Updates for Tuesday, January 25th [2005]

What If: James Madison replaced TeeJ?

1/25/2005

Here we ponder what would happen if James Madison, supposed "Father of the Constitution" and fourth President of the United States, had taken Jefferson's place in my story.

To the honorable State of the Internet,

It has been nary a year and one half since the unfortunate accident that brought me to this wretchedly loud place, but all is well it appears. It seems this modern and civilized society definitely has thoroughly divided itself into different interests and factions, as there happen to be creditors or debtors -- rich or poor -- husbandmen, merchants or manufacturers... everywhere that one might look. It is the method of human nature taken to a grand scale, which is somewhat to the better interest of us all. This larger America than before, surely has it's majorities divided into so many minorities that pluralities are hard to come by.

Paper money has indeed become the mischief of the central government, something I had feared only from the States before, many minorities I can see very oppressed before me to it. I have found that perhaps my council had been taken for granted by officials within the modern government, who totally neglect and ignore the State legislatures, at once it was to my surprise they took this advice and now I regret it fully. For I see the majority merely want more out of government, whether they disagree in other regards matters none, as government grows into a body of supreme power on account of it. That is the way I feared the States would go if left to their ends, never once thinking the Federal government would be so quick to fall to the bankers and aristocrats. I had certainly not forseen that all in Congress and the President himself would become so belligerent as to hold hostage the passage of good laws for the obnoxious gains of his party and constituents. Certainly my checks and balances were destined to fail to great and malignant corruption. A government without a proper Executive & Judiciary is indeed like a trunk of a man without arms or legs to move and act, however I did not foresee that once given his arms and legs they would act in concert to openly seize and oppress.

It seems to me that the vicious and reprehensible King of Great Britain levied powers that feign in comparison to the man who is President today, and that this man is not a good representative of the people, more importantly, that the citizen's Congress is not a good representative of their interests either. Surely no good or just society would seek the fatal encroachment of liberty by the General Government today, even the modern man's fat squalor.

It is with my great regrets, that in the Constitution which our delegations created, that there was no prefixed declaration telling these people such as this: "That all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from the people. That government is instituted, and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government, whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purposes of its institution." For surely, most of these people in the modern times, have forgotten this simple yet elegant truth about their government. I see now the purpose for a bill of rights, and wish that it was written perhaps more fluently, for the common wisdom of yesterday has turned into the common ignorance of today. Particularly, I regret most the wording of the very first amendment. It should there have been doubly noted that no national religion shall be established, and no infringements of any pretext be made, by government, as I fear too well that the churches dictate all too much how this modern world governs. That the freedom of speech, a great bulwark of liberty, should remain involiable, the Federal Communications Commission does not seem to understand this very well. Likewise, the provision protecting peaceful assemblies is selectively ignored and enforced, as too often I have witnessed television broadcast of riots where no guard helps the people, where they cannot be considered peaceful by any means, and too often traffic backed up and cities quartered off for special government functions, prohibiting not only peaceful assembly to "free speech zones" but even interrupting the steady flow of business.

It may be said, in some instances the values that created this government do no more than state the perfect equality of mankind; this to be sure is an absolute truth, and while I once believed it was not absolutely necessary to be inserted at the head of a constitution, it is not until I could see the descendants of our settlements that I must say, that surely we as the land's fathers failed in not providing this basic truth to you, our youth, with more clarity.

Adieu, Yr. Affy.

- James Madison

Editor's Notes:

Today I took a break from TeeJ and indulged the Morphorums a little by doing a "What If?" update with James Madison playing the temporary role of TeeJ. James Madison was one of the great thinkers behind the Constitution and Bill of Rights, of the framers he was perhaps one of the most important. He believed too little in Federalism and too much in Nationalism but this was countered by his opponents who held skepticisms about it. I believe if Madison were alive today, he would regret being naive towards the depths of human ignorance. I borrow much of the sentiment from this entry from Madison's own works, part of the opening I took from Madison's memo, "The Vices of the Political System of the United States", here are some direct excerpts I pulled out.

"All civilized societies are divided into different interests and factions, as they happen to be creditors or debtors -- rich or poor -- husbandmen, merchants or manufacturers [...] Society becomes broken into a greater variety of interests, of pursuits, of passions which check each other, while those who may feel a common sentiment have less opportunity of communication and concert."

Well, I think it's clear that even though this is still true today, that the minorities have managed to encourage the government to grow larger in scope and power without having an oppressive majority to guide them. Likewise, I borrowed a lot of sentiment from Madison's own thoughts during his debates during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, in 1787, which helped forge the Constitution, found at http://www.constitution.org/dfc/dfc_0000.htm, hosted by Constitution.org which lists an almost endless series of resources relating to the Constitution.

Madison's plea for common sense at the end was based a lot on his original letter to propose the bill of rights, which he thought wasn't necessary at the time, but would only realize in a world like ours today how necessary such common sense truly is.

But hey, this is just a "What If?" entry, TeeJ is coming back soon for more Founding Father shenanigans, so stay tuned.


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