and improvement, and was satisfied there was nothing in it by one of those hands, and not a great deal by a second. It does the highest honor to the third, as being, in my opinion, the best commentary on the principles of government, which ever was written. In some parts, it is discoverable that the author means only to say what may be best said in defence of opinions, in which he did not concur. But in general, it establishes firmly the plan of government. I confess, it has rectified me on several points. As to the bill of rights, however, I still think it should be added; and I am glad to see, that three States have at length considered the perpetual re-eligibility of the President, as an article which should be amended. I should deprecate with you, indeed, the meeting of a new convention. I hope they will adopt the mode of amendment by Congress and the Assemblies, in which case, I should not fear any dangerous innovation in the plan. But the minorities are too respectable, not to be entitled to some sacrifice of opinion, in the majority; especially, when a great proportion of them would be contented with a bill of rights.

to James Madison, 18 November 1788