2012 Endorsements: James Madison

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 22nd, 2012

2012 Election

The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of Retirement

The Confederation Congress did not work as well as some had hoped.  Despite having won their independence from Great Britain there was still no feeling of national unity.  Sectional interests prevailed over national interests.  Greatly affecting the ability of the national government to function.  Negating the benefits of union.  And offering little respect for the young nation on the world stage.  The new nation simply was not taken seriously at home.  Or abroad.  Prompting a meeting of states delegates in Annapolis in 1786.  Twelve delegates from five states showed up.  The states just didn’t care enough.  The convention adjourned after only three days.  But not before Alexander Hamilton put a plan together for another convention in Philadelphia for the following year.

The states were happy with the way things were.  They did not want to give up any of their powers to a new central authority.  But the problem was that the states were fighting against each other.  Trying to protect their own economic interests and their own trade.  Some could extend this behavior out into the future.  And they did not like what they saw.  States with similar interests would form regional alliances.  And these alliances would ally themselves with some of the European powers who were also on the North American continent.  The northern states (having industry and commerce) would join together and ally with the industrial and commerce powerhouse Great Britain.  The agrarian southern states would join together and ally with Great Britain’s eternal enemy.  France.  And the western territories dependent on the Mississippi River to get their agricultural goods to marker would ally with the European power in control of the Mississippi River.  Spain.  Who were both eternal enemies of Great Britain.  And the centuries of warfare on the European continent would just extend to North America.  Some saw this as the American future if they didn’t unite and put the nation’s interests ahead of sectional interests.

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 almost didn’t happen.  For there was as much interest in it as there was in the Annapolis Convention in 1786.  James Madison, the father of the Constitution, made the meeting in Philadelphia a reality.  By his persuasive efforts with his neighbor.  George Washington.  Father of our Country.  Then in retirement at Mount Vernon with no interest to reenter public life after resigning his commission following the Revolutionary War.  He could have been king then but declined the numerous offers to make him so.  Happy that they won their independence he just wanted to live out his years on his farm.  Like Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.  Who left his plough to become dictator of the Roman Republic.  To defend the Roman Republic.  He defeated the enemy.  Resigned his dictatorship.  And returned to his plough.  Earning a cherished place in our history books.  Something Washington had just done.  Only taking some 8 years instead of 16 days like Cincinnatus.  His place in history had come with a far greater price.  And he did not want to risk losing what he had earned after paying so dearly for it.  But Madison knew that it would take Washington’s presence to get the other states to send their delegates.  So Madison was persistent.   The Father of the Constitution nudged the Father of the Country out of retirement.  And made the retired general do the last thing he wanted to do.  Return to public life.  As he was already an old man who outlived the average lifespan of Washington men.

Madison didn’t believe a Bill of Rights would Stop a Majority from Imposing their Will on the Minority

It took four long, miserable months to produce the new constitution.  It was a hot and insufferable summer.  And they kept the windows of Independence Hall closed to block out the city noise.  And prevent anyone from hearing the debates.  So the delegates could speak freely.  And after those four long months the delegates signed the new document.  Not all of them.  Some hated it and refused to sign it or support it.  And would actively fight against it during the ratification process.  As they did not like to see so much power going to a new federal government.  Especially as there was no bill of rights included to help protect the people from this new government.  The document they produced was based on the Virginia Plan.  Which was drafted by James Madison.  Which is why we call him the Father of the Constitution.  So Virginia was instrumental in producing the new constitution.  And the delegates finally agreed to it because of another Virginian.  George Washington.  Making Virginian ratification of the new constitution conditional for other states to ratify it.  So all eyes were on Virginia.  For without Virginia all their efforts in Philadelphia would be for naught.  Because if Virginia did not join the union under the new Constitution that meant George Washington would be ineligible to be president.

