March 16, Freedoms Day 2015 – How to celebrate James Madison?

March 16, 2015

Celebrations of James Madison, who was born on March 16, 1751, fall to second tier, a paragraph if we’re lucky in your local newspaper’s “today in history” feature.

March 16 is not a holiday.  It’s not even a Flag Flying Day (though, if you left your flag up for March 15th’s anniversary of Maine’s statehood . . . no one would notice).

Secretary of State James Madison, who won Marb...

Secretary of State James Madison, who won Marbury v. Madison, but lost Judicial review. Photo: Wikipedia

Should we leave James Madison out of our celebrations of history with such vengeance?

Madison left a great legacy.  The question is, how to honor it, and him?

  • Madison is known popularly, especially for elementary school history studies (the few that are done anymore), as the Father of the Constitution.  It’s fitting:  Madison engaged in a great, good conspiracy with George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to get the convention to “amend” the Articles of Confederation and create a better, probably stronger, national government.  But Washington stayed behind the scenes, and pulled very few strings Madison didn’t tell him to pull. Hamilton’s support from New York was weak; while Hamilton played a hugely important role in getting the convention called, and in getting New York to ratify the Constitution with the creation of the Federalist Papers project, the day-to-day operation of the convention and direction of the political forces to make it work, fell to Madison.
  • Madison’s notes on the Philadelphia convention give us the best record of the then-secret proceedings. 

    English: James Madison, fourth president of th...

    Notice the error in this caption:  “James Madison, fourth president of the United States wrote the Constitution at his estate near Orange Virginia, called Montpelier. Pictured here after an extensive renovation.” Photo from Wikipedia.  (James Madison didn’t write the Constitution; it was hammered out in Philadelphia, not Montpelier; the patriot and rake Gouverneur Morris wrote out the final draft.)

  • Madison devised the scheme of getting conventions to ratify the Constitution, instead of colonial/state legislatures.  He had Patrick Henry in mind.  Henry opposed any centralized government for the colonies, to the point that he refused to attend the Philadelphia convention when he was appointed a delegate; by the end of the convention, Henry was off to another term as governor where he hoped to orchestrate the defeat of ratification of the constitution in the Virginia legislature.  Madison circumvented that path, but Henry still threw up every hurdle he could.  (Henry organized the anti-federalist forces in the Virginia Convention, and hoping to kill the Constitution, called it fatally flawed for having no bill of rights; when Madison’s organizing outflanked him, especially with a promised to get a bill of rights in the First Congress, Henry blocked Madison’s election to the U.S. Senate, and organized forces to stop his popular election to the U.S. House.  That failed, ultimately, and Madison pushed the legislative package that became the Bill of Rights).
  • Andrew Hamilton started writing a series of newspaper columns, with John Jay, to urge New York to ratify of the Constitution; but after Jay was beaten nearly to death by an anti-federalist mob, Hamilton invited Madison to step in and help.  Madison ended up writing more than Hamilton and Jay put together, in that collection now known as The Federalist Papers.
  • Madison backed down George Mason, and got the great defender of citizens’ rights to add religious freedom to the Virginia Bill of Rights, in 1776.  Religious freedom and freedom of conscience became a life-long crusade for Madison, perhaps moreso than for Thomas Jefferson.
  • A sort of protege of Thomas Jefferson, Madison pushed much of Jefferson’s democratic and bureaucratic reforms through the Virginia legislature, into law.  Especially, it was Madison who stoppped Patrick Henry’s plan to have Virginia put preachers on the payroll, and instead pass Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom into law in 1786.
  • Madison wrote the best defense of American religious freedom in the Memorial and Remonstrance, a petition to the Virginia legislature to get Jefferson’s bill passed.
  • Madison sponsored and passed more Constitutional Amendments than anyone else in history.  We have 27 amendments to our Constitution.  Madison pushed through the first 10, now known as the Bill of Rights.  In the original package proposed out of Congress were a dozen amendments.  One of those became salient again in the late 20th century, and was finally ratified in 1992 — the 27th Amendment.  Madison is the author of 11 of the 27 amendments, including the first ten and the last one.
  • Yeah, James Madison was the defendant in Marbury v. Madison; he made history even when he didn’t do anything
  • Madison is the only president to face enemy gunfire while president, commanding troops on the frontlines during the British invasion of Washington in 1814.
  • Madison took over the creation of the University of Virginia when Jefferson’s death prevented his following through.
  • Madison’s record as an effective, law-passing legislator is rivaled only by Lyndon Johnson among the 43 people we’ve had as president.  Both were masters at get stuff done.
  • Madison is the ultimate go-to-guy for a partner In his lifetime, to the great benefit of his partners, he collaborated with George Washington to get the convention in Philadelphia; he collaborated with Ben Franklin to get Washington to be president of the Philadelphia convention, without which it could not have succeeded; he collaborated with Hamilton on the Constitution and again on the Federalist papers; he collaborated with Jefferson to secure religious freedom in 1776, 1786, and 1789; Madison collaborated with Jefferson to establish our party political system (perhaps somewhat unintentionally), and to get Jefferson elected president; Madison collaborated with Jefferson and Jay to make the Louisiana Purchase; Madison took James Monroe out of the Patrick Henry camp, and brought Monroe along to be a great federalist democrat, appointing Monroe Secretary of State in Madison’s administration, and then pushing Monroe to succeed him as president.  Also, Madison was a prize student of the great John Witherspoon at what is now Princeton; Witherspoon took Madison, studying for the clergy, and convinced him God had a greater calling for him than merely to a pulpit.

