The Most Important Founding Father You May Not Remember
Rep. Mark Green / @RepMarkGreen / March 16, 2023
Thursday is the birthday of the most important Founding Father Americans may not even remember. More than any other Founder, James Madison is to thank for the structure of our government—from the separation of powers to a bicameral legislature to proportional representation. Pictured: Portrait of Madison by an unknown artist, 1816. Located in the White House, Washington, D.C. (Photo: VCG Wilson, Corbis/Getty Images)
Rep. Mark Green, a combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, represents the 7th Congressional District of Tennessee. He is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Thursday is the birthday of the most important Founding Father Americans may not even remember. He doesn’t have a musical written about him. He doesn’t have an HBO series. But he is one of the most significant Founders in the history of the United States.
Thursday is the 272nd anniversary of James Madison’s birth. More than any other Founder, Madison is to thank for the structure of our great government. It is because of his dedication and genius that we have the separation of powers, a bicameral legislature, and proportional representation.
But it is this very system of separated powers that is under threat today. The fact that the federal bureaucracy takes legislative, executive, and judicial power unto itself is a threat to representative government. It’s time to push back against this overreach and restore congressional authority in line with Madison’s system.
Why is this so important?
It’s because of Madison’s foresight that our nation has been able to guard against centralized power for over 200 years. And today, as we face an ever-growing federal government seeking to control the lives of Americans from cradle to grave, the best thing we can do for our nation is go back to Madison’s original system—constitutional government.
To figure out what that means, we can read what Madison wrote himself. He laid out a new “science of politics” in both the ninth and 10th Federalist Papers. Here we learn that we have his idea of an extended republic to thank for convincing skeptical Americans that republican government is possible. Most Americans in the 18th century looked down on republics as a failed form of government. Madison and the rest of the Founders sought to prove them wrong—and it worked!
Madison discovered the solution to the ancient problem of tyranny of the majority. He devised a system whereby the diverse interests of our growing country would compete with each other, preventing a single group from dominating the others.
This is why our nation has been able to rise above even our own failures. Madison believed in our ability to improve upon the past. He managed to devise a constitutional system that would continually improve upon itself as time moved forward.
Today, our system of government has created the most powerful and prosperous nation to ever exist. Our Founders constructed a nation that allows all Americans to achieve their dreams should they choose to work for them. Madison believed in self-government, not government control. This foundation of self-government spurred generations of Americans to embrace an entrepreneurial spirit that has ushered the world into the modern age.
In the short span of less than three centuries, our nation has grown from a collection of disparate colonies to the most powerful nation in the history of the world, and it’s thanks to the system of government created by Madison. No other nation, kingdom, or empire has flourished like America has, and we have our Founding Fathers, led by the providence of God, to thank for it. That’s something worth defending.
We also have Madison to thank for the Bill of Rights—one of our most important tools today for preserving liberty.
Many Founders, including Madison himself, didn’t think listing out our rights was necessary. In a perfect world, perhaps they would have been right. Yet knowing that men are not angels, we should be abundantly thankful that we have this list of legal protections to fall back on when the federal government infringes on our God-given rights—which it is doing at an increasing and alarming rate.
Having government recognize the fundamental principle that rights are inalienable and come from God was not only unique at the time, it was radical and had never been done before. Enshrining everything from the freedom of religious exercise to the right to keep and bear arms is what has given our nation its reputation as the “Land of the Free.” And we have spread these ideas of freedom around the world.
Unfortunately, today, that freedom is under attack. Radical leftist ideologies seek to tear down the institutions and systems put in place by the Founding generation and replace them with a dystopian nightmare. We have based our current success on the superior efforts of our ancestors. We must not sacrifice this success on the altar of failed political ideologies like communism and socialism.
Over the course of our history, the executive branch has usurped more and more power. Since the onset of the 20th century, presidents have increased their use of executive orders to bypass Congress. But the threat to our constitutional system goes beyond political agendas.
Take President Joe Biden’s recently signed executive order. Without consulting Congress, the president signed into law an order promoting the use of “red-flag laws” on firearm purchasers, which inherently violates the Second Amendment. This order gives the federal government greater determination over what constitutes a “red flag” and to who it will be given. This is especially concerning given that the president openly called conservatives a “threat to democracy” and his administration investigated parents protesting COVID-19 protocols at school board hearings as domestic terrorists.
If that wasn’t enough, this same administration colluded with Big Tech to censor conservative voices on social media platforms, violating their First Amendment rights. These attacks directly infringe upon protections Madison laid out in the Bill of Rights.
The checks and balances defined in the first articles of our founding document are being thrown to the wayside in favor of a bureaucracy controlled by the executive branch.
This is what I am fighting against in Congress. We must do all we can to preserve our Madisonian constitutional system. If the Constitution falls, so, too, does the protection of our fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Most Important Founding Father You May Not Rem... (show quote
Anyone who doesn't know who James Madison was, ain't American.James Madison, Property
29 Mar. 1792 Papers 14:266--68
This term in its particular application means "that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual."
In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.
In the former sense, a man's land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.
In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.
He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.
He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.
He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.
In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.
Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause.
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.
According to this standard of merit, the praise of affording a just securing to property, should be sparingly bestowed on a government which, however scrupulously guarding the possessions of individuals, does not protect them in the enjoyment and communication of their opinions, in which they have an equal, and in the estimation of some, a more valuable property.
More sparingly should this praise be allowed to a government, where a man's religious rights are violated by penalties, or fettered by tests, or taxed by a hierarchy. Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man's house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man's conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.
That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest. A magistrate issuing his warrants to a press gang, would be in his proper functions in Turkey or Indostan, under appellations proverbial of the most compleat despotism.
That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property strictly so called. What must be the spirit of legislation where a manufacturer of linen cloth is forbidden to bury his own child in a linen shroud, in order to favour his neighbour who manufactures woolen cloth; where the manufacturer and wearer of woolen cloth are again forbidden the oeconomical use of buttons of that material, in favor of the manufacturer of buttons of other materials!
A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor; where the keenness and competitions of want are deemed an insufficient spur to labor, and taxes are again applied, by an unfeeling policy, as another spur; in violation of that sacred property, which Heaven, in decreeing man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, kindly reserved to him, in the small repose that could be spared from the supply of his necessities.
If there be a government then which prides itself in maintaining the inviolability of property; which provides that none shall be taken directly even for public use without indemnification to the owner, and yet directly violates the property which individuals have in their opinions, their religion, their persons, and their faculties; nay more, which indirectly violates their property, in their actual possessions, in the labor that acquires their daily subsistence, and in the hallowed remnant of time which ought to relieve their fatigues and soothe their cares, the influence [inference?] will have been anticipated, that such a government is not a pattern for the United States.
If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments.