James Madison: Father of the Constitution

James Madison

In Glenn Beck’s excellent continuing series of “Founders Friday’s,” yesterday he examined “Father of the Constitution” James Madison.

Discussing this great founder with him was Colleen Sheehan, author of “James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government,” and James D. Best, author of “Tempest at Dawn.” (Mr. Best graciously sent me a copy of his book a few months ago as a gift; I regret that my busy schedule and huge reading list has kept me from diving into this interesting novel to date–but I eagerly look forward to it)

Sheehan said Madison was responsible for the introduction of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, at the instigation of Thomas Jefferson.  Madison did have a concern that these rights might someday be interpreted as the only rights we have; the Ninth Amendment should have taken care of this.

Beck pointed out that modern liberals view the Constitution and our freedoms exactly the reverse of how they were designed; they view the Constitution as a frustrating obstacle to all that they want to do, while our founders saw it as an obstacle to all that an over-powerful government might want to do TO us.  How right they were!

Beck points out that Best’s book is a novel about the Constitution Convention; based on facts, but in novel form.  He then asks Best about the priorities of the founders.

Best said they were dead-set against any form of concentrated power, having just escaped from an oppressive concentration of power.  One of these “checks and balances” set up by the founders to prevent too much concentration of power and to protect freedom was the original system where senators were appointed by the state legislatures (this was prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913).  The states were intended to have a high degree of sovereignty (see the Tenth Amendment) and held considerable influence in what the federal government did.

Another point brought out on the show was that the founders deliberately chose not to form a democracy as our form of government, and chose a republic.  Madison’s research did reveal, however, that republics have their flaws, too.  Madison called them “factions” and today we call them “special interests.”  Madison went to great lengths in the design of our government to nullify the power of factions.

In order to slow things down, facilitate communication between the people and their representatives, and prevent factions or mobs from forcing hasty change on the nation, Madison worked to build in these “speed bumps” that checked impulsiveness by a single individual or groups; these also served to protect the basic rights of the minority from assault by the majority.  Major changes had to go through the amendment process in Article V (not allow an activist judge to legislate from the bench as we have been doing since FDR).

Sheehan pointed out how important the original intent of the Constitution is, and that, as prescribed in Article V, it can only be changed by the amendment process.  To allow unelected judges–or even elected legislators–to change it outside of the amendment process is to throw away our state and personal sovereignty and allow an oligarchy. “Interpretations” and reaching extrapolations not in line with the intent of the law/constitution when it was written are improper and undermine the rule of law, respect for the law, and freedom itself.  Our founders and early statesmen clearly recognized this:

We must confine ourselves to the powers described in the Constitution, and the moment we pass it, we take an arbitrary stride towards a despotic Government. – James Jackson, First Congress

[The purpose of a written constitution is] to bind up the several branches of government by certain laws, which, when they transgress, their acts shall become nullities; to render unnecessary an appeal to the people, or in other words a rebellion, on every infraction of their rights, on the peril that their acquiescence shall be construed into an intention to surrender those rights. – Thomas Jefferson

Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. – Thomas Jefferson

On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. – Thomas Jefferson

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shape and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject. What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. – James Madison

The Constitution ought to be the standard of construction for the laws, and that wherever there is an evident opposition, the laws ought to give place to the Constitution. But this doctrine is not deducible from any circumstance peculiar to the plan of convention, but from the general theory of a limited Constitution. – Alexander Hamilton

The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution. – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, 1833

There was also considerable discussion of the Federalist Papers, which are a collection of writings by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay to explain the Constitution to the people.  These are a fantastic resource for deeper understanding of the Constitution, what it means, why it does what it does, why it requires what it requires, etc.  It goes deeper into the philosophy of the why behind the Constitution. It also helps clear up some of the mud that liberals have deliberately thrown into the waters today in an attempt to hide their unconstitutional agenda and slip things past the American people.

As the segment began to come to a close, the role of faith and religion in the lives of the founders and how they crafted our government was examined.  Best pointed out that Madison’s teachers when he was young were clergymen (Rev. Thomas Martin and Rev. John Witherspoon), and he also worked closely with and sought the advice of Rev. Witherspoon (one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence) in formulating the Virginia Plan.  Also, the original intent of “separation of church and state,” i.e. preventing government from meddling in religious freedom–rather than the total divorce of religious values from the public square as liberals want today–is examined.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the prescient wisdom of John Adams concerning our Constitution should be recognized, understood and embraced by every American who wants to remain free:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Below the four parts of the video is a separate but interesting video calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Before you reject its call out of hand, consider the wisdom of the founders, the original intent, and the disturbing level of power our out-of-control federal government has amassed.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

National States Right Coalition On Why We Should Repeal The 17th Amendment

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