As the ultimate Second Man — when he wasn’t the First Man — Madison’s role in history should not be downplayed, not forgotten.

March 16 is Madison’s birthday (“new style”).

What would be fitting ways to celebrate Madison’s life and accomplishments, on his birthday?  Nothing done so far in the history of the Republic adequately honors this man and his accomplishments, nor begins to acknowledge the great debt every free person owes to his work.

Still, there are encouraging stirrings.

(Dolley Madison?  There are two topics for other, lengthy discussions — one on their marriage, and how they worked together; one on Dolley, a power in her own right.)

Previously, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


227 years ago today, in this room

September 17, 2014

Independence Hall, Philadelphia; room where the Constitution was created and signed; Dept of Interior photo

Caption from Department of Interior’s Tumblr site: 225 years ago today, the Constitution of the United States was signed in Independence Hall. Today, you can tour the Hall and see where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both signed, and you can also view the Liberty Bell [close by]. This is a site not to miss while visiting Philadelphia.
Photo: National Park Service

Does this room look a little familiar?  You’ve probably seen Howard Chandler Christy’s painting of the event we celebrate today.

Howard Chandler Christy’s “Signing of the Constitution,” 1940

Howard Chandler Christy’s “Signing of the Constitution,” 1940; Architect of the Capitol image. This massive, 20′ x 30′ painting hangs in the House Wing of the U.S. Capitol, in the east stairway — a location where, alas, most people cannot get to without a guide anymore.

Click to the Architect of the Capitol’s site for the story of the painting, intended by Congress to fill a gap in the story of America told by art in the Rotunda and throughout the halls of the building.

Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Pepperdine University, creator of the interactive

Dr. Gordon Lloyd, Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, and expert in the Constitution and its history.  I met Lloyd almost a decade ago, in programs for history teachers, sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, Liberty Fund, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

My old friend Dr. Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University, working with the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, created a study tool from the Christy painting which should be used a lot more in classrooms.  Click over to the Edsitement site, and see for yourself.

Every year there are a few more tools on the internet to study the Constitution with, for teachers to use in the classroom on Constitution Day and every day.  I wonder what will be the effects in another decade.

How important is it that students learn the Constitution, what it says, and how it affects our daily lives?  How important is it that students learn the history of the creation of the Constitution, and does that history reverberate for those students as they venture out into their roles as citizens in the republic created by the document?

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This is an encore post.

This is an edited encore post.


President Obama on Constitution Day 2014

September 17, 2014

President Barack Obama literally standing with the Constitution, at the National Archives. (source of photo?)

President Barack Obama literally standing with the Constitution, at the National Archives. (source of photo?)

Your flag is up. You’ve already read the Constitution and all 27 amendments.

Time to pass on greetings to others:  Happy Constitution Day!

From the President of the United States:

CONSTITUTION DAY AND CITIZENSHIP DAY, CONSTITUTION WEEK, 2014

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

Eleven years after a small band of patriots declared the independence of our new Nation, our Framers set out to refine the promise of liberty and codify the principles of our Republic.  Though the topics were contentious and the debate fierce, the delegates’ shared ideals and commitment to a more perfect Union yielded compromise.  Signed on September 17, 1787, our Constitution enshrined — in parchment and in the heart of our young country — the foundation of justice, equality, dignity, and fairness, and became the cornerstone of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.

For more than two centuries, our founding charter has guided our progress and defined us as a people.  It has endured as a society of farmers and merchants advanced to form the most dynamic economy on earth; as a small army of militias grew to the finest military the world has ever known; and as a Nation of 13 original States expanded to 50, from sea to shining sea.  Our Founders could not have foreseen the challenges our country has faced, but they crafted an extraordinary document.  It allowed for protest and new ideas that would broaden democracy’s reach.  And it stood the test of a civil war, after which it provided the framework to usher in a new birth of freedom through the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

America’s revolutionary experiment in democracy has, from its first moments, been a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world, inspiring some to call for freedom in their own land and others to seek the blessings of liberty in ours.  The United States has always been a nation of immigrants.  We are strengthened by our diversity and united by our fidelity to a set of tenets.  We know it is not only our bloodlines or an accident of birth that make us Americans.  It is our firm belief that out of many we are one; that we are united by our convictions and our unalienable rights.  Each year on Citizenship Day, we recognize our newest citizens whose journeys have been made possible by our founding documents and whose contributions have given meaning to our charter’s simple words.

