A Bill of Rights
“Where is it Mr. Madison?
Where is the listing of inalienable rights such as the freedom of the press to speak without government influence, the freedom of the sundry faiths in our country to practice each as they see fit? You yourself have fought recently with the utmost vigor in defense of this in your remonstrance against the bill introduced in the Assembly of Virginia to levy a general assessment for the support of teachers of religions. Why are you silent? The blood spilt in the recent revolution must not be in vain sir. We cannot allow, we cannot approve a constitution that refrains from the specific guarantees that so valiantly motivated our cause. “
Firmly Madison stated “I have resisted the inclusion of a Bill of Rights because the constitution as constructed is a BILL OF RIGHTS. I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions could be imposed? It is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.”
Pausing with deep reflection Madison continued, “Robert, you have argued concerning the size of our proposed republic, the executive branch, the judiciary, the borrowing of money, and a Bill of Rights both now and in the future as unsustainable all grounded upon essentially one assertion. The nature of man. You lack faith in the future and lack faith in the goodness of man.
My good sir cannot you see that we share the same sentiment? We have endeavored strenuously to limit what history and common sense tell us is the antagonist. We cannot, as no man can, forever prevent the dire effects of human nature. The great republic of Rome lasted five hundred years before succumbing. If ours survives half of that I shall consider it a success. As Jefferson has said, ‘I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical’.
Our proposed Constitution is the right one Robert and at the right time.”
Sighing Madison said “If you must then a Bill of Rights you shall have. May future generations note my warning.”
“Are we agreed then?”
“Agreed,” said Robert Yates as he extended his hand.
Thus began the American Constitution.
Federalist #84 Brutus #8,12