Of course getting Virginia to ratify was another story.  Because George Washington and James Madison were not the only Virginians in politics.  There was also George Mason.  Who wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776).  Which Thomas Jefferson may have borrowed from when writing the Declaration of Independence.  And Mason also wrote the Virginia State Constitution (1776).  Mason opposed granting the new federal government so much power and refused to sign the Constitution in Philadelphia.  And then there was Patrick Henry.  Perhaps the greatest Patriot orator.  And of “Give me Liberty, or give me Death!” fame.  Which he shouted out during the Stamp Act (1765) debates.  He was also Virginia’s first governor under the new state constitution.  Mason and Henry were Patriots of the 1776 school.  The kind that hated distant central powers.  Whether they were in London.  Or in New York.  Mason wanted a bill of rights.  Henry, too.  As well as amendments transferring a lot of power from the federal government back to the states.  Or, better yet, no federal constitution at all.  Which Henry would work towards by leading a fierce ratification opposition.

Perhaps the greatest flaw of the new constitution as many saw was the lack of a bill of rights.  This was a contentious issue during the convention.  It was the reason why Mason refused to sign it.  As there was nothing to check the powers of the new government and protect the people’s liberties.  So why did they not include a bill of rights?  Because it was not necessary.  According to Madison.  Who fought against it.  Because the new federal government was a government of limited powers.  It wasn’t like the state governments.  The new federal government only did those things the states didn’t do.  Or shouldn’t do.  Like treat with other nations.  Provide a common defense.  Regulate interstate trade.  Things that expanded beyond a state’s borders.  And what powers it had were enumerated.  Limited.  It did not repeal individual rights protected by state constitutions.  And had no authority over those rights.  Whatever rights a person enjoyed in their state were untouchable by the new federal government.  Therefore, a bill of rights was not necessary.  Which actually protected rights greater than listing them.  For whatever rights they forgot to list the federal government would assume were fair to abuse.  Finally, Madison didn’t believe a bill of rights would stop a majority from imposing their will on the minority.  A tyranny of the majority.  Something he saw firsthand as a young man returning from college.  Where the state of Virginia harassed and imprisoned Baptist ministers for holding Baptist services in Anglican Virginia.  Something he didn’t forget.  Nor did the Baptists.

If James Madison were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

Patrick tried hard to prevent the ratification of the constitution in Virginia.  But failed.  When it came time for the Virginian legislature to elect their federal senators Henry campaigned hard against Madison and saw him defeated.  When it came to the federal House elections Henry drew the new Congressional districts that made Madison campaign in a district full of people that mostly disagreed with him.  Which it took a change of his position on adding a bill of rights to the Constitution to overcome.  His position gradually changed from opposed to being lukewarm to being a strong supporter.  In part due to some correspondence with Thomas Jefferson then serving in France.  And the Baptists’ concerns over rights of conscience.  Something Madison had longed believed in.  Believing religious liberty was essential to a free people.  As the Constitution stood there were no safeguards specifically against the oppression like that the Anglicans imposed on the Baptists earlier.  What the Baptists wanted was a bill of rights.

Madison promised, if elected, to introduce an amendment to the Constitution addressing their concerns.  In fact, a bill of rights would be the first Constitutional amendment.  And he would introduce it and fight for it until it was ratified.  Based on this promise the Baptists threw their support behind Madison.  Got him elected to the House of Representatives.  And Madison delivered on his promise.  Championing a bill of rights through Congress.  The Father of the Constitution also became the Father of the Bill of Rights.  And then it was a knockdown drag-out fight in the Virginian legislature to get the new Bill of Rights ratified.   Where the opposition to ratification was led by none other than Patrick Henry.  But he would lose that fight, too.  And the nation would have a federal government with limited, enumerated powers.  With individual liberties protected by a bill of rights.  Providing a federal government powerful enough to do the things it needed to do like treat with other nations, provide a common defense, regulate interstate trade, etc.  Those things that expanded beyond a state’s borders.  And in the following decade we would be prosperous because of it.

