the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

Revisions to the constitution occur in the first

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revisions to the Constitution occur in the first Congress, the authority of the new federal government would actually be enhanced, whereas the unspoken agenda of second convention advocates was to undermine that authority. Madison’s chief goal was to disarm the outright opponents of the Constitution and to demonstrate his good faith with those reluctant ratifiers who had recommended all those amendments, thereby drawing them into the fold just as Jay had envisioned. 14 While Madison’s motives for switching his position were thoroughly political, his thinking about the role of a bill of rights in the Constitution was intellectually complicated. His experience with the state governments under the Articles led him to the conclusion that the major threat to individual liberty and the rights of minorities came from below rather than above—that is, from popular majorities rather than from government. And he did not think that a bill of rights could do much to prevent those abuses. This put him at odds with his avowed mentor in Paris, whose experience in France had led him to the opposite conclusion. The Jefferson-Madison correspondence in late 1788 and early 1789 provides a convenient window through which to view two dramatically different ways of thinking about what became the Bill of Rights. 15 Madison had spent the last two years thoroughly immersed in the political campaign to draft the Constitution and oversee its ratification. Jefferson, on the other hand, was an ocean away in Paris, and although Madison had kept him informed of the state-by-state developments in the ratification process, Jefferson was blissfully oblivious to the supercharged political atmosphere that Madison was trying to manage. This helps to explain the rather strange proposal that Jefferson made in February 1788, when ratification remained problematic: “I sincerely wish that the first nine conventions, may receive [the Constitution], and the last four reject it. The former will secure it finally, while the latter will oblige them to offer a declaration of rights in order to complete the union. We shall thus have all its good, without its principal defect.” 16 One can only imagine the sense of horror that seized Madison when he read these words, for they came perilously close to the second convention option that he regarded as the political equivalent of a poison pill designed to kill the Constitution under the pretext of amending it. Jefferson obviously thought that the absence of a bill of rights was a fatal flaw in the document and, though he probably did not realize it, was willing to put ratification at risk in order to include what he called a “declaration of rights.” There are two discernible reasons for Jefferson’s obsession with a bill of rights, one quite specific, the other more general and revelatory of how his mind worked. On the specific side, he was currently engaged in conversations with Lafayette and other French reformers who were attempting to draft a declaration of rights for a new French constitution. All of them regarded such a declaration as an utterly
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