Friday, January 23, 2009

How the democrats removed the protections Madison described to prevent the Federal Government from becoming what it is today.

The Founding Fathers of the United States of American did not have unanimous agreement over the creation of the constitution or the creation of the national government of the United States of America. Two of the primary debaters on this subject were James Madison and Patrick Henry. Madison argued for the constitution as it was originally written, believing that some level of centralized national government was needed to protect the people from invasion and some other important tasks. Henry believes the checks and balances designed into the constitution are not enough to safeguard the country from tyranny, especially given that this government would have a military at its disposal.
Both men debated well and the arguments have both been proven right and wrong over time. One of Patrick Henry’s main arguments was about the checks and balances to keep a Federal Government limited. He states;
“If you make the citizens of this country agree to become the subjects of one great consolidated empire of American, your government will not have sufficient energy to keep them together. Such a government is incompatible with the genius of republicanism. There will be no checks, no real balances, in this government.”

Henry believes this proposed government is incompatible with republicanism and the supposed checks and balances will not be sufficient. Henry is also concerned with the fact that this new government not only would have no check on its becoming a tyranny but also would have the means to carry out that tyranny. As he suggests in the following statement:
“It has been repeatedly said here, that the great object of a national government was national defense. That power which is said to be intended for security and safety may be rendered detestable and oppressive. “

Henry is right to be concerned if his belief that the government would become a tyranny, then the tools used for national defense could be inflicted upon the citizens of the nation.
It is interesting to note that Madison did address these concerns. Madison argues that the checks and balances would in fact keep the government from becoming a tyranny. Madison states;
“When we come to the Senate, its members are elected by the states in their equal and political capacity. But had the government been completely consolidated, the Senate would have been chosen by the people in their individual capacity, in the same manner as the members of the other house. Thus it is of a complicated nature, and this complication, I trust, will be found to exclude the evils of absolute consolidation, as well as of a mere confederacy.

What is interesting about both arguments is both are right. Looking at the historical record, the country was in no danger of the failure of the checks and balances as the Constitution intended. Until the year 1913, the Senate was elected by the States as Madison describes. Madison was right stating as long as the states elected Senators, Henry’s consolidated government problem would not occur. In 1913, though the states were removed from the election process and today it would seem Henry’s fears may be coming true. Without the states to place a check on the Federal Government, it has grown exponentially and is involved in far more than the Constitution ever assigned to the Government. It can be argued that the so called “security” laws passed in the last few years could be construed as potential problems anticipated by Henry. Henry anticipates these issues with this statement;
“With respect to that part of the proposal; which says that every power not granted remains with the people, it must be previous to adoption, or it will involve this country in inevitable destruction. To talk of it as a thing subsequent, not as one of your unalienable rights, is leaving it to the causal opinion of the Congress who shall take up the consideration of the matter. They will not reason with you about the effect of this Constitution, the will not take the opinion of this committee concerning its operation. They will construe it as they please.”

Henry is arguing the concept of all rights are held by the people should be clearly defined as unalienable and existing outside the context of the constitution. His fear is that the way the Constitution is written, Congress can define anything they want regarding the governments power and what is a right of the people. It is interesting to note that Madison argued for this same fear against the Bill of Rights years later. Today in the 21st century, it is clear that Congress is in fact doing as they please with rights. Concepts like privileges as opposed to rights, debates about the second amendment or a right to privacy should not take place, yet as Henry anticipated Congress has granted itself these powers over rights that should not have existed.
Madison goes further in his debate to describe his other check and balance to keep the Federal Government limited. Madison states;
“When, therefore, direct taxes are not necessary, they will not be recurred to. It can be of little advantage to those in power to raise money in a manner oppressive t the people. To consult the conveniences of the people will cost them nothing, and in many respects will be advantageous to them. Direct taxes will only be recurred to for great purposes.”

Madison describes that the other check on the Federal government is limiting the money available to the government. Note that direct taxes as originally defined in the Constitution were not allowed unless there was a reason for those taxes, when the reason was over, so the taxes ended.. Money and an army are the two things needed for a tyranny to function. The states control over the senate and funding was to be the check on tyranny. This worked fine until 1913, when an amendment was passed removing this restriction and the last check on the federal government designed to prevent what Patrick Henry was concerned about. Since that time the Federal government has become the consolidated entity Henry feared.
In conclusion it would appear both men were correct. The checks and balances Madison identified as protection from a consolidated government, specifically he states electing Senators and restricting the national government’s taxable resources did in fact work until those checks were removed. The federal government was able to perform its duties without expanding into areas not originally tasked to the central government. It is also true that once the two checks were removed, the government has become what Henry feared. A consolidated entity that will interpret any thing they want into the government’s supposed responsibility and use the threat of force to obtain the money needed to enforce it.
Madison argues further about the type of government that Henry was proposing in keeping the current government of the time. Madison describes how Henry is complaining about the stricter requirements for amending the constitution. Madison argues;
“He[Henry] complains of this Constitution, because it requires the consent of at least three fourths of the states to introduce amendments which shall be necessary for the happiness of the people. The assent of so many he urges as too great an obstacle to the admission of salutary amendments, which, he strongly insists, ought to be at the will of a bare majority.”
Madison is correct in his statement about republics. The belief of republican government was that direct democracy is not good nor is minority rule. As seen today, certain states have laws being passed not by legislatures but directly by the people. This bypasses the safety of a republican government and opens the door to “mob” rule as the Founders defined it. At the same time in the 21st century, the smallest minority, meaning small group or even an individual can force his will, beliefs or needs onto the majority with the force of government being used to enforce this. The fears of both men exist in some form today because the original design of the constitution was changed. It remains to be seen if a tyranny will develop.
Patrick Henry did over react in his argument against the constitution. Overall this republic has been successful. Henry did not anticipate that it would take well over 140 years for the government to become what he feared. Instead of arguing against the constitution, he could have looked for a way to prevent the problems that exist today. James Madison did put too much faith in the people. The founders did not put a check to prevent the government from removing the checks and balances protecting the people from the government. Both men recognized the concept of unalienable rights though neither of these men pushed to have the concept defined better in the constitution. These problems may not have affected the early republic but are certainly affecting the United States today. Every year more rights are declared privileges by the government and the government continues to believe it has a blank check on everyone’s personal income together these represent Patrick Henry’s consolidated government, which no longer pays attention to the citizens and the government obtaining the financial means to carry out any kind of plan it wants good or bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment