Tuesday, January 12, 2010

James Madison by Garry Wills


In this concise and marvelously readable examination of Madison's life and career, the renowned historian Garry Wills outlines the confluence of unfortunate circumstance, misplaced temperament, and outright poor judgment that bogged down Madison's presidency. Though a brilliant theoretician and effective legislator and collaborator, he was not a natural leader of men, and the absence of leadership was keenly felt during wartime. In fact, the War of 1812 was the first foreign war fought under the Constitution, and Madison was forced to adjust many of the assumptions he had made during the drafting of that document. He had to confront hard, practical issues such as public morale, internal security, relations with Congress, and the independence of the military. Though now remembered in part for fleeing the capital as it was under siege, Madison saw his administration come to a close with his popularity on the rise.

109 comments:

  1. Cool! Look forward to the discussion.

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  2. And look forward to finding my book -- I think I'll just order another second hand copy since they're cheap and the prospect of digging in my garage looking for James Madison is a little overwhelming at the moment. I won't be too far behind you, Trippler.

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  3. Just got my copy today!

    A thought comes to mind about Madison - like John Quincy Adams, he was a great legal and philosophical theoretician. Both had brilliant ideas that were adopted by others - Madison, the Bill of Rights; Adams, government building up of infrastructure which was adopted by FDR in his New Deal. But neither was a natural leader and their presidencies were not noted for their successes. Interestingly, both had more successful tenures in politics after leaving the Executive. Both are held in greater esteem today than in the past. Perhaps it is because the persepctive of time has enabled us to realize what great foresight and wisdom they had.

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  4. Both seemed to be natural born legislators. They had that "mean streak" in them, not to mention sharp minds, which were ideally suited for the House of Representatives. But, it is interesting in reading Wills how many times Madison overstepped his own Constitution, or wanted others to do so, in the case of Washington. The book should make for a lively discussion.

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  5. Have to look back at Madison in Gordon Woods' Revolutionary Characters. As I remember, he did a pretty good job reconciling Madison's apparent contradictions when it came to the Constitution.

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  6. Not sure when I'll get my book, and it has been awhile since I read the Wills, so will pull out Wood and read that to get started. I also have another book on Madison and the bill of rights that I can look at as well.

    Look forward to the discussion. Madison is a fascinating character. There's a room on the ground floor of Monticello that was designated the James Madison room because he spent so much time with Jefferson.

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  7. After a slow introduction, Garry Wills gets right into the matters that counted in the first three administrations, and the battles Madison faced in his first term. Fascinating reading.

    I liked his comment that Madison was an American Robespierre, although fortunately for "Jemmy" he didn't meet the same fate.

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  8. Wills also does a good job of placing Madison's administration within the context of broader global matters.

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  9. This may not pertain to Madison, but I read today that the Constition requites the president get Senate apprval before he can negotiate treaty. I can't recall any such provision.

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  10. wll, my firt post took about three minutes--so I need muvh practice to get speed back.

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  11. Hooray! Welcome back, Robert.

    The Senate site says it takes a 2/3 approval of the Senate to ratify a treaty. So it appears the President can make all the treaties he wants, but he has to get the Senate's approval to make it legal:

    "The Senate has rejected relatively few of the hundreds of treaties it has considered in its history. Many others, however, have died in committee or been withdrawn by the president rather than face defeat."

    http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Treaties.htm#1

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  12. Great to see you posting, robert!

    As I recall, Madison tried to defeat the Jay Treaty by Congressional action but failed. Congress later used much of his same language to defeat his attempted embargos on Britain, which New England pretty much ignored anyway, and was threatening secession if Madison didn't call off the War. Fascinating time.

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  13. My understandng is (or was) that the Senate can give ''advise and consent'' re the treaties. But I do not recall reading where the president is enjoined from initiating such a discourse with foreign governments. Perhaps there was something in the legislative history of the Constitution or in the Federalist Papers.

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  14. OK. I did just a little research and found that treaties are mentioned in several of those essays such as #69, 64, 43, and 3. however, they are principally discussed on eassay #75:


    http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/fed/blfed75.htm



    ''Though several writers on the subject of government place that power in the class of executive authorities, yet this is evidently an arbitrary disposition; for if we attend carefully to its operation, it will be found to partake more of the legislative than of the executive character, though it does not seem strictly to fall within the definition of either of them.''


    It is evident from this writing that the legal parameters were not fully defined at the time of the Enactment.

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  15. Been reading up on the War of 1812 while I wait for Wills. I vaguely recall reading about the invasion of Canada and about Brock (probably in Wills).

    While lots of men lost their lives, this still seems the stuff of black comedy. Even Madison sitting at the middle of the table, rather than the head where his bigger than life wife sat, and wearing his military hat, all seem strangely over the top.

    I'm surprised the Canadians haven't made a movie about this time period. Or maybe they have?

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  16. "...all seem strangely over the top."

    And yet I have to add that there's also something strangely familiar or contemporary-seeming about all the war machinations they went through.

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  17. Wills describes the War of 1812 pretty much in comic terms. One can imagine how hard it had to be to follow a war like this at that time, relying on reports that were probably anything but reliable, or going ahead and assuming military victories to help insure Madison's re-election. The US clearly underestimated Canada's military strength, not to mention the strength of Canadian allegiances to disgruntled American Indian tribes. Tecumseh played a pretty big role in the early going. I'm constantly amused by how much trust Jefferson and Madison put in Wilkinson, but I guess they didn't have the perspective we now have in fully gauging his many activities.

    Anyway, look forward to the discussion once everyone has had a chance to read the book.

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  18. Hopefully my book will get here soon.

    Wood quotes Jefferson as saying something to the effect that all that was needed was to march into Canada.

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  19. Madison's early writing on the separation of church & state:

    http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/madison_m&r_1785.html


    ''Memorial & Remonstrance against Religious Assessment'' - 1785. Two years before the enactment of the Constitution.

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  20. Montpelier:

    http://www.montpelier.org/aboutus/press/photo_gallery.php

    portrait:

    http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~opus/exhibits/james_madison.jpg

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  21. Thanks for these links. Interesting that the foundation that runs the house is so proprietary about photographs. You even have to dig to find them online.

    The more I read about Dolly Madison, the more intriguing she becomes. The Presidentess is what they apparently called her. They must have made quite the couple.

    My book didn't make it today -- hopefully tomorrow.

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  22. I'm ready any time you guys are. Wills breaks the book down into three parts,

    The Pre-Presidential Years
    First Term
    Second Term

    The Pre-Presidential Years focuses on the Constitution, his major interest in the separation of church and state, which Wills said was as much Madison's doing as it was Jefferson, although TJ is often the one credited for it. This section also takes into account the Presidential administrations Madison was a part of before assuming the Presidency himself. Probably the most interesting reading was the split that occurred in the Washington administration, and how Madison eventually broke with Washington and Hamilton.

    I guess the best place to begin is with the Constitution, as there wasn't much of an early bio, noting what a "home boy" and avid reader Madison was and that he married late. Wills is clearly more interested in policy decisions.

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  23. If Trippler is ready, go ahead without me and I'll catch up. I have a book on Madison and the Bill of Rights to refer to if need be in the beginning.

    Hopefully Robert can join in, too.

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  24. Sorry to say, I'm only up to page 60 and cannot discuss the book at length at this point.

    But yes, let's post some questions for consideration as that's always a good way to start.

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  25. Previously, we had a group reading about Thomas Paine who called that the ''age of reason''.

    Perhaps we should consider, what exactly does this mean? what role did this outlook have on Madison, the Constitution, and the Founders? of what possible relevance does this outlook have on today's headlines or social philosophy?

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  26. These are interesting questions.

    The age of reason certainly set that generation of men (and some women) apart from those who preceded them by shifting the focus to man's law rather than relying on god's law. That's an enormous shift when you think about it.

    I can sort of see how Jefferson got there but don't have as much insight into Madison. Hopefully my book will arrive today.......

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  27. Book in hand, along with political trash talk and a book recommended by gintaras on the occupation of Boston.

    Sorry it took so long. I should have tried for another used copy here rather than taking what I thought would be the easy route -- Amazon.

    Will be glued to the t.v. tonight but will try to also get some reading in. It's short so shouldn't take too much time.

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  28. Has anyone ever wondered why is it that all the early leaders of the newly created USA government were all of the propertied classes?

    If this has always been the land where anyone can grow up to be president, you would have thought that some, if not most, of those early leaders were from the ranks of day labor. Instead, they were all Ivy Leaguers whose fathers were richly endowed. Yes, they worked god awful hard while in office and most did do their time in the combat units during the Revolutionary War. But how is it that so few (if any) from the lower classes managed to ascend politically like they did?

    And, of course, Madison was one such example.

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  29. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine were the exceptions. They both rose up from being apprentices, although Paine's role in government was more as an advocate.

    But, the way government was "stacked" at the time with authority pretty much vested in the landed aristocracy, particular in the South, there wasn't much political opportunity for the "common man" except in states like Pennsylvania, which had established a more open form of government.

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  30. Today we have this idealized, pristine picture of what our Founders were like and what they stood for. We imagine that they were stalwarts who willingly put up their lives to preserve freedom for everybody. They would have taken on the Roman gladiators, the Crusades, the Mongols, the Luftwaffe, the Martians, and anyone or anything who dared to suppress anyone's freedom in any way.

    Alas, that ideal picture is terribly distorted as we have illustrated so many times on this and on our past forum!

    The Founders talked, and indeed, fought a good fight. But it can hardly be said that it was with our best interests in mind today. After all, it took the 24th Amendment to do away with the poll tax. It took the Warren Court to finally extend 13-15th Amendment rights (rights that should have been guaranteed by the Bill of Rights) to all citizens regardless of skin tone. And the issue of slavery - ah, what an embarassment to all.

    You used the term 'common man'. A good term, indeed. For it was that common man (the winter soldier) who endured combat against highly trained British & Hessian troops while barefooted and wearing threadbare clothes filled with lice. Yes, many of our Founders lost property. John Hancock being one such example. But he recovered much of his fortune as did the elites among our Founders. But the common winter soldier often did not. And when he petitioned Congress for post war relief, he was denied the proper compensation he deserved.

    How interesting that Washington was referred to by some in his time as 'King'. How many poor lads from the farms or docksides in seacoast cities could aspire to that? So while it is true that our Founders fought for 'freedom' and rights, it was largely for their freedom and rights. But not entirely for everybody else's.

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  31. I'm up to page 100 in Madison and have yet to read where he opened up his farm to returning solders who were indigent. Indeed, which of our Founders did anything like that? Is there any record of them giving away acres of unused farmland to veterans?

    From my past reading I know that Congress passed legislation that would give relief in the form of certificates that could be surrendered for cash. But that these certificates were not honored and that it took another 50 years before Congress finally came up with real compensation for the vets. But by that time most were dead!

    Small compensation, huh?

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  32. Ah, Trippler, you mean it was all a myth????

    I have never read the economic interpretation of the constitution by Charles Beard. That might be a great book to read here.

    I also read an interesting analysis by Woody Holton (Forced Founders), who argues that elites like Washington were so deeply in debt that a break with England was a logical choice to relieve their debt load.

    Holton has recently written another one -- Unruly Americans -- that covers some of the same ground, although he appears to argue there that while the Madisons et al. wanted to secure their own "freedom," they were forced to made concessions to the small land owners to get the Constitution passed.

    I'm just about done with Game Change -- I can hardly wait to find out who wins! Should we dig into the first section of Madison?

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  33. Beard & Holton ---- I will have to look for those books some day.

    As for Madison, yes shoot away ...

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  34. I don't take quite so cynical a view of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution was forged during a time of deep divisions. While the Northern states were drifting away from slavery and many of these states had pretty much gotten rid of the poll tax, the South not only demanded that slavery be entrenched in the Constitution, but they be counted toward their representation in Congress, if they were expected to ratify it. So, Madison tried to reach a compromise the would vest more authority in the Federal government while still allowing the states to retain their rights. The US Constitution has always been a balancing act.

    In regard to the Founding Fathers, from what I've read Washington ran a pretty tight ship at Mt. Vernon and ultimately provided his slaves freedom in his will. Madison also kept his plantation solvent, although he kept his slaves with the plantation,

    http://www.montpelier.org/explore/community/slavery_and_madison.php

    The same cannot be said for Jefferson, and while he talked a good line on slavery and provided the framework for the anti-slavery Northwest Ordinance, he could only bring himself to free a handful of his slaves, I think largely due to the enormous debts he had amassed at Monticello.

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  35. Well, I'm not entirely cynical of our Founders. Yes, they had to make compromises but through it all, let's be honest - it was the contents of their wallets that was their primary (though certainly not their exclusive) interests.

    You mentioned starting the discussion with the pre-presidential or Revolutionary era. I mentioned the "Age of Reason" before and just watched a documentary on the Masons. The presentation discussed the beliefs of this group and how it influenced the Founders many of whom were active members of local chapters:

    For the most part, they did not attend churches - their thoughts and beliefs largely of secular origin - reason, not faith, would be the source for solving problems - they professed a disgust for injustice - they believed in education and scientific advancement - many believed monarchy to be archaic - they believed in helping and promoting each other - and they believed in social causes. This, it is believed by some Masons is what truly motivated the Founders to establish the Union.

    I understand that the Age of Reason began in Scotland with a wide variety of philosphical writers. In truth, most of their teaching are beyond me. But it is interesting to note that American Masons are "Scottish rite" and their ideas evolved from that origin.

    All this explains why Madison would write a "Remonstrance", create a Bill of Rights, affirm the role of government to be one of championing people's rights and freedoms rather than mere subservience to royalty, and fight a war that entailed personal sacrifice and great risk with the possible loss of life, liberty, and property.

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  36. I don't see that as cynicism -- more like realism.

    When you stop and think about it, why would some of the wealthiest men in America break from the mother country? Surely it wasn't for freedom for the common working man or woman or for slaves. I think that's a legitimate historical question.

    I try to put leading thinkers from today in their position. What would make them do something so amazing, realizing that if they lost they'd all be hanging together, as I think Franklin quipped.

    That said, they had amazing world views, of which the masons were certainly a part. And they were anti-monarchical because the power of the throne comes from god. If you don't believe in god-ordained leaders, then by default you sort of have to give it all up. Amazing that the British have held on to the monarchy for so long when you think about it. Maybe because it was attacked from outside?

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  37. As for Jefferson, I think he only freed one non-family member. The rest were either his children or members of the Hemings family.

    I hope I can convince you all to read the Hemingses of Monticello at some point. Totally changed the way I look at Jefferson and his relationship to his slaves.

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  38. It is interesting, though, that the North somehow managed to enlist the South in their cause (or vice versa). I've also wondered why these two different nations of states ever stayed together as one entity rather than splitting apart.

    Sorry for the generalities. I have to find out who won the 2008 election and then will direct my comments to Wills again.

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  39. It really depends on who you read. If you read Foner's book on Paine, states like Pennsylvania really did have the "common man" in mind when they first created a unicameral leglislation and essentially abolished most voting restrictions, for white male voters anyway.

    Gordon Wood asks readers to view the Founding Fathers from the perspective of their own time, not impose our contemporary views upon them, which Zinn pretty much does.

    There was a sense of "high mindedness" among the Founding Fathers. They hoped to reach beyond themselves. Certainly, this can be read in Jefferson's Northwest Ordinance.

    Bailyn also looks at the Founding Fathers on their own terms.

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  40. I think all of them were influenced by the Enlightenment. Wills spends a lot of time on Madison's efforts to separate church and state. It is not that they didn't believe in God, but that they felt strongly that the church should not exert an influence over government. I think it is pretty amazing that they were able to get this by the states, particularly the Southern states, since they were on the cusp of the Second Great Awakening, which would reaffirm many Americans' strength (or weakness) of faith over reason.

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  41. Gintaras, I figured that would provoke a response and of course you are correct.

    The above suggested that I'm putting my values on those men which wasn't exactly what I was getting at (although at times I'm guilty of that, too, since as you pointed out there were men like Washington who did follow through and free the slaves he owned, and others who did that _before_ they were dead).

    But for a contemporary view, when you think of the small ranchers and laid off mill workers and disaffected voters of Montana (or Texas) raising hell with tea bags, and threatening to take over state government and withdraw from the union over taxes or whatever, what interest would the big land owners and money folks here (the handful that are here) have in joining them? In essence of putting their wealth on the line?

    Where do their loyalties lie and, more importantly, what is in their best _interest_?

    While the Montana example is unlikely (Texas, maybe), there is a sliver of possibility in it since people around here are so fiercely independent, anti- big government, and anti-taxes.

    The early elites had to have found themselves in a similar dilemma. So what motivated them to link up with a bunch of rabble rousers?

    In any event, as deists, the founder set would have thought that destiny was in their own hands, not god's. So it was up to them to create the world they wanted. And they don't strike me, for the most part, as naive men, although they certainly had enlightened ideals.

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  42. Or, we could talk about France!

    "Historical parallelism is the duct tape of my profession: we apply it to the most disparate things. Sooner or later the tape frays, revealing unique fissures that require individual attention."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/opinion/03zaretsky.html

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  43. To read Wood's The Radicalism of the American Revolution, many of the elites had little interest in separating from Mother England. It was only when Parliament no longer would entertain their positions in regard to new taxes that they decided to declare their own independence. The taxes were largely meant as a way to cover the costs of the French and Indian War which Britain provided soldiers for. But, alas the unruly colonists made their protests manifest in the Boston Tea Party and other shows of defiance.

    Wood gets into Franklin's numerous pleas before Parliament, before resigning himself to the seemingly sad fate the colonies would rebel. Even still, many of these elites still gave their allegiance to the King. If Great Britain had entertained the idea of a Commonwealth at this point in time, the colonies in all likelihood would have preferred this status, retaining their nominally independent status, granted to them in charters, rather than form a United States.

    They really only did so for defensive purposes with a virtually non-binding Articles of Confederation that vested very little authority in a central government. It was only when the harsh realities of waging war set in that Federalists tried to strengthen the role of central government.

    I think this is a big difference as compared to today's teabaggers, who are rebelling against what? There have been no new taxes. In fact the Stimulus Plan included more tax cuts. Every effort had been made to accommodate the states in the health care bill. The teabaggers have representation in Congress in a very vocal Republican minority that has threatened to filibuster every Democratic bill that comes down the pike. In fact, a great number of the Republicans now appear to affiliate themselves with the "Tea Party." It just strikes me as a bunch of empty rhetoric meant to sway voters in the midterm elections.

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  44. I sure don't want to give the teabaggers any credit here -- it was just a way to explain my goofy point above.

    But loved your response, which is sort of what I was trying to get at in my round about way. I don't know why, but I find this period endlessly fascinating.

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  45. My impression is tea baggers can't be ID'ed with Republicans a whole lot more than with Democrats--they seem more anti-gov't (or anti-gov't in power).

    As for injunction to "not impose our contemporary views upon them, which Zinn pretty much does." I'd say Zinn doesn't/didn't impose a modern view on the past as much as he tried to enlarge the view of the past to include those left out of the usual views of history.

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  46. ''My impression is tea baggers can't be ID'ed with Republicans a whole lot more than with Democrats''


    That did not stop Sarah Palin from addressing them. This despite the many racist and hostile placards that were in clear evidence during those demonstrations. If she runs for office in 2012 theose photos will be prominently displayed and will not help her cause.

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  47. Madison and religion ---

    "Madison's views on religious freedom are the inspiration for all that is best in his later political thought".

    p 18

    He, like the rest of our Founders, witnessed religious preference in regard to political appointments, admission into the best colleges, collegiate regents, judgeships, and other top level positions. Moreover, they will fully aware of the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition and other historical religious fanaticisms.

    It was at Princeton where his views on this issue were inculcated: it granted admission with "free and equal liberty and advantage of education any person of any religious denomination whatsoever".

    p 16

    This was a privilege denied in his home state of Virginia. For this reason, he labored for Virginia's Religious Freedom Act of 1785:

    http://www.religlaw.org/interdocs/docs/virreligfreedom1785.htm



    ''no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened, in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.''


    Had Madison's efforts to promote religous freedom and tolerance stopped with these efforts (including 'Remonstrance'), this alone would have made his worthy of our praise today. But he surpassed all of these when he created the First Amendment and its freedoms. Thus, as a Founder, his accomplishments were almost unmatchable.

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  48. Thanks for starting us off, Trippler.

    I've always understood that separation of church and state was to protect us _from_ religion, but Wills puts that thought in more perspective for me.

    Also interesting that Wills (very religious) points out that with freedom from religion, religion has had much more freedom to spread in this country as Madison apparently intended.

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  49. NY, my guess is there isn't a teabagger out there who ever has or ever will vote democratic.

    There definitely is a throw the bums out sort of quality to all of this, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the bums this time are democrats. And that Fox news is stirring the (tea) pot.

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  50. Speaking of protesters...

    Can someone give me a refresher course on the articles of confederation and the Continental Congress since that's next up in Wills?

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  51. Articles of Confederation! For some reason, I couldn't remember fully its whys and wherefores. I had forgotten that it was created just after the Declaration of Independence and was what kept Congress together during the Revolutionary war. While it had many weaknesses, it was what allowed Congress to finance the war, and ultimately, what led to victory.


    http://www.re-quest.net/g2g/historical/documents/confederation/index.htm

    "The first draft of this document was delivered to the Continental Congress just eight days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. After many changes, it became the United States' first constitution, and was adopted in its final form in 1781."


    One of its greatest weaknesses was its definition of the Union as a "confederacy". This created a loosely based union which lacked strength (it did not give Congress much taxing authority and there were many inter state tariffs). A stronger, more cohesive union was needed. This is what caused the Founders to abrogate it in favor of the Constitution which created more unity (for example, it allowed political terms of office to last longer than one year and without term limits). This unity posed a greater threat to foreign powers such as England, France, and Spain who sought to increase their power in North America.

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  52. I have read that the activities of the convention were kept secret, windows closed and blinds pulled in the hot Philadelphia weather, etc. but Wills suggests what they were up to was borderline treasonous. I guess because they were trying to reign in the independence of the recalcitrant states.

    It's amazing they were able to get the Constitution passed at all.

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  53. The Articles of Confederation appear to be principally a war-time measure. There isn't anything really in regard to a federal government. What you have is an assembly of state representatives. The State still holds ultimate authority in regard to most matters, including taxes, although the document did do away with interstate tariffs. Interesting that there was a provision for the admission of Canada. So, even at this point the colonies imagined themselves in league with Canada.

    States were also "restrained" (interesting choice of word) to enter into any kind of bilateral agreement with Britain, France or Spain, or any other kingdom for that matter. All treaties reach by the "United States," which required an approval of at least 9 states, were binding.

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  54. "the main problem with a confederacy is the fact that its components remain sovereign, so there is no single center of decision, and no way for that center to enforce its authority"


    p 27


    The solution: coercion.

    The rationale: protection from foreign invasion.

    "The right of coercion should be expressly declared". But force was not a good selling point for the Founders at the Constitutional Convention. Something else was needed which would not appear to be so forceful or tyrannical. Madison wrote that Federal "veto" power was the solution. He said it was the most important part of his unification plan. In this, Jefferson agreed.

    But how to sell this proposal to the public? Secrecy would be the key. That is why they agreed to write the Federalist Papers.


    pp 27-29

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  55. The interesting part is that Jefferson still felt that the state constitutions trumped the US Constitution. He basically planted the seeds for the later secession attempts by South Carolina and eventually the whole of the Southern states.

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  56. There were so many conflicting issues in those days that it is easy to see why unity may not have been looked upon so favorably:

    Yes, there was threat of war by British/French who were meddling on the USA maritime industry. There were hostilities with Native American tribes loyal to England. There were border hostilities among the newly created states.

    But then, people were afraid of paying taxes to the Federal government since they had already been so over burdened with them. They genuinely were concerned with centralized power and its threat of becoming like England's coercive power.

    And it remained a fact that many people never lost their loyalty to England. Perhaps they were hoping that the Brits would come back some day.

    No wonder the Founders had to enlist people to write the Federalist Papers in order to convince the populace to sign on to the Constitution.

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  57. Interesting that the Federalist Papers basically came down to three persons, Hamilton, Madison and John Jay with Hamilton writing the bulk of them,

    http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/

    although Madison's papers are probably the most remembered because of his profound sense of what this new Constitution would entitle. Makes me think a lot of Edmund Burke.

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  58. Wills suggests that the Federalists papers were written for New Yorkers, and I guess with the local press that makes sense. I think of them now as national arguments, but Wills writes that it was the serendipity of Madison being in New York that led him to be invited to contribute to the series.

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  59. New York was a key state and Hamilton has to be credited for getting his home state to ratify the Constitution. Madison seemed a more behind-the-scenes kind of guy who knew how to convert key figures to his side. Hamilton seemed to relish a more open forum judging by the number of articles he wrote in defense of the Constitution. Doesn't seem too "secret" at this point.

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  60. Wills seems to think it was Madison's ability to convince Washington to attend the "anti-constitution" meetings that helped make them even possible.

    I've been trying to reread the opening of A Brilliant Solution -- a very general history of the writing to the Constitution -- to get some more indepth info on the process. For something so foundational, it all still seems a mystery to me.

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  61. Washington was the "ace in the hole," so to speak, the one man who could unite the country. Without him, each "state" would have probably gone its own direction until threatened by war again. As it was the federal government had a hard time holding the Union together. Wills notes the Hartford Convention and other secession calls that plagued the country.

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  62. And isn't this where Washington shows up in his uniform? There's something slightly odd about the worship of Washington since he was such a terrible military man. Best I can tell he was the tallest man in the room, and always showed up dressed for war.

    In one of the previews for the John Adams series, they showed David McCullough talking to the actor playing Washington. McCullough gushed all over him, said he looked just like Washington, etc.

    The actor sort of mumbled and clearly felt uncomfortable, and said something like that's what costume and makeup people are for.

    To me, that actor's awkward response really did capture Washington. He was still in character.

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  63. Gordon Wood paints a more flattering image of Washington, showing how he had the marvelous ability to reconcile differences among his younger commanders and rival politicians. Plus, he had the age advantage and patina of wisdom and valor. Never discount those qualities during a time a young country desperately needed a leader everyone could rally around.

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  64. In a previous discussion we mentioned Federalist #10 as the most significant writing in that series. Historians have acknowledge this to be true. Interestingly, Wills points out that this essay was not thought of very much until the 20th century. Perhaps it is because the writing deals with the injustice of unequal distribution of property and the resulting disorder it brings. This being an idea thought by many to be of Marxist origin even though Marx was born 50 years later.

    Wills emphasizes essay # 63 which deals with Madison's defense of a Senate when so many favored a unicameral legislature. He felt that a six year period brought political stability and accountability. That a Senate would be in a better position to deal with foreign affairs whereas the House would deal more with domestic affairs. Madison's view was that, "attention to the judgment of of other nations is important".

    pp 29-35

    A thought occurred to me that Madison showed long range vision in that he anticipated that the USA would some day be more involved with foreign affairs. I do not believe that others believed this would be the case. Most, I thought, were like Washington who demanded no foreign entanglements and believed the country would largely remain so inclined.

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  65. Wills also shows how the idea of a mediator played into Madison's thinking(I think that's the word he used-- with the story of the horse). I thought that was very insightful.

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  66. I think Madison initially viewed the Constitution as more than a means to settle interstate differences, but he later seemed to drift toward the Jeffersonian view on the primacy of states' rights.

    Not exactly sure what led to the schism in the Washington cabinet. Seemed when Hamilton wanted to ratchet up the power of the federal government by consolidated war debts and creating a national bank, Madison and Jefferson balked. They also seemed to be against Hamilton's industrial vision of the country, preferring to view Americans as agrarians and craftsmen.

    Ultimately, it seems Madison was a Virginian.

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  67. And because of the format, Wills leaves more questions unanswered with his elliptical style.

    He had a great line in there though about Jefferson being other worldly, Madison being provincial, and Gallatin being out voted.

    I don't know why the writing of the Constitution so fascinates me, but it does. I think I have a full-fledged legal history in the garage somewhere. Too many books, not enough time.

    Madison and Gallatin both have beautiful rivers named after them thanks to Lewis and Clark. I've always wanted to know more about Gallatin, too.

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  68. Henry Adams also thought highly of Gallatin. It was apparently his initially study of Gallatin that led him to explore Jefferson and Madison in greater detail.

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  69. Yes, as I recall from Wills again, that was his first writing project. I think that's where I first got the inkling to learn more. I've looked for Adams' on Gallatin, but haven't found it. It's probably on line.

    [she looks]

    Yes, an 1880 copy is available at google books. How did we ever live without the internet?

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  70. I get the impression that Wills also likes Gallatin -- more than he appreciates Madison or Jefferson.

    Have others had the same impression?

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  71. In his time Gallatin was well thought of by many. Today his accomplishments have been largely forgotten. I believe that his well intended effort to compel Native Americans to assimilate was one reason. Back then his idea was said to be benevolent. Today it may be viewed by many as a form of cultural genocide.

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  72. Sounds like Gallatin had a pretty good head on his shoulders. He wasn't an idealogue. He accepted the National Bank when he saw the advantages of it, and tried to convince others of its value. That apparently made him a lot of enemies among the Southern political elite. I suppose it was his French-Swiss upbringing.

    Interesting that the French revolutionary government briefly had a French-Swiss Treasurer.

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  73. Gintaras, are you reading another Wood alongside Wills? I started looking at Empire of Liberty last night. It's a tome, but it may provide some help with some of the questions I have.

    I'll have to see what he says about Gallatin.

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  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  75. Darn! Made a mistake on my previous post -- next time, I'll review before posting!

    -------------------------------------------


    Historically, we were always taught that our Founders were men of principle and that they would never compromise on their ideals. Yet, Wills showed where they often violated their own principles if it was politically expedient. From our past discussions, we know of John Adams as the supposed conservative who believed in freedom of expression and limited government. But this did not keep him from passing the Alien and Seditions Acts when it suited his purposes.

    Similarly, Gallatin was opposed to the national debts on the grounds of principle. Yet, as Secretary of the Treasury in the earlier administration he used the Bank to finance the Louisiana Purchase. Madison also opposed the Bank, on principle, but then saw that it was needed if his war was to be financed.

    I thought Wlls did a great job of showing what a crafty politician Madison was in regard to this issue. Madison now put on a public display of praising the merits of the Bank, after having spent so much time opposing it - but would not publicly break with Jefferson on the issue. He did so because he did not want to look like he was talking from both sides of the mouth. He did not want to display his "lifelong unwillingness to make a public display of political inconsistency".

    pp 50,51; 75-77



    Yes, this man of principle (like so many of the Founders) did not practice what he preached. Instead, like the others, he was a @#$#@ career politician!

