Letter from James Madison to Alexander Hamilton (1788)

Image: Alexander Hamilton, William J. Weaver (c. 1806). Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lilly
Founding Era

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From Alexander Hamilton to James Madison

Poughkepsie Saturday [19 July 1788]

I thank you My Dear Sir for yours by the post. Yesterday I communicated to Duer our situation which I presume he will have communicated to you. It remains exactly the same, no further question having been taken. I fear the footing mentioned in my letter to Duer is the best upon which it can be placed; but every thing possible will yet be attempted to bring the party from that stand to an unqualified ratification. Let me know your idea of the possibility of our being received on that plan. You will understand that the only qualification will be the reservation of a right to recede in case our amendments have not been decided upon in one of the modes pointed out in the Constitution within a certain number of years—perhaps five or seven. If this can in the first instance be admitted as a ratification I do not fear any further consequences. Congress will I presume recommend certain amendments to render the structure of the government more secure. This will satisfy the more considerate and honest opposers of the constitution, and with the aid of time will break up the party. Yrs. Affecty

A Hamilton

From James Madison to Alexander Hamilton

N. York Sunday Evening [20 July 1788]

My Dear Sir

Yours of yesterday is this instant come to hand & I have but a few minutes to answer it. I am sorry that your situation obliges you to listen to propositions of the nature you describe. My opinion is that a reservation of a right to withdraw if amendments be not decided on under the form of the Constitution within a certain time, is a conditional ratification, that it does not make N. York a member of the New Union, and consequently that she could not be received on that plan. Compacts must be reciprocal, this principle would not in such a case be preserved. The Constitution requires an adoption in toto, and for ever. It has been so adopted by the other States. An adoption for a limited time would be as defective as an adoption of some of the articles only. In short any condition whatever must viciate the ratification. What the New Congress by virtue of the power to admit new States, may be able & disposed to do in such case, I do not enquire as I suppose that is not the material point at present. I have not a moment to add more than my fervent wishes for your success & happiness

Js. Madison

This idea of reserving right to withdraw was started at Richmd. & considered as a conditional ratification which was itself considered as worse than a rejection.

Source: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-11-02-0130 and http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-11-02-0131

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