[Volume 1, Page 361]
CHAPTER 12|Document 6
William Hooper to the Congress of the State of North Carolina26 Oct. 1776Colonial Records 10:867--68
The Constitution of Britain had for its object the union of the three grand qualities of virtue, wisdom and power as the characteristicks of perfect Government. From the people at large the first of these was most to be expected; the second from a selected few whom superiour Talents or better opportunities for Improvement had raised into a second Class, and the latter from some one whom variety of Circumstances may have placed in a singular and conspicuous point of view, and to whom Heaven had given talents to make him the choice of the people to entrust with powers for sudden and decisive execution. The middle class, like the hand which holds a pair of scales balancing between the one & the many, and impartially casting weight against the scale that preponderates in order to preserve that equality which is the essence of a mixed Monarchy, & is called the ballance of power. Might not this or something like this serve as a Model for us. A single branch of Legislation is a many headed Monster which without any check must soon defeat the very purposes for which it was created, and its members become a Tyranny dreadful in proportion to the numbers which compose it. And possessed of power uncontrolled, would soon exercise it to put themselves free from the restraint of those who made them, and to make their own political existence perpetual. The consultations of large bodies are likewise less correct and perfect than those where a few only are concerned. The people at large have generally just objects in their pursuit but often fall short in the means made use of to obtain them. A Warmth of Zeal may lead them into errors which a more cool, dispassionate enquiry may discover and rectify. This points out the necessity of another branch of legislation at least, which may be a refinement of the first choice of the people at large, selected for their Wisdom, remarkable Integrity, or that weight which arises from property and gives Independence and Impartiality to the human mind. For my own part I once thought it would be wise to adopt a double check as in the British Constitution, but from the Abuses which power in the hand of an Individual is liable to, & the unreasonableness that an individual should abrogate at pleasure the acts of the Representatives of the people, refined by a second body whom we may call for fashion's sake, Counsellors, & as they are a kind of barrier for the people's rights against the encroachments of their delegates, I am now convinced that a third branch of Legislation is at least unnecessary. But for the sake of Execution we must have a Magistrate solely executive, and with the aid of his Council (I mean a Privy Council) let him have such executive powers as may give energy to Government.
The Colonial Records of North Carolina. Edited by William L. Saunders. 10 vols. Raleigh: Josephus Daniels, 1886--90.
© 1987 by The University of Chicago