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  76. I wonder about that, Trippler.

    It seems like Madison was not very adept at being a politician (unlike his friend Jefferson). And I'm still not convinced he even wanted to be one. But then how did he end up in the president's office?

    Thanks for the page references. I'll go back and check the pages you are referring to.

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  77. Wills emphasizes Madison's many inconsistencies which are certainly a great contrast to the myth of consistency and principle that has shrouded our Founders for all these centuries. In addition to that mentioned above, Madison took an inconsistent position on the Navy, the merits or demerits of a militia, states rights/Federal intrusion, partisanship in regard to Supreme Court appointments, and went so far as to doctor his records in order to hide his true intentions and viewpoints. The one area where Madison remained consistent is his view on religious freedom:


    "The part of the Constitution that Madison was least likely to infringe was his favorite one, the separation of church and state. He exercised his veto three times to prevent state help to church buildings or supplies. In the veto of Feb 21, 1811, he refused to incorporate a church in the District of Columbia because that would be "a precedent for giving to religious societies, as such, a legal agency".


    p 156


    One can only conclude that Madison took an inconsistent position on so many issues because he was a politician. But we forgive him because, after all, he was one of our Founding Fathers. Without him, there would be no government to complain about!

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  78. "Without him, there would be no government to complain about!"

    Funny! Okay. I give up!

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  79. Interestingly, Marbury v Madison was not discussed in Wills. While this occurred during Jefferson's reign (1803), nonetheless, it impacted Madison's view of the Supreme court and its proper function. As for why he had such a difficult time appointing a SC member during his years at the White House, I thought Wills could have been a little more thorough in explaining why there had been so much difficulty. Additionally, Wills should have discussed Madison's views on how the Court complied (or failed to comply) with the Federalist Papers's views on its functions.

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  80. I am not too familiar with the Anti-Federalist Papers but thought for a moment that a brief sidetrack into those writings might be pertinent here. We know that the Federalist thought a Supreme Court would be good for the USA. That it would be the "least harmful" of government branches (Fed #78) in that its role would be advisory. And perhaps most significant, it would be the least political.

    But the Anti-Federalists must have had far greater vision than they did it and the following may illustrate that:


    Antifederalist No. 78 - 79

    . . . The supreme court under this constitution would be exalted above all other power in the government, and subject to no control. . . .

    The judges in England, it is true, hold their offices during their good behavior, but then their determinations are subject to correction by the house of lords; and their power is by no means so extensive as that of the proposed supreme court of the union. . . . But the judges under this constitution will control the legislature, for the supreme court are authorised in the last resort, to determine what is the extent of the powers of the Congress. They are to give the constitution an explanation, and there is no power above them to set aside their judgment . . . there is no power above them that can control their decisions, or correct their errors.

    . . . this court will be authorised to decide upon the meaning of the constitution; and that, not only according to the natural and obvious meaning of the words, but also according to the spirit and intention of it. In the exercise of this power they will not be subordinate to, but above the legislature . . . The supreme court then has a right, independent of the legislature, to give a construction to the constitution and every part of it, and there is no power provided in this system to correct their construction or do it away. If, therefore, the legislature pass any laws, inconsistent with the sense the judges put upon the constitution, they will declare it void; and therefore in this respect their power is superior to that of the legislature. In England the judges are . . . subject to have their decisions set aside by the house of lords, for error . . . But no such power is in the legislature. The judges are supreme and no law, explanatory of the constitution, will be binding on them.

    When great and extraordinary powers are vested in any man, or body of men, which in their exercise, may operate to the oppression of the people, it is of high importance that powerful checks should be formed to prevent the abuse of it . . . I suppose the supreme judicial ought to be liable to be called to account, for any misconduct, by some body of men, who depend upon the people for their places; and so also should all other great officers in the State, who are not made amenable to some superior officers. . . .



    This is an astonishing view into what the Court became espcially under right wing political rule.

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  81. I thought the problem Madison had with appointments came from his inability to find potential justices from a particular district, since they justices had to be appointed to fill a particular district in those days. And then when he did find someone he couldn't get him approved, and when he got someone approved (JQ Adams), he turned it down.

    But it sure goes to show that even then how political the courts were. Hardly the idea of judicial indifference.

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  82. I was also interested in Jefferson's malaise during the end of his presidency -- with Wills' explanation being that he lost interest because he no longer had any big problems to solve.

    Marti, do you remember if Reed discusses that? I'll have to go back and see if she has any insight into that period.

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  83. Amazingly, Wills does not give much attention to Dolley. In this day and age of personalities, it is she who often gets more attention than does her husband. But Wills strayed from this usual path.

    Good move, I thought.

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  84. "Duty, Honor, Country"

    This is the well known motto of the USMA or West Point as it is better known in NY.

    While many of our Founders did not believe in a standing army in time of peace and saw it as a possible source of tyranny, they took the precaution of creating the school in order to have future military officers. Wills points out that the school created many military engineers who facillitated victories in combat during the War of 1812.

    The problem was that state militias produced soldiers who were either inadequately prepared for combat or who lacked motivation. In addition, many had enlistment periods that did not square with Federal term policy. The school produced officers* who were better prepared for combat, and were better at preparing and motivating soldiers for combat success.

    pp 140,141 et seq



    *Often, militia officers were political appointees and had very little combat experience or capability.

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  85. Uh, are folks taking time off from the discussion because of the Olympics?

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  86. Sorry, Trippler. I'm working under a tight deadline at the moment and leave for San Diego for a meeting on Thursday, so I'm a bit distracted. But haven't forgotten Madison! I'll pack my book.

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  87. Sorry to have abandoned you, but I was away for a few days. I have to refresh my memory a bit, but it seems the Supreme Court has been biased both toward the Left and toward the Right over the years. Of course, you get infamous judges like Taney, but I thought Marshall did a lot to keep Jefferson and the Virginians in check, much to their chagrin.

    It was interesting to me how both TJ and JM had no problem stretching the Constitution to suit their agendas, while Marshall realed them back in, at least in some way. I think Wills did allude to the "Midnight Judges" by Adams but that was about it.

    In regard to Madison, I often wonder if he would have made a better Supreme Court Justice than a President.

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  88. "he would have made a better Supreme Court Justice than a President"


    Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of that?

