the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

In effect it created the illusion that the amendments

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authorization or knowledge. In effect, it created the illusion that the amendments had been drafted at the Constitutional Convention. (By now, Madison surely wished that they had.) The more appropriate way to proceed, Sherman argued, was to regard the amendments as a separate codicil to the original text of the Constitution, which was, in fact, what they were. 27 Madison immediately recognized this as an unanswerable argument and conceded the point, which also relieved him of the daunting task of deciding how to corkscrew a series of civil rights and restrictions on federal power into the original text of the Constitution. The result was to give the Bill of Rights a separate status as an epilogue that accurately reflected the concerns of so many delegates at the ratifying conventions. Over time this separate placement allowed the Bill of Rights to assume an iconic status of its own, as the legal version of the liberal values first articulated in the Declaration of Independence, and as the classic statement of rights beyond the reach of government, the American version of the Magna Carta. Small wonder, then, that Jefferson regarded it as more important than the Constitution itself. 28 If we wish to recover Madison’s mentality during the congressional debates over what became the Bill of Rights—what we might call Madison’s “original intentions”—the best place to look is the opening speech he delivered on June 8 to the House, in which he presented the fruits of his quite massive editorial labors during the spring months. Several representatives objected to considering a revision of the Constitution at this time. As James Jackson of Georgia put it, the Constitution was like “a ship that has never yet put to sea…. Upon experiment she may prove faultless, or her defects might be very obvious.” It was too early to start tampering with the text. 29 What’s more, Congress had more pressing issues to resolve. It needed to set up a federal revenue system, translate the vagaries in the Constitution into a workable federal judiciary, create executive departments and define their authority—in short, get the government up and going. Madison’s proposal that the House put itself into a committee-of-the-whole format to debate his draft of a bill of rights would mean that it could not focus on all those other important duties. Madison eventually relented on the tactical questions by abandoning his committee-of-the-whole proposal and allowing his suggested amendments to be sent to a special committee, which would permit the House to proceed with its other business. But he insisted on the principle that a bill of rights must be an immediate priority. And he was explicit about his reasons for doing so: It cannot be a secret to the gentlemen of this house, that, notwithstanding the ratification of this system of government by eleven of the thirteen United States, yet there is a great number of our constituents who are dissatisfied with it; among whom are many
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