James Madison introduced twelve proposed amendments to the United States Constitution today in 1789. They eventually became our Bill of Rights. Now WE know em

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James Madison has been hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution and as the key champion and author of the United States Bill of Rights thus also becoming hailed as the “Father of our Bill of Rights.

 

Father of the Bill of Rights

Though the idea for a bill of rights had been suggested at the end of the constitutional convention, the delegates wanted to go home and thought the suggestion unnecessary. The omission of a bill of rights became the main argument of the anti-federalists against the constitution. Though no state conditioned ratification of the constitution on a bill of rights, several states came close, and the issue almost prevented the constitution from being ratified. Some anti-federalists continued to fight the issue after the constitution had been ratified, and threatened the entire nation with another constitutional convention. This would likely be far more partisan than the first had been.

James Madison objected to a specific bill of rights for several reasons: he thought it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted; that it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and that at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.

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Though few in the new congress wanted to debate a possible Bill of Rights (for the next century, most thought that the Declaration of Independence, not the first ten constitutional amendments, constituted the true Bill of Rights), James Madison pressed the issue.

Congress was extremely busy with setting up the new government, most wanted to wait for the system to show its defects before amending the constitution, and the anti-federalist movements (which had demanded a new convention) had died out quickly once the constitution was ratified.

Despite this, James Madison still feared that the states would compel congress to call for a new constitutional convention, which they had the right to do. He also believed that the constitution did not sufficiently protect the national government from excessive democracy and parochialism (the defects he saw in the state governments), so he saw his amendments as a way to mitigate these problems.

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Then on June 8, 1789, James Madison introduced his bill proposing amendments consisting of Nine Articles comprising up to 20 Amendments depending on how one counted.

Madison initially proposed that the amendments would be incorporated into the body of the Constitution. Through an exhaustive campaign, he persuaded the House to pass most of his slate of amendments.

The House rejected the idea of placing the amendments in the body of the Constitution and instead adopted 17 Amendments to be attached separately and sent this bill to the Senate.

The Senate took up James Madison’s slate of amendments, condensed them into eleven, and removed the language which Madison had included so that they would be integrated into the body of the constitution.

The senate also added what became the Ninth Amendment, which was not included in Madison’s original slate.

By 1791, the last ten of the proposed amendments were ratified and became the Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment originally proposed by James Madison (but not ratified at the time) prohibited any law that increased or decreased the salary of members of the Congress from taking effect until the start of the next set of terms of office for Representatives. This was later ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution becoming our most recent amendment to the United States Constitution.

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George F. Will once wrote that if we truly believed that the pen is mightier than the sword, our nation’s capital would have been called “Madison, D.C.”, instead of Washington, D.C.

Now WE know em

 

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