CHAPTER 6 | Document 4

John Jay to George Washington

7 Jan. 1787MS Columbia Univ.

A convention is in Contemplation, and I am glad to find your name among those of its intended members.

To me the policy of such a Convention appears questionable. Their authority is to be derived from Acts of the State Legislatures. Are the State Legislatures authorized, either by Themselves or others, to alter constitutions[?] I think not. They who hold commissions, can by virtue of them neither retrench nor Extend the Powers conveyed by them.

Perhaps it is intended that this Convention shall not ordain, but only recommend. If so, there is Danger that their Recommendations will produce endless Discussion, and perhaps Jealousies and party Heats.

Would it not be better for Congress plainly and in strong Terms to declare that the present federal Government is inadequate to the purposes for which it was instituted. That they forbear to point out its particular Defects or to ask for an Extension of any particular powers, lest improper Jealousies should thence arise; but that in their opinion it would be expedient for the people of the States without Delay to appoint State Conventions (in the way they chuse the general assemblies) with the sole and express power of appointing Deputies to a general Convention who or the majority of whom should take into Consideration the Articles of Confederation, and make such Alterations, amendments and additions Thereto, as to them should appear necessary and proper and which being by them ordained and published should have the same force and Obligation which all or any of the present Articles now have.

No alteration in the Government should I think be made, nor if attempted will easily take place, unless deduceable from the only Source of just authority, The People.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 6, Document 4
The University of Chicago Press

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