James Madison the “Father of the Constitution”
James Madison the “Father of the Constitution”

After posting a new course on Federalism from the Utah Legislature’s Commission on Federalism in connection with Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies I thought I would follow-up with some notable quoted on Federalism. If you haven’t taken the time to watch the course please do (it is broken up into six parts, but it only takes an hour to watch all of them).

1. James Madison

Madison is considered the “Father of the Constitution,” a founding Father and 4th President of the United States. Madison obviously had much to say about federalism.

“The Federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular, to the state legislatures.” (Federalist No. 10, November 22, 1787)

“In the first place, it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any.” (Federalist No. 14, November 30, 1787)

“Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.” (Federalist No. 39, January 16, 1788).

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.” (Federalist No. 45, January 26, 1788)

“But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm . . . But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity.” (Federalist No. 46, January 29, 1788)

“In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people, is submitted to the administration of a single government; and usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people, is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each, subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises on the rights of the people. The different governments will control each other; at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.” (Federalist No. 51, February 6, 1788)

“The public affairs of the union are spread throughout a very extensive region, and are extremely diversified by the local affairs connected with them, and can with difficulty be learnt in any other place, than in the central councils, to which a knowledge of them will be brought by the representatives of every part of the empire. Yet some knowledge of the affairs, and even of the laws of all the states, ought to be possessed by the members from each of the states.” (Federalist No. 53, February 9, 1788)

“I am unable to conceive that the state legislatures which must feel so many motives to watch, and which possess so many means of counteracting the federal legislature, would fail either to detect or to defeat a conspiracy of the latter against the liberties of their common constituencies.” (Federalist No. 55, February 12, 1788)

“It becomes all therefore who are friends of a Government based on free principles to reflect, that by denying the possibility of a system partly federal and partly consolidated, and who would convert ours into one either wholly federal or wholly consolidated, in neither of which forms have individual rights, public order, and external safety, been all duly maintained, they aim a deadly blow at the last hope of true liberty on the face of the Earth.” (Notes on Nullification – December 1834)

2. Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton was a founding father, founder of the Federalist Party, and Founder of the National Bank. I don’t agree with everything he said, but he is unfairly tagged as an opponent of states’ rights. That certainly isn’t the case.

“The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government.” (Federalist No. 9, November 24, 1787)

“There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of the State governments . . . –I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice.” (Federalist No. 17, December 5, 1787)

“The administration of private justice between the citizens of the same state, the supervision of agriculture and of other concerns of a similar nature, all those things in short which are proper to be provided for by local legislation, can never be desirable cares of a general jurisdiction . . . the attempt to exercise these powers would be as troublesome as it would be nugatory; and the possession of them, for that reason, would contribute nothing to the dignity, to the importance, or to the splendour of the national government.” (Federalist No. 17, December 5, 1787)

“The General Government will at all times stand ready to check the usurpations of the state governments; and these will have the same disposition towards the General Government. The people, by throwing themselves into either scale, will infallibly make it preponderate. If their rights are invaded by either, they can make use of the other, as the instrument of redress . . . the state governments will in all possible contingencies afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority. Projects of usurpation cannot be marked under pretences so likely to escape the penetration of select bodies of men as of the people at large. The Legislatures will discover better means of information. They can discover the danger at a distance . . . they can at once adopt a regular plan of opposition, in which they can combine all the resources of the community. They can readily communicate with each other in the different states; and unite their common forces for the protection of their common liberty.” (Federalist No. 28, December 26, 1787)

“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” (Speech to the New York ratifying convention on June 17, 1788.)

“The State governments possess inherent advantages, which will ever give them an influence and ascendancy over the National Government and will forever preclude the possibility of federal encroachments. That their liberties, indeed, can be subverted by the federal head, is repugnant to every rule of political calculation.” (Speech to the New York ratifying convention on June 17, 1788.)

“While the constitution continues to be read, and its principles known, the states, must, by every rational man, be considered as essential component parts of the union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is totally inadmissible.” (A speech to the New York ratifying convention on June 24, 1788.)

“We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.” (Federalist No. 85, August 16, 1788)

3. Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States.

“[I]t is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within its local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by its individual proprietor . . . . It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all.” (Autobiography, 1821)

“[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore . . . never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market.” (Letter to Judge William Johnson, June 12, 1823).

4. Joseph Story

Story was a Supreme Court Justice from 1811 to 1845. He wrote Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States in 1833 which all of the quotes below are from.

“So that the executive and legislative branches of the national government depend upon, and emanate from the states. Every where the state sovereignties are represented; and the national sovereignty, as such, has no representation.”

“The state governments have a full superintendence and control over the immense mass of local interests of their respective states, which connect themselves with the feelings, the affections, the municipal institutions, and the internal arrangements of the whole population. They possess, too, the immediate administration of justice in all cases, civil and criminal, which concern the property, personal rights, and peaceful pursuits of their own citizens.”

“In the next place, the state governments are, by the very theory of the constitution, essential constituent parts of the general government. They can exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without them.”

“Another not unimportant consideration is, that the powers of the general government will be, and indeed must be, principally employed upon external objects, such as war, peace, negotiations with foreign powers, and foreign commerce. In its internal operations it can touch but few objects, except to introduce regulations beneficial to the commerce, intercourse, and other relations, between the states, and to lay taxes for the common good. The powers of the states, on the other hand, extend to all objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, and liberties, and property of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the state.”

5. John Marshall

Marshall was the 4th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

“Had the framers of these amendments intended them to be limitations on the powers of the State governments, they would have imitated the framers of the original Constitution, and have expressed that intention. Had Congress engaged in the extraordinary occupation of improving the Constitutions of the several States by affording the people additional protection from the exercise of power by their own governments in matters which concerned themselves alone, they would have declared this purpose in plain and intelligible language.” (Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, February 16, 1833)

 

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