    Wills did indicate that he was known as one who could compromise and get others to do the same. Further, he was "a man of the cabinet, not of the field" (p 5) who worked for many hours at his desk. Researching & writing were his greatest strengths. If perhaps he hadn't been involved so much in party politics, he could or should have been nominated to the SC. His contributions to its judicial directions would have highly interesting.

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  89. I agree. He seems to have been almost an accidental president, and yet he practically wrote the document that governs the country.

    There are so many questions about Madison's political career that I have -- it looks like I need to read a few more books!

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  90. "coercion"

    A not so subtle way of defending the "supremacy clause" of the Federal government over the states. This was entrenched in our law as per, United States Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2. The Clause establishes the Constitution, Federal Statutes, and U.S. treaties as "the supreme law of the land". This means that all state judges were obligated to enforce Federal law even if they were in conflict with state laws. States rights advocates back then (and to this day) look to the Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

    Back then, Madison defended coercion:

    "The right of coercion should be expressly declared ... To recur to the illustrations borrowed from the planetary system, this prerogative of the general government is the great pervading principle that must control the centrifugal tendency of the states, which without it will continually fly out of their orbits and destroy the whole harmony of the political system."


    p 28


    There was very little hope of passing the proposed Constitution with this overriding idea. That is why the Founders undertook the Federalist Papers campaign.


    More ...

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  91. "coercion" {continued}


    In the end, it was Madison's War of 1812 that established once and for all that it took a strong centralized government to defeat foreign intrusion and to promote internal stability. The Supreme Court upheld this legally through its decisions that affirmed Federal legal supremacy. Said Justice Storey:

    "The Constitution of the United States was ordained and established not by the states in their sovereign capacities but emphatically, as the preamble of the Constitution declared, by "the people of the United States" ... the Constitution ... is crowded with provisions which restrain or annul the sovereignty of the states."


    p 159


    Thus, Madison had the wisdom to foresee the need for Federal supremacy. Or perhaps, it might be stated that he contrived in some way to insure that ultimately, many others would see it that way as well.

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  92. But, somehow you get the feeling to this day that in domestic matters, state constitutions trump the US Constitution, especially in regard to the way Health, Education and Welfare have been set up.

    It seems that Madison was very careful in leaving this issue open ended, defining "individual" rights, but leaving collective rights up to the states. At least that was how I remember Tocqueville describing it in his attempt to differentiate between state and federal "rights."

    Seems "war" is one of the few cases when Americans can unite, at least until the war grows sour. Seems Madison was fortunate that the War of 1812 was relatively short lived. Had it drug on, especially given the losses Americans were suffering, the Union could have very easily broken apart over it, which it seems is what Great Britain was hoping would happen.

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  93. States are supposed to trump Federal law in regard to certain matters, especially those governed by the common law. One such matter is property and domestic rights. This is why (in theory) the DOMA law is unconstitutional. On that basis, states have a right to govern whether gays have a right to marry under the Marriage Equalization concept. Under no circumstances can or should the Federal government overrule this prerogative.

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  94. The FF's did try to strike a balance between federal and state governments, without it the Constitution would never have been ratified, but I think in this "balance" lies the fundamental weakness in American government. It is virtually impossible to initiate any real national reform except during times of extreme crises, and usually through the insistence of the executive branch.

    Apparently, the current situation doesn't warrant such reforms to hear the Republicans. They stick to their mantra that less federal government is better, preferring to divide and rule the country by state and region.

    The Senators and Representatives don't represent national interests but rather state and even local district interests. The Dems couldn't even get a Health Care Bill through the Senate without offering "goodies" to Nebraska so that they could seal Ben Nelson's vote, and offering up a number of compromises to satisfy Lieberman, Landrieu and others.

    Somehow, I don't think this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

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  95. One of the questions I have long had is whether the FF's saw the Constitution as a finished product or a work in progress. Certainly, they allowed for the addition of amendments which suggests they did not see it as a final document, and you have to wonder if they were happy with some of the provisions in the body of the document such as the 3/5th rule, which essentially consigned the black man to the role of a second-class citizen, who could only be counted toward representation in Congress, but had no right to vote. This was a hotly contested provision as Northern states far outnumbered Southern states in terms of white male population and would have had an overwhelming majority in the House, if not for the 3/5th provision. It would have had profoundly affected the Electoral College as well.

    I put this forward because the subject of "original intent" is often used by Conservatives, including Supreme Court judges like Scalia, but is interpreted quite "liberally." This recent decision to "humanize" corporations has to be one of the most outlandish interpretations yet, as it essentially gives corporations individual rights so that one could even suppose a corporation able to run for President?

    It seems to me that what Madison was more or less after a balance of government, not only in terms of the tripartite federal government but in the relation between federal and state governments. Seems he never wanted the Supreme Court to ever be more than an arbitrator in regard to inter-state disputes, and the US Constitution essentially defined the role and limits of the Federal government, but my how broadly this Constitution has been interpreted in recent years!

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  96. I also found myself thinking of all the "secrecy" that surrounded the Constitutional Convention. Many of those gathered were Masons and so leaned toward secret meetings, which gets back to Trippler's point that probably they had largely their own best interests in mind and not necessarily those of the public at large. A stronger federal government essentially allowed them to have a stronger role in influencing the direction of the country.

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  97. "the Republicans. They stick to their mantra that less federal government is better"


    Less government, they say. But only if this idea is applied by deregulating businesses. It does not apply to expanding the military industrial complex, fomenting intrusive overseas wars, increasing government surveillance, and corporate welfare bailouts. These are examples of government expansionism financed with tax dollars. To Republicans, that's OK. In fact, it is divinely mandated.

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  98. Wills does not discuss corporations in the book and this is an unfortunate omission. In fact, over the years this subject was not discussed in schools or in many books regarding the FF. But their views on the subject merits much more discussions, much like their views on religion and its impact on society.

    During their time, the FF saw how the Dutch East India company was the military industrial complex of its time. The DEIC shipped off into parts of the Third World and attacked aboriginals, killed off tens of thousands, stole their lands, stole their resources, appointed Quislings as figurehead leaders, imposed Christian religions while destroying pagan temples, created pro-Christian or pro-western schools, and undermined cultural values. This is what enabled the Western powers to conquer the Third World. Thus, our FF witnessed the consequences of unchecked corporate power - power that is enabled by government tax dollars, and unregulated conduct. The inevitable result of these things is capital accumulation for the wealthy, unlimited power for elites, with death and destruction for all deemed to be "unworthy".