None of this could have happened without Virginia’s ratification of the Constitution.  Which opened the door for George Washington to be our first president.  And helped New York ratify the Constitution.  With the ratification in Virginia.  And the letter writing campaign in support of ratification.  Which appeared in newspapers.  Articles written by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (mostly) and John Jay.  Now published as the Federalists Papers.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of Madison and Hamilton the nation had a new form of government.  But Madison and Hamilton would soon part ways once Hamilton was Secretary of the Treasury.  And took great liberties with the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution.  Expanding the power and scope of the federal government far beyond what Madison had ever envisioned.  Which moved Madison into closer company with George Mason and Patrick Henry.  Desperately trying to hold onto states’ rights and oppose the expansion of the federal government.  Like he would oppose the great overreach of the federal government today.  The transfer of power from the states to the federal government.  And the expansion of suffrage to include those who don’t own property or pay taxes.  Leading to mob rule at times.  Populism.  And a tyranny of the majority.

Madison suffered ill health most of his life.  Stomach disorders and dysentery.  Brought on by the pressures of public service.  If he were alive today he probably wouldn’t remain alive long.  Seeing what has happened to his Constitution would probably kill him.  If he had the chance to vote today he would vote for the party that championed limited government.  The party that would stop the growth of the federal government.  And reduce its size.  The party that governed for all people and not the will of the populist mob.  The party that did NOT govern through class warfare but through sound principles.  If James Madison were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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The Constitution, George Washington, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Bill of Rights

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 2nd, 2012

Politics 101

The People trusted no One Man with Great Power except, of course, George Washington

America had a new constitution.  It wasn’t easy.  For the American states covered a lot of geography.  And ideology.  These were a very different people.  Who had only joined together in union to resist their common enemy.  Great Britain.  But now that common enemy was no more.  What now?  These delegates who worked behind closed doors for 4 months in some of the hottest and most humid weather had done the best they could.  It was less a triumph of solidarity than the recognition that this was the best anyone was going to do considering how vast and disparate the people were.  So now it was up to the states to ratify it.  But would they?

Good question.  For there was a lot of opposition to transferring power, any power, from the states to a new central authority.  They had just cut the ties to one king.  And they didn’t do this just to submit to another king.  Of course, America would have no king.  For they would simply call their new executive president.  But it was still one man.  And many feared that this one man given some power may take more power.  So whoever the first president was had to be one of impeccable character and integrity.  A true Patriot.  One whose Revolutionary credentials were beyond questioning.  Someone who was in the struggle for independence from the beginning and never wavered in the cause.  Someone the people universally loved.  And respected.  Of course that could be but one man.  George Washington.

This is why we call George Washington the Father of our Country.  For without him there would have been no country.  For the people trusted no one man with great power.  But they trusted Washington.  And respected him.  Would even have made him king they trusted him so.  So because Washington was available to be the first president the delegates in Philadelphia signed the new Constitution.  For all their sectional differences this was one area where everyone agreed.  They were willing to risk having this new central government because they trusted it in the hands of this one man.  George Washington.

When Patrick Henry and George Mason opposed the new Constitution it was Doubtful Virginia would Vote for Ratification

Of course they weren’t just going to hand the presidency to Washington.  But the electors in the Electoral College simply weren’t going to have a better candidate to vote for.  Washington didn’t want the job.  He just wanted to enjoy retirement on his farm before he died.  And based on the longevity of Washington men he was already living on borrowed time.  But he would serve.  Again.  Because he fought too long and too hard to see the new nation collapse before it could even become a nation.  And he had no illusions about how horrible the job would be.  It was one thing giving orders in the Continental Army where people did what he told them.  But it was another dealing with Congress during the war.  Who couldn’t accomplish anything for the spirit of liberty.  As the states tended to look more after their own interests than the army fighting for their liberty.  Leaving his army barefoot, half naked and starving during the winter at Valley Forge.  And through most of the war.

So, no, being the president wasn’t going to give him the peace and serenity he could find under his vine and fig tree at home.  It would just put him closer to the partisan bickering.  But he was willing to sacrifice his own wants and desires yet again.  To serve the people.  But would the people want him?  For it wasn’t up to the delegates at the Constitutional Convention.  All they could do was make their case to the people.  Then let the people decide if they wanted this new government.  And perhaps the most critical state was Virginia.  Which not only gave us George Washington.  But George Mason.  Patrick Henry.  Thomas Jefferson.  And James Madison.

Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!”  He was a great orator whose speeches could awe listeners.  He dripped Patriotism (even refused to attend the Philadelphia Convention as he feared it would lead to monarchy).  So did George Mason.  His Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) no doubt inspired his fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, who studied the same philosophers as Mason did.  So when Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence you could read some Virginia Declaration of Rights in it.  So his Revolutionary credentials were solid.  So when Henry and Mason opposed the new Constitution (Mason was a delegate at the convention but refused to sign it) it cast doubt over whether Virginia would ratify the new Constitution.

George Mason and Patrick Henry joined James Madison in fighting for Ratification of the Bill of Rights

Mason supported republican government.  But he didn’t trust a large republican government.  Not without a bill of rights.  Which is why he refused to sign the Constitution at the convention.  James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, argued against any bill of rights.  For he did not think it was needed.  For the Constitution enumerated the powers of the federal government.  Citing specifically what it could do.  And whatever wasn’t specifically enumerated they couldn’t do.  Madison feared if they included a bill of rights that it could backfire on them later.  For someone would argue that the Constitution stated the government can’t do A, B and C.  But it didn’t say anything about D.  So clearly the federal government can do D because it wasn’t included in the list of things it couldn’t do.  Madison saw that if you listed some rights you must list all rights.  Which changes the Constitution from forbidding the federal government from doing anything not enumerated to something that allows the government do whatever it wants as long as it is not listed in a bill of rights.

For some, though, a bill of rights was conditional for ratification.  George Mason simply wouldn’t vote for ratification unless the Constitution included a bill of rights.  Even Thomas Jefferson wrote Madison from Europe urging him to include a bill of rights.  The tide of Virginian opinion appeared to be against him on the issue.  And Madison needed Virginia.  For if Virginia didn’t ratify the chances were slim for ratification in other states.  Which did not bode well for the country.  Because of how vast and disparate the people were.  The northern states weren’t like the southern states.  And neither was like the western territory.  If there was no union the north would probably form a confederation.  And being a maritime region they’d probably seek out closer ties to Great Britain and their Royal Navy.  With some of the bloodiest fighting in the south perpetrated by the British and their Loyalist allies this would probably align the southern states to Britain’s eternal enemy.  France.  With two of Europe’s greatest powers entrenched in the east the western territories would probably align with that other European power.  Spain.  Who controlled the mouth of the Mississippi River.  The gateway to the world for western agriculture.  Turning America into another Europe.  Wars and all.

Madison worked tirelessly for ratification.  Working with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay on a series of articles published in newspapers making the case for ratification.  Later bound together into the Federalist Papers.  And then changing his stand on a bill of rights.  Promising to include a bill of rights as the first order of business for the new federal congress.  This brought George Mason around.  He even helped Madison on the bill of rights.  Which helped tip Virginia towards ratification despite a fierce opposition led by Patrick Henry.  But after ratification he, too, helped Madison pass the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights.  Which Madison delivered during the first Congress as promised.  And then worked tirelessly for its ratification.

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Declaration of Independence, George Mason, John Adams, State Constitutions, Constitutional Convention, Thomas Jefferson and Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 15th, 2012

Politics 101

The Declaration of Independence declared that Government should be By the People, Of the People and For the People 

Tearing down the old order is one thing.  Building a new one is something completely different.  For there’s been a lot of tearing down throughout history.  And rarely does peace and prosperity spontaneously follow.    Which is something that no doubt weighed heavily on the minds of those who voted on July 2, 1776, to declare formerly their independence from Great Britain.  What, exactly, were they to do next?  The most powerful navy and army in the world no longer protected them.  Instead, they were now the enemy of the most powerful navy and army in the world.  Which meant they couldn’t protect themselves.  Their international trade on the high seas.  Or even protect their own people from each other.  For if the British constitutional protections no longer applied to them, what did?  Anything?  Or would anarchy rule?

The Americans declared independence because they were not getting equal treatment under British law.  Much of which they liked.  The execution of it is what they had a problem with.  That and the built-in privileges for some.  And, of course, the established state religion.  Which made many of them come to the colonies to escape in the first place.  So there was a lot in British law they could use.  And some that could do with a little tweaking.  Which is something they could do now that they were starting from scratch.

They had just renounced the royal authority in their states.  Which left these states without a formal framework of law.  And the opportunity to make new law.  Based on the principles in the Declaration of Independence.  That government should be by the people, of the people and for the people.  So when the Continental Congress adjourned after committing their high treason (declaring their independence) the delegates went home.  Back to their states.  To begin the building process of the new order.

The Vehicle for Peaceful Change of Government was and is the Constitutional Convention

Virginia was first.  George Mason drafted their new constitution.  And included a Bill of Rights.  George Mason was a leading mind of the day.  And produced a document that served as a template for other states.  As well as other countries.  It did away with privilege.  And the state established Anglican religion.  Among other reforms.  In Massachusetts the process was a little different.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.  He voted for independence.  And supported the violent revolution that followed.  For he believed when a government harms the people that these people have a right and a duty to abolish that government.  But that didn’t mean a violent revolution whenever the people disagreed with government policy.  Because that would lead to anarchy.  And this was an issue that weighed heavily on the brilliant mind of John Adams.  Who created the procedure of overthrowing a government without suffering through a period of anarchy.  The vehicle for this peaceful change of government was the constitutional convention.  Which provided the framework for the states to develop their constitutions. 

The Massachusetts House appointed a committee to draft their constitution.  When they finished their draft they submitted it to a constitutional convention made up of elected state delegates.  Who approved it and sent it to the towns for approval.  They rejected it.  For it lacked a bill of rights.  Among other required features.  So they started the process again.  They called another constitution convention.  This one included John Adams.  Who had just returned from France.  He took an active part of the deliberations.  And the drafting of the second constitution.  They then submitted this constitution to the towns for approval.  The towns approved it.  And the state of Massachusetts had a new government.  New Hampshire followed this process.  As did the other states.  But it just wasn’t in the American states.  Nations throughout the world have adopted this process ever since.

The Founding Fathers gave their People Great Power and hoped their Religious Institutions would help them act with Great responsibility

Most colonies disestablished the Anglican Church.  Including the taxes that supported it.  And the oaths of Anglican faith required for public office.  But that didn’t mean the states wouldn’t establish their own religions.  Or force the support of it through taxation.  Which is what Massachusetts did.  Either for the preferred Congregational Church.  Or any other Christian religion.  As long as everyone attended church.  For as the Massachusetts Bill of Rights states, “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality…”

Of course the Quakers and Baptists in Massachusetts objected to paying taxes for what they saw as a violation of conscience.  In Virginia the Anglican Church of England was still supported by the state.  Supported by taxation.  And the state penalized dissenters.  Particularly the Baptists (something James Madison remembered well when later working for the passage of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution).  In direct violation of their own Virginian Bill of Rights.  The Virginian Assembly would subsequently pass an act exempting all dissenters from taxation and abuse.  Thomas Jefferson would take this a step farther with his Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom in 1786.  A piece of legislation that he was particularly proud of.  Even included it on his gravestone.

With great power comes great responsibility.  The Founding Fathers gave their people great power.  Representative government.  And a means to overthrow that government.  The constitutional convention.  That they hoped their religious institutions would protect.  And help their people act with great responsibility.

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