James Madison Is Not The Sacred Oracle Of Nullification But Guess Who Is?
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Why should it all just come down to whatever James Madison said? Madison was just one man after all. It seems that you would find other opinions on this and other writings and other things that could help flesh out what it was those that framed the Constitution, and the framers of that document, and those that implemented it, and then those that had to live under it, and then those that acted against it when it acted against what they thought was the extent of its own powers? It wasn’t just James Madison. There were others.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: During the time around the turn of the 19th century, there was robust discussion here about just how far this new monstrosity called the general government, just how far it could go and how it could be slowed or stopped. In this particular instance, just a mere eight or nine years after ratification, the Adams administration had requested and then received and then signed into law these horrific proposals called the Alien and Sedition Acts. Now, some of them were the result of John Adams’ own personal paranoia. Some of them were just the result of rabid federalists believing that they had little restriction on their own powers, that they were going to do what Congress does today, they were just going to ignore the plain meaning of the Constitution and how they themselves had presented it to themselves when it was ratified.
This is what led the State of Virginia, which, again, at the time was the most populous state. It had a magnificent population of statesmen, future presidents. Jefferson, Madison, James Monroe all were residents. It was home to George Mason. Of course, I think Mason was dead by then. It had been home to Patrick Henry and other patriots whose names you know. It is, of course, where the great John Taylor of Caroline, who, as Kevin Gutzman calls him, was the…
brains of the operation, where Taylor lived. What happened after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts — this is not at issue — is that the legislatures of Kentucky and then the Assembly of Virginia acted and attempted to interpose or get in between the implementation of the law and the Adams administration’s promise that it was going to enforce it. That’s what led to these movements and acts and legislatures, which ultimately become nullification and interposition as we call them today.
There’s an awful lot of semantical argument going on here. Professor Gutzman will be here tomorrow in the second hour of the program and he’ll explain a lot of this. The written record of this is growing. I wrote some stuff on Thursday. I wrote some stuff and posted a transcript on Friday. I posted another one last night. There are others who have now weighed in. The body of evidence or the body of evidentiary materials that is building there is building on whether or not James Madison — the whole case now seems to revolve around Madison. Well, how can a compact among states revolve around the views and the writings of just one man? This is one of the questions I’m going to ask Professor Gutzman tomorrow and I’m going to talk about here today. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not telling you that Madison’s opinion is not pertinent and that it’s not relevant. Besides the fact, Madison did, at the time, he did advise that the State of Virginia should interpose against the enforcement of the Alien and Sedition Act. This is in the Virginia Report of 1800. You can read this for yourself.
Why should it all just come down to whatever James Madison said? Madison was just one man after all. Since we don’t elect kings or we don’t have a hereditary kingship here, shouldn’t you be able to or wouldn’t it seem that you would find other opinions on this and other writings and other things that could help flesh out what it was those that framed the Constitution, and the framers of that document, and those that implemented it, and then those that had to live under it, and then those that acted against it when it acted against what they thought was the extent of its own powers? It wasn’t just James Madison. There were others.
One of the little-known tales in history, you’ll find part of this in my docudrama What Lincoln Killed: Episode I. One of the little-known tales is that it was the Northern states, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, that in the beginning, after the Alien and Sedition Acts, between the turn of the century and around 1815 or so, it was the Northern states, because they hated Jefferson so much — Timothy Pickering and his buddies just despised the man. It was the Northern states that were pioneering and leaving us a nice little written historical record of saying: Just because the president, who just happens to be a Virginian, says that this is the way it ought to be, we are parties to this compact and we have just as much right to interpret it as he does. This is why there was such acrimony over the acquisition of Louisiana in the Louisiana Purchase, with many saying that Jefferson had violated the Constitution and should be impeached.
This is when Jefferson — if you have listened to What Lincoln Killed: Episode I, then you know that Jefferson called on his old friend John Taylor. He said: Dude, bail me out here. Give me a case and give it to me now. It just so happened that Taylor was in the U.S. Senate at the time and he did present a case as to how Jefferson and the parties to that document, which would have been James Monroe and John Jay who were the ones who were in France and negotiated it with Napoleon, that it was a constitutional act. In any event, I want to get off the subject here.
This week, we’re going to explore what others thought, because it shouldn’t just all come down to Madison. Here’s one of the other points that needs to be brought up when one of your friends is screaming at you on Facebook or whatever [mocking] “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Madison said this and that’s the end of the story.” You know what? Madison also went to the Federal Convention of 1787 with this thing in his hand called the Virginia Plan. The Virginia Plan called for an awful lot of things. It called for a strong central national legislature that would have veto power over every act of the states. It called for the senators that would be elected in a manner different, for an executive that would serve for life. There were all sorts of things in the Virginia Plan that did not become law.
There is a very good case to be made that it was the efforts of a New Jerseyan, William Patterson, who proposed the counter proposal to Madison and got everyone off of the nationalist take of the convention and got them into constructing or trying to frame a government that would serve as a federation, in other words, as a compact. That’s what they produced. To say that Madison gets the final word on everything is to view the history of the entire period incorrectly. [/private]
Madison was rebuffed at every turn. [mocking] “Yeah, but Madison was the one that proposed the Bill of Rights.” Yes, and his pet amendment, the one that would give the federal government veto over the acts of the states if they violated rights of conscience couldn’t make it out of the committee in the House. It never saw the light of day. He argued for it and he gave a speech. You can read the speech online. He spoke for almost an entire day. At the end of the day, they went: Uh, yeah, how about no?
The idea here that James Madison and Madison alone is the only authority we can turn to when we’re talking about nullification and interposition is just ridiculous. He is one of those but not the source.
End Mike Church Show Transcript