November 22, 2016

Before Donald Trump

Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. -James Madison

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read the 'Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787, Taken by the Late Hon Robert Yates, Chief Justice of the State of New York, and One of the Delegates from That State to the Said Convention' and consider that the Madison quote is taken out of context.
The discussion is about establishing a bi-camera legislative body and the various arguments for and against such a structure. This portion of the notes begins with the statement from Charles Pinckney:
"On the question upon the second branch of the general legislature, as reported by the committee in the fourth resolve, now under consideration, it will be necessary to inquire into the true situation of the people of this country. Without this we can form no adequate idea what kind of government will secure their rights and liberties. There is more equality of rank and fortune in America than in any other country under the sun; and this is likely to continue as long as the unappropriated western lands remain unsettled. They are equal in rights, nor is extreme of poverty to be seen in any part of the union. If we are thus singularly situated, both as to fortune and rights, it evidently follows, that we cannot draw any useful lessons from the examples of any of the European states or kingdoms; much less can Great Britain afford us any striking institution, which can be adapted to our own situation-unless we indeed intend to establish an hereditary executive, or one for life."

The questions for Madison dealt with the future possibilities of a disruption of the 'equality of rank and fortune in America' and the necessity of assuring some means of preserving balance. It is too easy to assign sinister motivations for his remarks absent a broader appreciation of Madison's writings in general.