Church-State Relationships in America

By Gerard V. Bradley | Go to book overview

4
In Congress: Throwing a Tub, or Tubs, to the Whale

"INTENT": THE MEANING OF THE WORDS

When James Madison rose from his House seat in the late afternoon of May 4, 1789, and told his colleagues that "he intended to bring on the subject of amendments to the constitution" on May 25, 1 he signaled the end of a tortuous political odyssey. That on the next morning fellow Virginian (and Patrick Henry lieutenant) Theodorick Bland laid before the House the Virginia Assembly's call for a second constitutional convention 2--a conclave that might have gutted the Philadelphia document--helps explain Madison's conversion from unrepentant adversary of amendments to eager champion. Madison evidently followed a political stratagem suggested to him by Henry "Lighthorse" Lee, who urged that federalists like Madison"derail [antifederalists] by complying with the rational views of the advocates for amendments spontaneously."3 But more than the timing of Madison's proposal was dictated by political needs; his enlistment in the amendment ranks itself resulted from electoral necessity. Madison's epic journey began when Patrick Henry denied Madison his first ambition--a Senate seat--because of Madison's conspicuous nationalism and hostility to constitutional alteration. 4 Although Madison sat on the committee that drafted the amendments recommended by the Virginia convention, it was common knowledge, as Madison admitted, 5 that he saw them as only the necessary meant to secure ratification of the Constitution. Indeed, Henry so distrusted Madison that he gerrymandered him into a difficult House contest with the young James Monroe, waged primarily on turf dominated by Henry and Monroe sympathizers. 6 Monroe, an antifederalist supporter of significant amendments, appeared headed for vic-

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