Monday, March 16, 2009

The Forgotten Founder?

Born this day, March 16, in 1751, James Madison is the forgotten founder. He was a generation younger than Washington, Adams and that crowd. Soft spoken and small of stature, he avoided the limelight. He was more depth than dazzle.

It was Madison who proposed the tripartite structure of the United States government---legislative, executive, and judiciary branches—which would check and balance each other. Mr. Madison was the one who was responsible for calling the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and, by securing the participation of General Washington, insuring it had the clout to get the job done.

Although initially opposed to adding a Bill of Rights to the nation’s charter, Madison was the primary architect of the first ten amendments. In addition to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury, guarantee of due process, protection against self-incrimination, freedom of the press and the other fundamental liberties we take for granted, Madison proposed other safeguards never adopted---exemption of conscientious objectors from military service, for example.

Of all the founders, Madison was most strict about separating church and state. He broke his own rule during the War of 1812, when as President he issued an official prayer offering thanks to the “Great Parent and Sovereign of the Universe.” But later in life he regretted issuing the prayer at all. If he had his way, he would have eliminated military chaplains as well.

Mingling church and state, he had observed in his youth, led to the decline of organized religion. Faith should be voluntary, he realized—not a civic requirement. He and his best friend Thomas Jefferson engineered the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom that officially dis-established the Church of England in his home state. And if he had the power to write amendments to the federal constitution, Madison would have dis-established churches in other states as well. (As it happened, Massachusetts was the last to eliminate government support for an established church in 1833, just three years before Madison’s death.)

He believed that a religiously diverse America was the best guarantee against spiritual tyranny. With many denominations vigorously competing for converts, none was likely to attain a monopoly of temporal power. In the Federal Papers, he wrote that “the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, in the other case in the multiplicity of sects.”

Thanks to Madison, America today is not only one of the most intensely devout countries in the developed world, but also the most spiritually diverse. It is a precious legacy. Happy Birthday Jemmy! We are grateful for your life’s work.

23 comments:

Ray said...

It was Madison who proposed the tripartite structure of the United States government---legislative, executive, and judiciary branches—which would check and balance each other.>

You may want to check the validity of that statement.

Mr. Madison was the one who was responsible for calling the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and, by securing the participation of General Washington, insuring it had the clout to get the job done.>

You may want to check on this one too.

Madison was the primary architect of the first ten amendments.>

You should most definitely check the validity of this statement!

Of all the founders, Madison was most strict about separating church and state.>

Not while he helped form the nation, and as President.

He broke his own rule during the War of 1812, when as President he issued an official prayer offering thanks to the “Great Parent and Sovereign of the Universe.” But later in life he regretted issuing the prayer at all. If he had his way, he would have eliminated military chaplains as well.>

This is incorrect as well, as Madison didn't regret his other prayers to Jehovah. He just changed his views.

Mingling church and state, he had observed in his youth, led to the decline of organized religion.>

What?

He and his best friend Thomas Jefferson>

Where is the evidence for that?

Madison would have dis-established churches in other states as well.>

You should start all over:

"If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion...Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment. There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom. It is better that this security should be depended upon from the general legislature, than from one particular state. A particular state might concur in one religious project. But the United States abound in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution; and it is sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest."


~James Madison, June 12, 1788. Elliot's Debates In the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution(Virginia)

bpabbott said...

Ray,

Regarding the Separation of Powers, Wikipedia includes this passage; "The principle of separation of powers traces its origins at least as far back as Aristotle's time. During the Age of Enlightenment, several philosophers, such as John Locke and James Harrington, advocated the principle in their writings, whereas others, such as Thomas Hobbes strongly opposed it. Montesquieu was one of the foremost supporters of separating the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. His writings considerably influenced the opinions of the framers of the United States Constitution."

Regarding James Madison's contributions; "Considered to be the "Father of the Constitution", he was the principal author of the document. The first President to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights".

From these it appears reasonable to assume that Madison was responsible for the tripartite structure of our government (he didn't invent it, but did apply it), and was the author of the Bill of Rights ... hence he is referred to as the father of each.

Regarding his friendship with Thomas Jefferson, here are a couple of references [1, 2].

Jonathan Rowe said...

Heh. I think it's obvious that "Ray" is "OFT" aka James Goswick.

Our Founding Truth said...

Yeah, your site keeps saying I'm Ray, whoever that is! It's obvious, wikipedia is wrong.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Heh. Now it's "our site's" problem Ray.

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

Let me also note that Rev. Kowalski is a well educated gentleman who better knows and understands the historical record on the Founding & religion (and Madison in particular) than you do. His book was positively reviewed in USA Today. You should be deferring to his more learned authority.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Goswick, or Mr. Ray, or Mr. OFT should not "defer" to Mr. Kowalski's master's degree from Harvard. Let's make that clear. We don't "defer" to authority around here. That would be unAmerican.

