James Madison on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights

By Robert J. Morgan | Go to book overview

Federalist allegedly expressed the Framers' political science, Beard's call for a restatement of the theory of motives explaining politics was of potentially great importance. The heuristic implications of Beard's new belief that economic man is dependent on political and military man were ignored, however, by critics despite Louis Hartz's call in 1955 for abandonment of the Progressives' constricting propadeutic. Hartz urged scholars to seek new fundamental categories of analysis which take into account world forces and America's relations with other nations, but he, too, was ignored. 10

Another component of Madison's thought was a belief he shared in common with some leading European thinkers who taught a science of government that aimed at creating constitutions which control the behavior of rulers. 11 Madison's fifty-seventh Federalist contains a classic expression of this belief which permeates these essays. He said that every constitution, ought first of all, to obtain as rulers persons who possess the most wisdom to know and the most virtue to pursue the common good of society. Second, it ought to contain the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous. Elections are the characteristic means used by republican government to achieve the first goal. The means relied on in "this form of government for preventing their degeneracy are more numerous." 12

Finally, this book may serve the additional purpose of fulfilling the hope Madison expressed to John Adams in 1823. Perhaps, Madison mused poignantly, both of them would eventually escape the "misfortune of history." He meant the gap between the knowledge which they possessed as participants in the great events of the Founding Age and posterity's search for "impartial" judgment of their handiwork. 13


NOTES
1.
James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 vols. ( New York: Worthington, 1884), 3:228; cited hereafter as LJM.
2.
LJM, 4:341-42. See also, Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, 4 vols. ( New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966; first published in 1911), 3:479; cited hereafter as Farrand, Records.
3.
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist, with an introduction by Edward Mead Earle, ( New York: Random House, The Modern Library, 1937), 226 (No. 37); cited hereafter as The Federalist.
4.
The Federalist81, 84-85 (No. 14). For later statements that Madison mediated theory through experience see PJM, 13:25, 377; LJM, 3:52, 535; 4:388.
5.
James Madison, The Papers of James Madison, ed. William T. Hutchinson , William M. E. Rachal, Robert A. Rutland, and others, 15 vols. to date ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia, 1962 to date), 10:220-21, cited hereafter as PJM.

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James Madison on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Legal Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xvii
  • Part I - Power 1
  • Chapter 1 - To Improve and Perpetuate the Union 3
  • Notes 28
  • Chapter 2 - A Proper Energy in the Executive 31
  • Notes 51
  • Chapter 3 - The True Principles of Republican Government 55
  • Notes 79
  • Chapter 4 - Supporting and Restraining the Executive 83
  • Notes 111
  • Part II - Rights 115
  • Chapter 5 - Political Liberty 117
  • Notes 128
  • Chapter 6 - A Few Obvious Truths 131
  • Notes 159
  • Chapter 7 - The Very Essence of Free and Responsible Government 163
  • Notes 185
  • Chapter 8 - The Framers' Muse 189
  • Notes 202
  • Selected Bibliography 205
  • Index 213
  • About the Author 219
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