Balanced Government

[Volume 1, Page 344]

CHAPTER 11 | Document 6

Richard Henry Lee to Edmund Pendleton

12 May 1776Letters 1:190--91

Before this reaches you I hope much progress will have been made towards the establishment of a wise and free government, without which neith-- public or private happness or security can be long expected. I make no doubt but you have seen a small pamphlet published here, with the Title of an "Address to the convention of the Colony and ancient Dominion of Virga. on the Subject of Government &c." [See ch. 18, no. 10.] This Contemptible little Tract, betrays the little Knot or Junto from whence it proceeded. Confusion of ideas, aristocratic pride, contradictory reasoning, with evident ill design, put it out of danger of doing harm, and therefore I quit it. The difficulty we have to encounter in constructing this fabric from whence so great good or evil may result, consists certainly in a blending the three simple forms of Government in such manner as to prevent the inordinate views of either from unduly affecting the others, which has never been the case in Engld., altho' it was the professed aim of that System. But there, a fine design, was spoiled in the execution. The perogative of making Peers and Boroughs effectually destroyed the equipoise, and prevented an opportunity of applying that corruption which has now swallowed up every thing but the forms of freedom in Great Britain. However imperfect the English plan was, yet our late Government in Virginia was infinitely worse. With us 2 thirds of the Legislature, and all the executive and judiciary Powers were in the same hands--In truth it was very near a Tyrany, altho' the mildness with which it was executed under Whig direction, made the evil little felt. Abridged duration, temperate revenue, and every unnecessary power withheld, are potent means of preserving integrity in public men and for securing the Community from the dangerous ambition of that too often governs the human mind.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 11, Document 6
The University of Chicago Press

The Letters of Richard Henry Lee. Edited by James Curtis Ballagh. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan Co., 1911--14.