March 16, 2010
Today is James Madisons birthday, his 259th. This small man (5 feet 4 inches, less than 100 pounds) had a huge impact on our country. Not only is he credited with being the Father of the Constitution, he is also known as the Author of the Bill of Rights. Some scholars have even argued that Madison used the process of drafting and ratifying the first ten amendments to the Constitution in order to save the Constitution.
Thats because many anti-Federalists, who had failed to block adoption of the Constitution, were gathering strength to radically overhaul the Framers work in 1789. They sought to amend away some of the newly adopted Constitutions provisions, ones that had been so carefully crafted at Philadelphia.
James Madison had to fight to get elected to the First Congress. Virginia anti-Federalists like Patrick Henry and George Masonrevered patriot leaderswere working to defeat Madison. They carved out a district for the U.S. House of Representatives in which it would be harder for Madison to be elected. Today we call this practice gerrymandering. The word came from Massachusetts anti-Federalist leader Elbridge Gerry, who carved out some districts that looked like salamanders. Gerrymanders, they were and still are.
Henry and Mason even recruited Revolutionary War hero James Monroe to run against the great little Madison. Madison had not expected to have to campaign for election, but he did so. And he campaigned most effectively.
In January, 1789, he rode around the newly-formed congressional district in a carriage with his good friend Monroe. They debated in churches. At Hebron Lutheran Church, they were welcomed inside for the worship and hymn-singing, but church elders in that nest of Dutchmen (Germans) required the two political candidates to go out into the snowy churchyard to discuss political matters. They did so, for a long three hours, with the Lutherans paying strict attention. Even fifty years later, Madison would point to his nose and note that he had gotten it frost-bitten on that frigid Sunday afternoon! (It gives new meaning to the phrase, the frozen chosen.)
Madison won that election and yet maintained a lifelong friendship with Monroe. Madison proceeded to the temporary capital of New York, where he crafted and successfully shepherded through a sometimes reluctant Congress the amendments that would later become our revered Bill of Rights. And heres another irony: Gerry went on to serve faithfully as Madisons vice president.
Atheizers of todayoutfits like the ACLU and professional grousers like Barry Lynnwould have you think that a political candidate going to a church to ask for the votes of Christian citizens is a violation of the letter and spirit of the First Amendment. It traduces the separation of church and state, they claim.
They think they know more about the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights than the man who actually wrote them. Is it likely that James Madison would have gone to New York to make unconstitutional the very process by which he had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives?
The Founders thought Liberty was sacred. Madisons great friend Thomas Jefferson spoke for all when he wrote: The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.