Madison on the proper role of government…

What does the Constitution say about the proper role of government? Just what was the intent of its framers?

James Madison is regarded as both the primary author of the Constitution and a prime mover of the Bill of Rights. On 03 March, 1809 Madison was inaugurated as the fourth president of the United States, and defined his goals and intentions as:

“To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well as its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and the freedom of the press; to observe economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics – that without standing armies their liberties can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe; to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufacturers, and to external as well as internal commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty;…”

Once we get beyond the incredible length of this single, run-on sentence, two things come to mind:

  1. All or at worst most of what he said could be mistaken as coming from a Libertarian Party platform, and
  2. Neither of the two major parties have even taken a single phrase in the address, much less the entirety of its intent, seriously.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Madison on the proper role of government…

  1. These are high ideals indeed. Have you ever wondered what makes people decide they wish to go against those ideals? Ask why, for example, they start interfering?One of the reasons is politicians. Some politicians (always with one eye on their vote bank) are able to legitimise interference simply by fomenting fear that the ‘others’ (other parties, other leaders, other communities or even other countries) won’t follow the tenets of these very goals or ideals.And unfortunately, the others listen not to pithy, noble words but to the actions. They learn to say one thing and do something else as they realise that is the best way to be effective; do whatever they think is best for themselves, their party, community etc. Take the example of nuclear power. It is the ambition of all countries to acquire it now. It is definitely the most effective deterrent I’ve seen to date, that stops countries from invading each other. I would be interested to know if you think it is too late to start following the high ideals of Madison as things stand today.

  2. Rad

    Fantastic example of BOTH what our countries founders had in mind for America's role on many issues AND of the beliefs of the Libertarian Party. This part: "to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction" SHOULD have religious people supporting the LP since we would realize that because of the separation of church and state no one should be able to stop their kids from praying in school; just so long as it wasn't mandatory for all.

  3. It seems that the government bureaucracy combined with the various police forces have become the standing army that endangers our liberties.

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