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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Suffolk Resolves, Galloway Plan of Union, Olive Branch Petition, Proclamation of Rebellion, Prohibitory Act, Common Sense and Declaration of Independence

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 8th, 2012

Politics 101

In Response to the Declaration of Rights and Grievances George III condemned Massachusetts and the Suffolk Resolves

The Boston Tea Party (1773) and the subsequent passing of the Intolerable/Coercive Acts (1774) brought the several states together in Congress.  John Adams, Samuel Adams, Joseph Galloway, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, George Washington and other delegates from every state (except Georgia) convened the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September of 1774.  It sat for two months.  And began with a vote to endorse the Suffolk Resolves.  The Suffolk Resolves opposed the British oppression entailed in the Intolerable/Coercive Acts.  In Massachusetts.  (Other colonies passed similar resolves.)  The resolves included a boycott of British goods.  Demanded the resignation of the Crown’s representatives that displaced the elected colonial government.   They supported a new colonial government free from the Crown.  Refused to pay any further taxes until this happened.  And urged for the several states to raise militias.  But they did not talk of independence.  The Resolves even declared their loyalty to the British Crown.  Still, after learning of this action King George III said, “The die is cast.”

Joseph Galloway introduced the Galloway Plan of Union.  Calling for a federal union of the several states.  Where the king would appoint a president general.  Advised by a grand council.  With a representative from each state.  Chosen by each state’s legislative body.  A system of self-government.  But one still loyal to the Crown.  A move that made the British colonies more independent of the British Crown.  But not independent from the British Crown.  The Americans were to remain British Americans.  Subjects of the greatest country in the world.  The present trouble in Boston notwithstanding.  For Great Britain was the only constitutional monarchy at the time.  And the bastion of individual liberty.  Which the Americans were looking forward to enjoying once the present misunderstandings passed.  After a lengthy debate, the Galloway Plan of Union failed to pass.  But it wouldn’t be the last talk of union.

They then adopted a Declaration of Rights and Grievances.  Full of a lot of language the English used years earlier to redress previous issues with the Crown.  And some of the same words of the Enlightenment thinkers they used.  From Thomas Hobbes they wrote of their ‘right to life’.  From John Locke the ‘right to liberty and property’ and ‘ruling by the consent of those governed’.  From Baron Charles de Montesquieu the ‘separation of powers’ that eventually found its way into our Constitution.  They sent off their declarations and petitions to London.  Adjourned Congress.  Agreed to reconvene the following May if necessary.  And waited for King George to reply.  He gave it in Parliament in November.  In a speech to Parliament.  Where he condemned Massachusetts.  And the Suffolk Resolves.  Not the answer they were hoping for.  No.  Their king was not going to save the Americans from the hostile acts of Parliament.  Instead he was going to present a unified British opposition (King and Parliament) against these British subjects.  The once loyal British Americans were running out of reasons to remain loyal to the British Crown.  All they needed was one more push.

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense provided the Final Push towards Independence

The following April the battles of Lexington and Concord took place.  There was a shooting war, now.  With the Americans following the British back to Boston and laying siege.  The patriotic spirit was high.  And such was the spirit when the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May of 1775.  Independence was in the air.  John Adams wanted it.  But kept quiet.  They prepared for war.  Choosing George Washington to lead them in war.  But this was plan ‘B’.  Plan ‘A’ was still reconciliation.  And to remain British.  Which is what many wanted.  Even Washington wasn’t all that keen on independence.  He detested the acts of Parliament.  But he and his officers were still toasting the health of the King at this time. 

John Dickinson led the reconciliation group in Congress.  And they drafted (with the help of Thomas Jefferson) the Olive Branch Petition.  Addressed to the King.  Expressing their desire to remain loyal to His Majesty.  All that they wanted was to redress these tax and trade issues.  That’s all.  Dickinson had hoped with the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord and a little bit of groveling the King would at least meet them halfway.  Open up the channels of dialog.  Settle their differences without additional bloodshed.  Which just exasperated John Adams.  He thought it was a waste of time.  That  independence was inevitable.  And he vented these feelings in a private letter.  That the British got hold of.  Arriving in London about the same time as did the Olive Branch Petition.  And after reading Adams’ letter George III refused to even read the petition.  His response was the Proclamation of Rebellion.  Issued in August.  Declaring that some of the British American colonies were in a state of ‘open and avowed rebellion’.  And followed that up with the Prohibitory Act in December.  Which placed a naval blockade against all American ports.  And declared all American shipping enemies of the British Crown.  An act of war.  To which the Americans responded by issuing letters of marque to privateers, authorizing them by an act of Congress to capture British ships.  John Adams declared that King George had declared what the Americans had not yet declared.  That the American colonies were independent.  Putting the Americans ever closer to declaring their independence.

Then came that final push.  In the form of a pamphlet.  Very popular reading during the time.  It was because of these pamphlets that most Americans knew of the ideas of Hobbes, Locke and Montesquieu.  Where their ideas were presented in the language of the common man.  Then came along an author who wrote from the get-go in the language of the common man.  Thomas Paine.  Who wrote Common Sense.  Published in January 1776.  Which tore into the King.  And the whole system of hereditary monarchy.  Blamed George III for all the wrongs done to the Americans.  Making a strong and impassioned case for independence.  Without further delay.  That fired up Patriots everywhere.  Providing that final push.

The Several States united in Treason and became the United States of America

During the spring of 1776 states began discussing independence.  Some authorized their delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence.  Others need more prodding.  On June 11, 1776 the Continental Congress appointed John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut to draft a declaration of independence.  The Committee of Five.  The committee (including Jefferson) wanted Adams to write it.  Adams wanted Jefferson to write it.  Because he was a Virginian.  Someone more distant from the passions in Massachusetts.  And was rather likeable.  Unlike Adams.  And Jefferson was pretty good with the quill.  Eloquent.  And had a flair for words.

John Dickinson still argued for reconciliation.  Adams argued for independence.  The debate heated up. The New York legislation had to flee from the British advance in New York.  So they could not authorize their delegates to vote for independence.  Dickinson couldn’t agree to let Pennsylvanian vote for independence.  But he agreed to abstain.  It came down to a tie.  Until Caesar Rodney rushed in from Delaware just in time to vote for independence.  And on July 2, 1776, they committed the final act of treason.  And voted the American colonies independent of the British Crown.  Then put their name to the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.  Or some of them.  The others adding their names some time thereafter.

The several states became united.  In treason.  A confederacy of independent states joined in union.  Not quite along the lines of the Galloway plan.  But in union nonetheless.  Now locked in mortal combat with the world’s greatest superpower.  To escape their oppression.  In order to win the same liberty and freedom enjoyed by the subjects of that very same superpower.  For in the end that’s all the Americans wanted.  And had King George redressed their grievances instead of choosing to punish them everyone would have lived happily ever after as British subjects.  But he didn’t.  And we now remember him as the British king that lost America.

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