Our Constitution reflects the values we cherish as a people and the ideals we strive for as a society.  It secures the privileges we enjoy as citizens, but also demands participation, responsibility, and service to our country and to one another.  As we celebrate our Nation’s strong and durable framework, we are reminded that our work is never truly done.  Let us renew our commitment to these sacred principles and resolve to advance their spirit in our time.

In remembrance of the signing of the Constitution and in recognition of the Americans who strive to uphold the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, the Congress, by joint resolution of February 29, 1952 (36 U.S.C. 106), designated September 17 as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” and by joint resolution of August 2, 1956 (36 U.S.C. 108), requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 of each year as “Constitution Week.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 17, 2014, as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and September 17 through September 23, 2014, as Constitution Week.  I encourage Federal, State, and local officials, as well as leaders of civic, social, and educational organizations, to conduct ceremonies and programs that bring together community members to reflect on the importance of active citizenship, recognize the enduring strength of our Constitution, and reaffirm our commitment to the rights and obligations of citizenship in this great Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this sixteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

BARACK OBAMA

In that case, Happy Constitution Week!

What should we do tomorrow?


2014’s Constitution Day – Fly your flag

September 17, 2014

Happy Constitution day!  (Remember to fly your flag today.)

Have you read the U.S. Constitution lately?

Contrary to what your local Tea Party claims, it hasn’t changed.  But most people need a refresher from time to time.

First page of the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration photo

First page of the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration photo

Okay, maybe that’s a little tough to read.  Check out the on-line display of the National Archives and Records Administration in the Charters of Freedom section:

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Rotunda for the charters of Freedom at Nationa...

Rotunda for the charters of Freedom at National Archives (NARA) building in Washington, D.C. Here displayed are the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.

 


September is a flag-waving month

September 7, 2014

U.S. flag displayed in the National Center for the Constitution, Philadelphia.  Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur, via Wikimedia. Constitution Day is September 17.

U.S. flag displayed in the National Center for the Constitution, Philadelphia. Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur, via Wikimedia. Constitution Day is September 17.

Flag flying dates in September?  Three more (you flew your flag for Labor Day, right?):

  • September 9, for California statehood
  • September 11, for Patriot Day (not listed in the U.S. Flag Code, but encouraged in other law. Public Law No. 107-89)
  • September 17,for Constitution Day

Ready?

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Trivia note:  The U.S. flag is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.


Bill of Rights is location restricted?

August 20, 2014

MoveOn.org posted this photo on their Facebook page:

First Amendment Area?

First Amendment Area?

I presume (the post doesn’t say) this is a photo from Ferguson, Missouri. I presumed incorrectly.  It’s a sign from the Bundy Ranch standoff.

My first thought was, “Do they have a 2nd Amendment area?”  My second thought was, if we put up signs saying “2nd Amendment Area” will cops enforce it?

It’s probably a violation of prior restraint law, of course.  The sign is an indication of just how bizarre and sick things are in Ferguson, Missouri, at the moment.  It’s also an indication of how bizarre things were at Bundy Ranch.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Randy Creath.


Guns to protect against U.S. government? Constitution doesn’t protect that

May 16, 2014

Today, May 16, 2014, a group of yahoos promises 10 million armed Americans will descend on Washington to force changes in government, maybe depose the President, and have other yahoo fun squealing tires, drinking beer, and scaring good folks with the guns they wave.

They’ll be lucky to have a thousand people show up and politely decline to run afoul of the District of Columbia’s gun laws and the concomitant prison time.

If they stay out of jail, it won’t be because the Constitution protects them.

Yes, the Second Amendment says they have — and you and I have — a right to “keep and bear arms.”

Yahoos, true to their yahoo ways, really don’t read the Constitution thoroughly.  Otherwise, I suspect they’d be more circumspect.

Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution defines using those arms against the government, levying war against the U.S., as “treason.”

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Neither the First Amendment nor the Second Amendment excuses treason.

How will today turn out in Washington?  There may be some traffic tie-ups.  There always are. Anything out of the ordinary, though?  Not if citizens use common sense, and stick to the Constitution that protects their protests.

Yahoos, in one of their nicer portrayals from the 1947 edition of Gulliver's Travels.  Image from Wordmall.

Yahoos, in one of their nicer portrayals from the 1947 Crown edition of Gulliver’s Travels; drawing by Luis Quintanilla. Image from Wordmall.

Update:  As of Friday afternoon, the rally fizzled.  Organizers blamed the rain.  Proof that rain falls on the unjust, too?

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