the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

All of them regarded such a declaration as an utterly

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declaration of rights for a new French constitution. All of them regarded such a declaration as an utterly essential statement of the principles on which the French Revolution should proceed. Jefferson was especially invested in this project, since, at least as he saw it, the goal was to bring the values of the
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Declaration of Independence, his very words, to the revolution in France. Finding the language to define basic human rights, then, was very much on Jefferson’s mind. More generally, Jefferson did not think about constitutions, or even government itself, in the same way as Madison or, for that matter, any other prominent American statesman of his time. As for constitutions, he regarded them as temporary political frameworks, merely transitory arrangements that should be revised or replaced every twenty years to reflect the interests and values of a new generation. As for government, he wanted it small, weak, and as close to invisible as possible. The trouble with most Europeans, he observed, was that they were bred to prefer “a government [they] can feel.” His mind and heart longed for a world in which government would not be felt, indeed one in which it almost disappeared. 17 In effect, Madison and his fellow nationalists had been working to create a constitution that was most admirable for the energetic qualities that Jefferson despised and denounced. A bill of rights was so important to Jefferson because its essential function was to define what government could not do, creating a political zone where individual rights were free to roam beyond the surveillance and restrictions of kings, courts, legislatures, and judges. This was Jefferson’s ideal, in truth his utopian vision, and it was as far removed from Madison’s interest-driven political universe as night from day. 18 Madison confessed that he and his mentor seemed to be on different pages: “I have never thought the omission [of a bill of rights] a material defect, nor for any other reason than it is anxiously desired by others…. I have not viewed it in an important light.” Moreover, Madison went on to describe all bills of rights as “parchment barriers,” easily ignored and violated “by overbearing majorities in every state.” In Virginia, for example, Madison claimed that the Declaration of Rights “has been violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current.” Jefferson’s problem, as Madison saw it, was that he believed that the primary threat to personal rights came from government. That might be true in Europe, “but in our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the community.” So the real threat came “from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents.” As a result, Madison concluded that a bill of rights, “however strongly marked on paper, will never be regarded when opposed to the decided sense of the public.” He did not foresee the active role of the Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of either the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.
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