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This Day In Founding Fathers History – 19 February 2013

John HancockOn this day in 1776, John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, wrote to General Lee:

SIR: I have the honour to enclose your sundry resolutions of Congress, by which you will perceive it is the desire of Congress that you should repair to Canada and take upon you the command of the Army of the United Colonies in that Province.

I need not mention the importance of the trust reposed in you, and the happy effects it will have in securing the liberty of America. If you should be so fortunate as to drive our enemies—the enemies of liberty and the rights of mankind, out of it, I heartily pray that the Disposer of events may grant you success equal to your merits and zeal.

General Charles LeeAs you will want battering cannon, which are not to be had in that Province, you are to apply to the Convention, or Committee of Safety of New-York, to whom, by this opportunity, I send the recommendation of Congress to supply you with twelve, such as you shall judge most suitable, and some mortars, if they have or can procure them, with bails, shells and oilier necessaries, and also to assist you in forwarding them.

Eight tons of powder are now on the way to Albany for the forces in Canada; and as a very considerable quantity of saltpeter is sent to the mills of Mr. Wisner and Mr. Livingston, should there be occasion for more, you will be supplied from thence.

You will readily perceive the necessity of conferring with General Schuyler, and, with him, consulting on the best method of having necessaries conveyed to you across the Lakes. The Congress have a full confidence that you will co-operate in securing the possession of the Lakes, and mutually assisting each other, as occasion may require, and, as far as in your power, give mutual aid in supporting the cause of freedom and liberty.

I expect the Deputies will, in a short time, be ready to proceed to Canada.

I am, with every sentiment of esteem, sir, your most obedient, humble servant, JOHN HANCOCK, PRESIDENT. 1

This day in 1783, Federalist No. 57 entitled “The Alleged Tendency of the New Plan to Elevate the Few at the Expense of the Many Considered in Connection with Representation” was published in the New York Packet:

James MadisonTHE THIRD charge against the House of Representatives is, that it will be taken from that class of citizens which will have least sympathy with the mass of the people, and be most likely to aim at an ambitious sacrifice of the many to the aggrandizement of the few. Of all the objections which have been framed against the federal Constitution, this is perhaps the most extraordinary.

Whilst the objection itself is levelled against a pretended oligarchy, the principle of it strikes at the very root of republican government. The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust. The elective mode of obtaining rulers is the characteristic policy of republican government. The means relied on in this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are numerous and various. The most effectual one, is such a limitation of the term of appointments as will maintain a proper responsibility to the people. Let me now ask what circumstance there is in the constitution of the House of Representatives that violates the principles of republican government, or favors the elevation of the few on the ruins of the

many? Let me ask whether every circumstance is not, on the contrary, strictly conformable to these principles, and scrupulously impartial to the rights and pretensions of every class and description of citizens? Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State… 2

1 “President of Congress to General Lee,” American Archives – Documents of the American Revolution,

2 “Federalist No. 57,” The Federalist Papers, The Library of Congress,


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