The First Federal Congress Project
Documentary History of the First Federal Congress
Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, Ser 2, 8 (1826), p. 319-20.

Fisher Ames to William Tudor

New York,  July 12, 1789 
I am happy to find that you approve the decision of the House upon the question of the President's power of removal from office. The men of information and property, who are stigmatized as aristocrats, appear to me more solicitous to secure liberty than the loudest champions of democracy. They not only wish to enjoy, but to perpetuate liberty, by giving energy enough to government to preserve its own being, when endangered by tumult and faction. A mob is despotic per se,and it tends to destroy all liberty. One Abner Fowler, it is said, in 1787, would have the town instruct their members against the constitution— for, he observed, it would destroy their liberties, they could never have another mob. I wish that his judgment may be verified. The executive branch of our government is not strong. I am sure the people cannot be interested on the side of depriving him of any part of his constitutional powers. Those who argued on that side, seemed to consider themselves as the defenders of liberty— pointed out the danger to the people, and the shameful usurpation of power, in deciding as it was decided. They said the constitution was not express in giving the power to the President— constructions were, they said, replete with danger, and then they proceeded, upon the strength of construction, to prove that the Senate has the power of advice in removals. This opinion seemed to nourish their zeal, and made them inflexible in their opposition to any infringement of the constitution. This will appear to the world a serious proof of the degree in which the understandings of men may be misled, when their passions are heated. This debate seemed to menace faction, but the good humour of the House has returned, and business goes on again as agreeably as formerly. To whatever cause it may be owing, the fact is certain, that there is very little of party spirit in our house, and less seeming intrigue and cabal than I have ever seen in any public body.
Our progress has been slow. There seems in the public to be a general disposition to excuse it, to bring into view the complex nature of the business, and to call it by the name of wisdom and prudent caution. We have certainly proceeded more tardily then I expected, or will affect to approve. But the application to business has been unexceptionable. The whole body actually attends. Not a member absent, except four or five with leave. Punctual attendance of the whole, and at the hour, is given; and very few retire, unless to drink water in the committee room, during the five hours attendance. Our collection bill has been pushed as diligently as I ever knew business prosecuted. It is reported by the committee of the whole to the House, and will be sent in a few days to the Senate. The judicial is before the Senate still. They have laboured upon it as hard as so many schoolmasters or merchants' clerks. I expect it in our House in six or eight days. It will be debated warmly, and I am afraid will not be treated as a system, but made patch work by fanciful amendments. We begin to talk of a recess in August. I wish it most ardently, but am afraid it will not take place till September.

Recommended citation: Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, ed. Charlene Bickford, et al. (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 2002). XML version based on unpublished letters. http://adh.sc.edu [Accessed (supply date here)]

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