OFT should, however, counterargue with direct fact and quotation from the Founders, and in James Madison's own words in this case. he did it once, but that was insufficient.

I personally get annoyed when my arguments are countered with noxious noise like

You may want to check the validity of that statement.

which is the sort of lazy subversion of the author that stokes my ire.

[Happy St. Patrick's Day, BTW---I'm half Irish, and so I'm quite susceptible to "ire" meself.]

To all our commenters, and that includes our mainpage contributors when they deign to mix with the common folk:

Please rebut the "validity of that statement" with actual proof. We posters WANT you to rebut us if you can, so we can test the truth of our arguments. That's what comments sections are for and why we're here.

[Who would want to get caught off base with an obvious flaw of fact? We're all writing our books!]

>;-[D>

It's not about anyone giving speeches or pontifications, it's about the dialogue, the exchange of proofs and ideas. In that, we are all equals here.

Rock on, all those here gathered. In time I might have something to say about Mr. Kowalski's original post, but dealing with the injustice done to it comes first.

It was a very good post.

[And OFT, if you wish to rebut, start with your best counterargument first, and just one point at at time. This would be a courtesy to the forum, the author, and indeed yourself.]

bpabbott said...

Ray: "It's obvious, wikipedia is wrong"

About what? Do you have evidence, or just your word?

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Mr. Goswick, or Mr. Ray, or Mr. OFT should not "defer" to Mr. Kowalski's master's degree from Harvard. Let's make that clear. We don't "defer" to authority around here. That would be unAmerican."

I think you are in error Tom. No one is asking Ray to defer to a political or ideological authority. Defering the an expert is not the same thing. Kawalski has demonstrated a measure of expertise that most of us will never develop.

It would be erroneous to dismiss his opinion as an authority in the same way many would dimiss Kent Hovind's opinion on the biological sciences.

It is defering to authorities with unsubstantiated (or lesser) expertise that is improper. No one is asking that of anyone.

Our Founding Truth said...

Let me also note that Rev. Kowalski is a well educated gentleman who better knows and understands the historical record on the Founding & religion (and Madison in particular) than you do. His book was positively reviewed in USA Today. You should be deferring to his more learned authority.>

Your kidding.

Montesquieu's three branch of govt. was not in the Virginia Plan; a bicameral congress was, and that was first introduced by Sherman from Connecticut, and espoused at least from 1776. What Madison wrote in the VA Plan was common knowledge.

THE method of obtaining an American Constitution through a representative convention was historical, and was suggested when the idea was to form a union that should be consistent with allegiance to the crown. It was renewed in the speculations on independence, and in "Common Sense," in 1776. When the aim was to reform the Confederation, a convention was suggested by Hamilton in 1780; by Pelatiah Webster in 1781; by the New York legislature in 1782; was named in Congress by Hamilton in 1783; was proposed by Richard Henry Lee in a letter in 1784; and was recommended by Governor Bowdoin in a speech to the Massachusetts legislature in 1785. No action, however, grew out of these suggestions. In 1786, the Assembly of Virginia, under the lead of Madison, appointed commissioners to meet in convention and consider the question of commerce, with the view of altering the Articles of Confederation; and it was made the duty of this committee to invite all the States to concur in the measure.

The convention met at Annapolis, with delegates from five States, on September II, 1786. The representation was so partial that no action was taken, other than to urge the appointment of commissioners from all the States, to meet in Philadelphia, on the second Monday of the next May, to consider such measures as were necessary' to adapt the Federal Constitution to the exigencies of the Union.
http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/The_Great_Republic_By_the_Master_Historians_Vol_II/firstcons_ic.html

Archectect of the ten amendments?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I believe Mr. Kowalski is on firm grounds for his claim per Federalist 47, Madison adapting Montesquieu's 3-branch government for American needs.

Neither should we disagree just to be disagreeable. I would prefer that we agree to be agreeable and not sweat the small stuff.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I don't dismiss anyone's opinion, Ben. Neither do I take opinions as facts. Be it Rev. Mr. Kowalski or David Barton, I listen respectfully, let them lead me to the original source, and then I'll read for myself, to draw my own conclusions.

A "Calvinistic" method of reading of history? Hehe, so be it.

Ray said...

I believe Mr. Kowalski is on firm grounds for his claim per Federalist 47, Madison adapting Montesquieu's 3-branch government for American needs.>

He's not on firm ground, other guys wrote about separation of powers before Madison did in 1787. It's just a shame how biased the secular historians are, or maybe it shows their ignorance. It isn't a mystery why all those guys deny the Christian nation thesis; their ignorance has blinded them to the facts, especially guys like Brookhiser and his comments about Hamilton.

