William Short to James Madison21 Dec. 1787Madison Papers 10:342
On the statement which you gave me Sir, of the advocates & opponents to the new Constitution in Virginia, it seems impossible that it should pass in that State. Should it have the same fate in Rhode-Island, N. York & Maryland, we shall see the ill consequences of a clause which alarmed me from the beginning; I mean the adoption of the new constitution by nine States. The dissenting States being thus dispersed seem to have the quality only of separating the assenting States without the power of uniting themselves. I think the adoption by nine & the refusal by four of the States is the worst possible situation to which the new plan can give birth; & it seems probable that that will be the situation. Would it not have been better to have fixed on the number eleven or twelve instead of nine? In that case the plan would have been either refused altogether or adopted by such a commanding majority as would almost necessarily have brought in the others in the end. There is one thing however which may be opposed to all the arguments that may be adduced in opposition to the new plan; & that is that the members who composed the convention must have had a fuller & better view of the ground & must have considered it more attentively than those who object to it. They must have seen certainly a variety of difficulties which their debates must have presented in full view & which are hidden perhaps from the most penetrating observation under other circumstances. Particularly to us at this distance, I am sure it is impossible to form a proper opinion on the subject. There is only one reflexion wch. occurs to me in which I have any confidence of being right: & that is that the Members of the convention would not have proposed so desperate a remedy if the evil had not appeared to them equally desperate. I am afraid the case will not be mended by the Patient's refusing to take the violent dose prescribed.
The Papers of John Marshall. Edited by Herbert A. Johnson et al. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, in association with the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1974--.
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