Larry Sabato
A More Perfect Constitution

starEarly Backing for A More Perfect Constitution from the Founders

“No society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law.  The earth belongs always to the living generation…Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years.  If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”
—Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to James Madison from Paris, September 6, 1789)
“It would give me singular pleasure to see [this principle] first announced in the proceedings of the U. States, and always kept in their view, as a salutary curb on the living generation from imposing unjust or unnecessary burdens on their successors.”
—James Madison (responding to Jefferson’s letter from New York, February 4, 1790)
“The warmest friends and best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise there from, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment, it is not to be obtained; and as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the People (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of experience on their Side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary [as] ourselves.  I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”
—George Washington (in a letter to Bushrod Washington, November 10, 1797)
“That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety…; and, whenever any  government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”
—George Mason (in Article One of Virginia’s original Constitution, 1776)
“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
—Thomas Jefferson (in a letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787)

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Larry J. Sabato
Director of the UVA Center for Politics and
author of
A More Perfect Constitution
Why The Constitution Must Be Revised:
Ideas To Inspire A New Generation

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