Church-State Relationships in America

By Gerard V. Bradley | Go to book overview

3
Ratification of the Constitution: The Whale's Demands

"Mr. Madison has introduced his long expected amendments," Massachusetts Congressman Fisher Ames wrote Thomas Dwight on June 11, 1789. "He has hunted up all the grievances and complaints of newspapers, all the articles of conventions, and the small talk of their debates, and placed them before the House." 1 Madison biographer Irving Brant confirms the reliance and adds that Madison relied on amendments requested by the ratifying (of the federal Constitution) conventions of Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, as well as by minorities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. 2 Independent examination of Madison's congressional proposals verifies these claims and further reveals that Madison drew even more than the content of the amendments from the demands of the 1788 state conventions. The evils to be remedied were clearly identified there and, most important, the political strategy deployed in the conventions became the raison d'être of Madison's amending labors. That the Bill of Rights was produced by political intrigue indifferent to the amendments themselves--Leonard Levy refers to it as a "lucky political accident" 3--is quite clear. In his initial address to the newly assembled national legislature, President Washington appealed for those amendments "rendered expedient" by the "nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of unrest which has given birth to them." 4 Madison himself had already admitted to Jefferson that he never viewed a bill of rights "in an important light" but might favor one for no other reason than that "it is anxiously desired by others." 5 In fact, he publicly embraced the amendment movement for the first time by publishing his intent to preserve those "essential rights, which have been thought in danger [and] as may banish the party heats

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