Alexander Hamilton's Speech at the Constitutional Convention

Basic Info

  • Source: James Madison's Notes from the Constitutional Convention
  • Speaker: Alexander Hamilton
  • Audience: Committee of the WholeCommittee of the Whole A committee composed of all delegates to the Constitutional Convention.
  • Date: Tuesday, June 19, 1787

Introduction

In his speech to the delegates of the Constitutional Convention, Hamilton gave his own extreme proposal for government. Hamilton called for an executive who would serve for life and who could veto all laws. He also suggested that members of the upper house of the national legislature should serve for life. Hamilton claimed that the common people were unsteady and prone to changing opinions based on human passions, and it was up to the elite men in society to keep these popular passions in check. Therefore, Hamilton asserted that only a permanent Senate could protect the nation from the dangers of democracy. In order to gain support for these ideas, Hamilton appealed to the delegates from New England by referring to their experience with Shays’ Rebellion.1


Original Text

"…In every community where industry is encouraged, there will be a division of it in the few and the many. Hence, separate interests will arise. There will be debtors and creditors, etc. Give all power to the many, they will oppress the few. [The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God, and however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true in fact. The people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give therefore to the first [or upper] class a distinct, permanent share in the government. They will check the unsteadiness of the second [or lower classes], and as they cannot receive any advantage by a change, they therefore will ever maintain good government. Can a democratic assembly, who annually revolve in the mass of the people, be supposed steadily to pursue the public good? Nothing but a permanent body can check the imprudence of democracy.]

Gentlemen differ in their opinions concerning the necessary checks from the different estimates they form of the human passions. They suppose seven years a sufficient period to give the Senate an adequate firmness, from not duly considering the amazing violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit. When a great object of government is pursued which seizes the popular passions, they spread like wildfire and become irresistible. He appealed to the gentlemen from the New England states whether experience had not there verified the remark…"2


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License