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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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8841. VIRGINIA CONSTITUTION, Republican heresies in.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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8841. VIRGINIA CONSTITUTION, Republican heresies in.—

Inequality of representation
in both houses of our Legislature,
is not the only republican heresy in this first
essay of our revolutionary patriots at forming
a constitution. For let it be agreed that a
government is republican in proportion as
every member composing it has his equal
voice in the direction of its concerns (not
indeed in person, which would be impracticable
beyond the limits of a city, or a small
township, but) by representatives chosen by
himself, and responsible to him at short periods,
and let us bring to the test of this canon
every branch of our Constitution. In the
Legislature, the House of Representatives is
chosen by less than half the people, and not
at all in proportion to those who do choose.
The Senate are still more disproportionate,
and for long terms of irresponsibility. In the
Executive, the Governor is entirely independent
of the choice of the people, and of their
control; his Council equally so, and at best
but a fifth wheel to a wagon. In the Judiciary,
the judges of the highest courts are dependent
on none but themselves. In England,
where judges were named and removable at
the will of an hereditary executive, from
which branch most misrule was feared, and
has flowed, it was a great point gained, by
fixing them for life, to make them independent
of that executive. But in a government
founded on the public will, this principle
operates in an opposite direction, and against
that will. There, too, they are still removable
on a concurrence of the executive and legislative
branches. But we have made them independent
of the nation itself. They are irremovable,
but by their own body, for any de


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pravities of conduct, and even by their own
body for the imbecilities of dotage. The justices
of the inferior courts are self-chosen,
are for life, and perpetuate their own body in
succession forever, so that a faction once
possessing themselves of the bench of a
county, can never be broken up, but hold
their county in chains, forever indissoluble.
Yet these justices are the real executive as
well as judiciary, in all our minor and most ordinary concerns. They tax us at will; fill
the office of sheriff, the most important of all
the executive officers of the county; name
nearly all our military leaders, which leaders,
once named, are removable but by themselves.
The juries, our judges of all fact, and of law
when they choose it, are not selected by the
people, nor amenable to them. They are
chosen by an officer named by the court and
executive. Chosen, did I say? Picked up by
the sheriff from the loungers of the court
yard, after everything respectable has retired
from it. Where, then, is our republicanism to
be found? Not in our Constitution certainly,
but merely in the spirit of our people. That
would oblige even a despot to govern us republicanly.
Owing to this spirit, and to nothing
in the form of our Constitution, all things
have gone well. But this fact, so triumphantly
misquoted by the enemies of reformation,
is not the fruit of our Constitution, but
has prevailed in spite of it. Our functionaries
have done well, because generally honest men.
If any were not so, they feared to show it—
To Samuel Kerchival. Washington ed. vii, 10. Ford ed., x, 38.
(M. 1816)