One of the key presuppositions to which the founding fathers held at the time of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was the fallen nature of Man. They presupposed that Man's entire capacity was intrinsically evil, and that outside of God's sovereign grace, Man could accomplish no good thing. The Bible makes it plain: "[T]he intent of man's heart is evil from his youth." (Gen. 8:21)For the opposite point of view, compare that to what George Willis Cooke wrote in 1902:
One of Man's sins is his insatiable lust for power. Unless restrained, a powerful man will stop at nothing to trample the rights of others. He must be restrained both inwardly with the power of the Holy Spirit, and outwardly with mechanistic controls. Therefore, many state constitutions required a belief in Christ as a prerequisite to hold office, while the framers devised a federal Constitution that was intended specifically to check and balance the ambitions of men lest they accumulate tyrannical powers.
The doctrine of degrees, as taught by the Calvinists, was the spiritual side of the assertion of the divine right of kings. On the other hand, when the people claim the right to rule, they modify their theology into Arminianism. From an age of the absolute rule of the king comes the doctrine of human depravity; and with the establishment of democracy appears the doctrine of man’s moral capacity.
Back to Mr. Heustis' article:
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist No. 51, "What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?"
I'm surprised he doesn't quote Madison's remarks in Federalist 55, the usual "proof-quote" for his belief in man's depravity:
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.
Notice Madison is saying that there is only a "degree" of depravity. Not TOTAL depravity. This is consistent with both Arminianism and rejection of original sin. It's barely consistent Calvinism.
And of course when asked to put his theological cards on the table, James Madison, in his letter to Frederick Beasley didn't turn to Calvin or even John Witherspoon for authority but Samuel Clarke, a naturalist, rationalist and Anglican divine who was nearly defrocked from his position in the Church for peddling the Arian heresy.