    Significantly, the Boston Tea Party was an attack on the DEIC. Thus, our country was founded on the principle that the common person's needs and interests outweigh corporate interests. Further, that as citizens, we have the right to attack corporate interests in order to improve our lot. Lastly, that despite government desire to the contrary, we can take the law into our own hands if it is necessary to stop corporate interests while improving our own.

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  99. Madison's definitive words on corporations and their abuses:

    MONOPOLIES PERPETUITIES CORPORATIONS ECCLESIASTICAL ENDOWMENTS


    http://www.constitution.org/jm/18191213_monopolies.htm


    "Monoplies tho' in certain cases useful ought to be granted with caution, and guarded with strictness agst abuse ...

    In all cases of monopoly, not excepting those specified in favor of authors & inventors, it would be well to reserve to the State, a right to terminate the monopoly by paying a specified and reasonable sum. This would guard against the public discontents resulting from the exorbitant gains of individuals, and from the inconvenient restrictions combined with them ...

    Perpetual monopolies of every sort, are forbidden not only by the genius of free Govts, but by the imperfection of human foresight ...


    --------------------------------------------


    As I think about it, how strange that we never discussed any book on the subject of our Founders and their views on the abuses of corporations and elitism.

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  100. I guess I'm out of ideas or issues to discuss on Wills.

    Are there any further thoughts about the book?

    Next possible reading?

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  101. We could discuss the War of 1812 and its ramifications. Wills noted that the Pirate Wars during Jefferson's administration were of more value than anyone would have thought at the time, as they provided valuable seasoning for the US Navy, which both Jefferson and Madison wanted to mothball.

    It was pretty amusing the way Wills described the early stages of the war, the miserable failures in Canada which actually led to the US losing ground, not gaining it, in their bid to annex Canada. The Navy proved to be the lone bright spot for the young Americans in the early going.

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  102. I guess we have much to thank Napoleon for in the formation and growth of the USA: the Louisiana Purchase and the wars with the Brits from 1812-1814 that took up so much of their resources. So that while the militias were inadequate which resulted in so many early losses, the States were not overwhelmed by the British. Thereafter, while hostilities ended in Europe by 1814, the States were finally able to solidify the defenses against the invaders. The result: victory!

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  103. The amusing thing was that the US was after the Florida territories, which they thought France possessed, but in reality Spain possessed. However, ended up with the much more sizable Louisiana Purchase, which Napoleon led Monroe et al. to believe included Florida. In the end he screwed everybody, including himself.

    Kukla wrote a good book on the Purchase a few years ago entitled "A Wilderness So Immense."

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  104. This brings up what will likely be my last issue in Wills - that is, he mentions national internal improvements but does not discuss its implications in any way. The historical record shows that Madison VETOED the proposed Federal Internal Improvement Plan of 1817. His rationale being that such expenditures were not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. But this legal argument flies in the face of the fact that Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The Supreme Court had 14 years in which to veto that move. All legal thinkers at that time had ample opportunity to object as well but nobody did so. In fact, everybody readily approved.

    Ask yourself - how does the government have the legal authority to purchase land but not have the authority to improve the land?

    It is one of the weakest arguments in political history!

    Madison's reasoning in this matter was one of the low points in his career. Years later John Quincy Adams completely debunked that idea and his writings later served as the basis for FDR's New Deal.

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  105. Madison's March, 1817 letter to Congress re his veto of the FIIP:


    To the House of Representatives
    of the United States:

    Having considered the bill this day presented to me, entitled "An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements," and which sets apart and pledges funds "for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water-courses in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defence;" I am constrained, by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the constitution of the United States, to return it with that objection, to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.

    The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the 8th section of the first article of the Constitution; and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers; or that it falls, by any just interpretation, within the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States.

    "The power to regulate commerce among the several States," cannot include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water-courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such a commerce, without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms, strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.

    To refer the power in question to the clause "to providk for the common defence and general welfare," would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation; as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers, which follow the clause, nugatory and improper. Such a view of the constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation, instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them; the terms "common defence and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the constitution and laws of the several States, in all cases not specifically exempted, to be superseded by laws of Congress; it being expressly declared "that the Constitution of the United States, and laws made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." Such a view of the constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the general and the State governments; inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.


    ... more ...

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  106. {continued}

    A restriction of the power "to provide for the common defence and general welfare," to cases which are to be provided for by the expenditure of money, would still leave within the legislative power of Congress, all the great and most important measures of government; money being the ordinary and necessary means of carrying them into execution.

    If a general power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water-courses, with the train of powers incident thereto, be not possessed by Congress, the assent of the States in the mode provided in the bill cannot confer the power. The only cases in which the consent and cession of particular States can extend the power of Congress, are those specified and provided for in the constitution.

    I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals, and the improved navigation of water-courses; and that a power in the national legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the constitution; and believing that it cannot be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction, and a reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the general and the State government, and that no adequate land-marks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress, as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it; and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers, to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the constitution in its actual form, and providently marked out, in the instrument itself, a safe and practicable mode of improving it, as experience might suggest.

    JAMES MADISON.

    March 3, 1817.

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  107. Here I think you have what set Madison apart from Hamilton. Back in the Washington admin. Hamilton wanted to initiate several industrial projects including his major one at Passaic Falls. His 1791 Report on Manufactures outlined his goals. It seems Virginians like Jefferson and Madison so feared an industrial society that they fought any manufacturing effort tooth and nail, to the detriment of the country.

    I believe Jefferson imagined the Louisiana Purchase as an immense land reserve, having little or no interest in its development. Seems Madison was of the same opinion, but trying to couch his thoughts in the Constitution.

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  108. Fun to see the Marbury v. Madison historical note in the margins this morning.

    In regard to the FF's, it seems to me that they deferred a lot of decision making to subsequent generations, with ultimately tragic consequences in the Civil War. They obviously weren't ready to deal with slavery or Hamilton's concept of an industrial society, or what to do with the enormous tracts of land they acquired.

    The Northwest Ordinance, which Jefferson inspired, was more like a noble goal at the time, although it would eventually be used by Lincoln to make his case against slavery.

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