Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who was the Greatest Founding Father? (Part II)

Madison would compromise as he did in the writing of the Constitution by allowing the Senate to be equally represented by States instead of by population count (as is done in the House). This was the compromise by larger states to keep smaller states in the fold of creating a union. Madison would flip flop on issues such as the need for a large military. He ridiculed John Adams for pushing for a strong military, but found during the War of 1812 it was necessary to preserve the union. He even pushed for a Second National Bank to help pay off war time loans. And Madison was a hypocrite especially on the issue of slavery. Madison thought slavery was horrid but yet he and his family owned slaves. Madison joined anti-slavery organizations who not only opposed slavery but wanted to send slaves back to Africa after they were freed. Madison did not feel that even free slaves in the United States had a fair shot at true freedom. For instance, non-slave states had “Black Code” laws to limit the freedoms that free slaves or blacks could endure. Although Madison was on the wrong side of history, he was ahead of his time in the slave state of Virginia. No, Madison was not perfect.

The real reason I find Madison the greatest founding father is his interpretation of the Constitution – since he wrote the document. In the Constitution statement “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States”, Madison clearly argues that the “general welfare” clause pertains to items outlined in the Constitution and is not inserted for the government to find new items it can regulate. Madison relied on John Quincy Adams for working out treaties with foreign nations, but once Adams became president, Madison spoke out about his willingness to push for government intervention to improve infrastructures such as roads and canals. Madison called out Alexander Hamilton for wanting to create a national bank and said what is next the “federal government taking over education”. Madison also called out Chief Justice John Marshall for evoking the Necessary and Proper’s clause in the McCulloch v. Maryland decision. Madison felt the states were protected by the 10th amendment and that the Federal government could only create laws that were “absolutely essential” to carry out its enumerated powers. Obviously, Marshall who was a federalist disagreed, he saw the Necessary and Proper clause as a means for the federal government to intervene on any matter they merely thought important – not essential.

So what would Madison think of the government he created today? I doubt he could be too pleased that the federal government controls things like education, healthcare, and the environment. In one argument for a federal government in the Federalist papers, Madison felt a strong federal government could protect citizens’ property rights. Once again, in today’s world Madison is wrong. Today, our federal government uses eminent domain to infringe on property rights. The EPA tells families they cannot built on property they own because it is a wetland. The EPA protects the rights of fish instead of letting farmers irrigate their lands. Ranchers are imprisoned when they burn public lands to protect their property and more public lands from a wildfire. Madison would not be impressed by how our liberties and freedoms are violated at the cost of big government.

Most of all, Madison was a man of civility. He befriended people that disagreed with and even threatened him. He did not see a war of devolving arguments and words as a solution to a problem. Madison not only wrote the Constitution, he lived it. He lived his life through the tolerance of religion and the first amendment. Unlike many others that signed the Constitution, Madison was the only person who lived his life through the constitution. For this reason, I value Madison’s view of the meaning of the Constitution over other founding fathers.

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