James Madison’s Decentralized Republic
Happy birthday to James Madison, who is, pound-for-pound, the most distinguished Founding Father. A driving force behind the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, Madison shepherded the young, fractious United States from confederacy to republic. And to make explicit the new government’s commitments to personal liberty, the Virginian authored the Bill of Rights.
Madison’s ideal union was a far cry from the reality of modern American governance. He envisioned a self-sufficient federal—or “general”—government, vested with the powers necessary to conduct foreign policy, mediate interstate conflicts, and perform a grab bag of other tasks. The federal government’s powers are few and defined, however, and the Framers intended that everyday governing be left to the statehouses.
In fact, in 1787, when the Constitutional Convention submitted its final product for state ratification, many argued that the proposed Constitution would create a central government capable of tyranny. In response, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay penned a series of defenses of the new constitution—The Federalist Papers.
In Federalist No. 39, Madison, writing under the trio’s collective pen name, Publius, countered Anti-Federalist charges that the proposed government would be overly centralized and could subsume the powers rightfully exercised by the states. He rejected this, writing that while the federal government would be supreme
Article from Reason.com