Monday, December 17, 2012

The James Madison Interview -

Clarifying the Claims of Original Intent

[Editor’s note:  Given the claims of Conservatives that the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to unlimited possession of firearms, and other areas where Conservatives rely on the Constitution for their positions The Dismal Political Economist thought it would be helpful to hear from the one individual considered most responsible for writing the Constitution.

What follow is an exclusive interview with James Madison, something no other Forum has,  mainly because he’s been dead for a long time.]

James Madison Today - He's Aged Well Hasn't He

DPE:  Thanks for agreeing to talk with us Your Excellency, Mr. President.

Madison:  Call me Jamie, you know one of the reasons we had the revolution was to get rid of pompous titles for those in government.  I imagine everyone refers to the current President as Barry.

DPE:  Well, let’s skip that for a moment.  You know, the 2nd Amendment has caused a lot of problems because a bunch of Conservatives say it means anyone can have as many firearms as they want.  Is that what you intended.

Madison:  You know, when we wrote that we wanted to make sure the federal government would allow state militias to exist.  State militias were the primary police force on the frontiers.  We had no intention of letting everyone have what you have today, automatic weapons.  Can't you people read?

You know, every right in the Bill of Rights has limits, we didn’t intend for freedom of religion to mean human sacrifice, or drug taking, or for freedom of speech to mean a person could shout fire in a crowded theater.  In fact I believe one of your better Supreme Courts justices figured that one out.

DPE:  But doesn’t the 2nd amendment guarantee everyone the right to bear arms. 

Madison:  (laughing)  You mean under the 'original intent' doctrine?.  If you want to think about it that way, go ahead,  then it means everyone can have an 18th century type rifle.  Yep, no question about, everyone.  Except of course convicted felons or crazy people. You don’t let violent criminals who are freed from jail or insane people have access to guns do you?

DPE:  Well, let’s skip that for a moment.  A lot of people want government to sponsor Christian church services in public schools and display religious symbols on government property.  What was your feeling on this?

Madison:  You did notice that the Constitution does not mention Christianity didn’t you?  You know, all of use, Tom, Ben, George, that Hancock fellow all read a lot of history.  In our recent past a lot of wars were fought over religion by various governments.  We thought we might avoid that with our Constitution.    I think Tom spoke rather strongly on this, so if those folks who want religion and government together respect history and the Constitution, tell them to go read what Tom said.

DPE:  Speaking of President Jefferson, excuse me, Tom, he wrote all that stuff about freedom and now we find out he not only kept slaves, but that he fathered children with one of them and was pretty mean to others.  What’s with that?

Madison:  We give Tom a pretty hard time about that slavery stuff, but you know, deep down Tom was a pretty greedy person. You people expect too much from Jefferson the person.  Good grief, he was a slave owner, and he owned a lot of them.  He bought and sold people, including children.  Why would you expect his private life to show anything other than a person who was lacking good moral structure?

My advice is read what he said, and separate that from his life.  I lived near him, believe me, it was no fun going over to his house for Sunday dinner and listen to him have to whisper about that “all men are created equal” thing, him whispering because he didn’t want the slaves to hear him say that.  

DPE:  What were your plans for slavery?

Madison:  We did what you do now with problems, we kicked the can down the road, whatever that means.  We put into the Constitution that a couple of decades later the importation of slaves would have to stop.  Of course, given 18th century medicine we expected to be dead when that happened.  Didn’t turn out that way, both Tom and I got to be President, although to be honest I won outright and Tom in 1800 just got an electoral college tie because we were a little bit sloppy when we wrote that section of the Constitution.    Pissed that fellow Burr off no end.

DPE:  We have a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Scalia that says he and he alone can discern the original intent of you guys.  Does he get it right?

Madison:  Since we don’t have television and can’t watch the really funny shows, like “Two Broke Girls” we entertain ourselves reading his stuff.  It’s like he has never read the Federalist papers or the Constitution, and if he has he apparently has no understanding whatsoever.  How did he get on the Court?  Ben and Tom split their britches laughing at his pontificating opinions at least once a week.

DPE:  Any final words?

Madison:  We gave you one of the finest documents ever written setting up a government.  We worked pretty hard in buildings without air conditioning.  Try and live up to its ideals.  And in case you haven’t figured it out, the Constitution says no, you cannot imprison people indefinitely, you cannot torture anyone, you cannot deny people a fair and impartial trial and you cannot allow anyone to force their religion on anyone else.

And notice there is no mention of these rights belonging to just to citizens.  They belong to everyone.  What's so hard about understanding that? 

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. I will never understand how the Scalias of the world get away with preaching that the Constitution isn't a "living document," but at the same time embraces an inviolable right to own modern weapons.