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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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2912. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, Formation of.—
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2912. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, Formation of.—

I find by the public papers,
that your commercial convention [at Annapolis] failed in point of representation. If it
should produce a full meeting in May, and a
broader reformation, it will still be well. To
make us one nation, as to foreign concerns,
and keep us distinct in domestic ones, gives
the outline of the proper division of powers
between the general and particular governments.
But, to enable the federal head to exercise
the powers given it to best advantage,
it should be organized, as the particular ones
are, into legislative, executive and judiciary.
The first and last are already separated. The
second should also be. When last with Congress,
I often proposed to members to do
this, by making of the Committee of the
States, an Executive Committee during the
recess, of Congress, and, during its sessions,
to appoint a committee to receive and despatch
all executive business, so that Congress itself
should meddle only with what should be legislative.
But I question if any Congress (much
less all successively) can have self-denial
enough to go through with this distribution.
The distribution, then, should be imposed on
them. [188]
To James Madison. Washington ed. ii, 65. Ford ed., iv, 332.
(P. Dec. 16, 1786)


Alexander H. Stephens, in commenting on this
passage in his History of the United States, page
278, says: “This, as far as the author has been able
to discover, after no inconsiderable research, is the
first embodied conception of the general outline of
those proper changes of the old Constitution, or
Articles of Confederation, which were subsequently
actually and in fact ingrafted on the old system of
confederations; and which make the most marked
difference between ours, and all other like systems.”—Editor.