Tuesday, March 13, 2012

James Madison on Federal vs. States Rights

via Radamisto

[T]he so-called "constitutional conservatives" insist upon States Rights as they claim the Founders understood them.  We can't speak for all or even a majority of the Founders but we do know that James Madison, during the debates on the Constitution during the framing convention in Philadelphia, could envision the individual states simple disappearing:
Were it practicable for the general government to extend its care to every requisite object without the coöperation of the state governments, the people would not be less free, as members of one great republic, than as members of thirteen small ones. A citizen of Delaware was not more free than a citizen of Virginia; nor would either be more free than a citizen of America. Supposing, therefore, a tendency in the general government to absorb the state governments, no fatal consequence could result.
Date: Thursday, June 21, 1787
This passage was brought to my attention by Irving Brant's wonderful biography of Madison, The Fourth President: A Life of James Madison (1970), page 162. This is an abridgement of Brant's monumental 6 volume biography.
I guess that means that Madison might have agreed with federal gun control laws that are binding on all the states.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.


  1. What he might or might not have agreed with is interesting, but not relevant to the rights of the various entities as defined by the Constitution that is.

  2. Or maybe a Federal law that is similar to what Vermont is trying to pass?

  3. From The Federalist, No. 46
    Americans (the people) have the right and advantage of being armed ― unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. -James Madison