N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 428
posed of our best qualified men and women.
One hundred and sixty years ago today, on July 10, 1787, George Washington, then a delegate to the Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia, wrote his friend, Hamilton: "In a word, I almost despair of seeing a favorable issue to the proceedings of our convention and do, therefore, repent having had any agency in the business." Unlike George Washington, I am very proud of having had a small part in the creation of this Convention. Washington added - and you will be interested in this very human touch: "The men who oppose a strong, energetic government are, in my opinion, narrow-minded politicians or under the influence of local views. The apprehension expressed by them that the people will not accede to the form proposed is the obtensible, not the real cause of opposition."
You will remember that Washington's letter was in response to Hamilton's letter of July 3, referring to a trip he had just taken "through the Jerseys" and reporting: "The prevailing apprehension among thinking men is that the convention from a fear of shocking the popular opinion will not go far enough. "The people," Hamilton wrote, "seem to be convinced that a strong, well-maintained government will better suit the popular politic than one of a different complexion." Thus strengthened in the knowledge that others in the formative years of constitutional thinking tackled and conquered more formidable obstacles than those now barring our path to constitutional revision, we may press on to our objectives with courage and optimism.
I would like to speak, if I may, very briefly on the following subjects, and I do so very largely because of the position that I occupy: First and foremost, an independent judiciary. The separation of the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government is essential to our freedom. "With a written Constitution, the Legislature and the Governor," as Lord Bryce indicated in his review of our government, "are subject to the Constitution and cannot move a step outside the circle which the Constitution has drawn around them. If they do," Lord Bryce continued, "they transgress the law and exceed their powers. Such acts as they do in excess of the powers conferred upon them by the Constitution are void and may, and indeed, ought to be treated as void by the meanest citizen."
It is, as you know, the courts that have traditionally been the guardians of our constitutions, to whom the meanest citizen may appeal for protection against a wayward executive or a capricious legislature. Without independent courts, the whole republican system must surely fail. Our primary, our basic purpose in the drafting of a new Constitution is to secure beyond any question a strong, competent, easily functioning, but always independent, judiciary,
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