James Madison, co-author of the Federalist Papers and father of the Constitution
Today we celebrate the birthday of the father of the Constitution, James Madison. Where are great leaders like Madison today?
Madison led the charge in revolutionary Virginia to establish religious liberty, was the most important mind at the Constitutional Convention, joined with Alexander Hamilton to offer the great defense of the Constitution in The Federalist, crafted the Bill of Rights, and was behind the creation of political parties that helped bring about what Thomas Jefferson dubbed “the revolution of 1800”—the first peaceful transfer of power in history. To be so influential, we would expect a certain amount of persuasive character. Witnessing Madison’s exchanges with the gifted orator Patrick Henry in the Virginia ratifying convention, John Marshall called Madison the most eloquent speaker of his age.
Visit The Jack Miller Center for more reading about James Madison’s legacy.
There exist opposing views on the roles of public servants. One holds that it is government’s duty to ensure freedom from all fear and want, which was made [in]famous in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. This sounds like a lovely sentiment—until it comes at the expense of personal liberty. We can see this worldview in action with the huge growth in entitlement spending and expressed in the posters of the Occupy movement, i.e. “Where is my bailout?”
The other regards public servants as guardians of the people’s liberty. This idea is rooted in the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among other American founders. Just in case future elected officials lost sight of the founders’ intent, they had the foresight to protect it in the Constitution. Included in this was the federalist structure, or separation of state and federal power to protect personal liberty.
In a speech to Congress in 1789, James Madison said this about the role of state government in talking about our Bill of Rights:
… the state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operation of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a federal government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people’s liberty.
It appears we have forgotten Madison’s lessons. Power is terribly out of balance, and we see an increase in executive orders and regulatory agencies asserting power over the states decade after decade. However, we still can still devolve power from Washington and bring it back to the states—and ultimately back to the people. In fact, there are “guardians of liberty” who are hard at work to accomplish this feat.
Stay tuned as we explore current battles for freedom on this blog:
- Attorneys General from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia file suit against the federal government for overstepping the bound of the Constitution. See the list of violations here.
Do you know of any other guardians of liberty?