Our Founding Truth said...

believe Mr. Kowalski is on firm grounds for his claim per Federalist 47, Madison adapting Montesquieu's 3-branch government for American needs.>

He's not on firm ground, other guys wrote about separation of powers before Madison did in 1787. It's just a shame how biased the secular historians are, or maybe it shows their ignorance. It isn't a mystery why all those guys deny the Christian nation thesis; their ignorance has blinded them to the facts, especially guys like Brookhiser and his comments about Hamilton.

bpabbott said...

Ray/OFT, perhaps you should delete on of the entries above before *everyone* visiting this blog concludes what I already know ... that you are a *liar*!

BTW, no one is claiming that Madison invented the separation of powers, only that he championed the concept into the US Consitution.

For example; The Constitution contains no provision expliciting declaring that the powers of the three branches of the federal government shall be separated. James Madison, in his original draft of what would become the Bill of Rights, included a proposed amendment that would make the separation of powers explicit, but his proposal was rejected, largely because his fellow members of Congress thought the separation of powers principle to be implicit in the structure of government under the Constitution. Madison's proposed amendment, they concluded, would be a redundancy.

and this example; Perhaps Madison was the most obsessed of all the framers with controlling power within the new government’s design. His views are summarized in the following, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary…In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions,” (Collier and Collier, 1986: 48).

and another; The doctrine of separation of powers, as implemented in drafting the Constitution, was based on several principles generally held: the separation of government into three branches, legislative, executive, and judicial; the conception that each branch performs unique and identifiable functions that are appropriate to each; and the limitation of the personnel of each branch to that branch, so that no one person or group should be able to serve in more than one branch simultaneously. To a great extent, the Constitution effectuated these principles, but critics objected to what they regarded as a curious intermixture of functions, to, for example, the veto power of the President over legislation and to the role of the Senate in the appointment of executive officers and judges and in the treaty-making process. It was to these objections that Madison turned in a powerful series of essays. 5

Madison recurred to ''the celebrated'' Montesquieu, the ''oracle who is always consulted,'' to disprove the contentions of the critics. ''[T]his essential precaution in favor of liberty,'' that is, the separation of the three great functions of government had been achieved, but the doctrine did not demand rigid separation. Montesquieu and other theorists ''did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or controul over, the acts of each other,'' but rather liberty was endangered ''where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department.'' 6 That the doctrine did not demand absolute separation provided the basis for preservation of separation of powers in action. Neither sharply drawn demarcations of institutional boundaries nor appeals to the electorate were sufficient. 7 Instead, the security against concentration of powers ''consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.'' Thus, ''[a]mbition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.''

Jonathan Rowe said...

Ray/OFT really needs to change his tone and the way he presents himself if we wants to be taken seriously outside of "Christian Nation" circles.

I don't agree with much or everything TVD, Kristo, Brian, Roger, or, to mention some folks who have made big inroads in the academy, Michael Novak, Philip Hamburger, Daniel Dreisbach, etc. say. But they know how to present themselves in the scholarly, respectable arena.

Jonathan Rowe said...

You also have to look at who OFT is attacking. Richard Brookhiser is no secular leftist. I don't know about his personal religious faith, but the man is one of the most important converative historan-intellectuals of the latter half of the 20th Century. The man is a LEGEND at National Review.

Our Founding Truth said...

You also have to look at who OFT is attacking. Richard Brookhiser is no secular leftist.>

I attacked Brookhiser on his statements about Hamilton, not his faith. His statement about Hamilton's faith, I've already commented on.

Jonathan Rowe said...

And Brookhiser better and more accurately summed up the record on Hamilton's faith than you or "Hercules Mulligan" do.

Tom Van Dyke said...

There's no evidence that Hamilton became a "theistic rationalist" or any sort of theologically heterodox Christian inbetween his youth and his old age. Not a single piece of evidence for that has offered on this blog except the inconclusive evidence that he didn't go to church or take communion.

Whatever the "historians" say, his faith---personal beliefs---while he was a Founder [#8!] remains conjecture at best, "scholars" be damned.

Just the facts, ma'am.

Jonathan Rowe said...

There is also no evidence that he was an orthodox Trinitarian Christian during this time. And not much evidence that he was a pious Christian during his youth either. Just a few folks who new him that said they thought he was and that he used to pray. The only thing for sure we can say about Hamilton is that he seemed to get quite religious after his son died and he himself died a Christian death.

Our Founding Truth said...

The only thing for sure we can say about Hamilton is that he seemed to get quite religious after his son died and he himself died a Christian death.>

Not a chance! There isn't a shred of evidence ever presented in history that shows Hamilton's words changed one bit during his lifetime!

bpabbott said...

Ray: "Not a chance! There isn't a shred of evidence ever presented in history that shows Hamilton's words changed one bit during his lifetime!"

Sigh :-(

Like most, Hamilton's religion did change.

I'm entirely confused as to why you consider it improper for a man to change his position on such such things.

There are many Christians who continue to spread the myth of Darwin's death bed conversion (no need btw, he lived and died a theist). Why is it a theological problem for Hamilton to depart more pious than he lived?