Members | Sign In
Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics

James Madison

posted Dec 16, 2012 23:26:21 by LizWolfe
The American fascination with Jefferson is understandable - the deist, slaveholding inventor who played a hugely influential role in shaping U.S. government should be greatly lauded, but what about James Madison?
Wood's article categorizes Jefferson as a "radical utopian" in contrast to Madison, a "pessimistic, analytical" type who was far more skeptical of Jefferson's idealistic concepts. Madison's tendency to doubt, to question, to be critical of human nature and the extent to which it can reign when left unchecked made him an undoubtedly less popular man than his contemporary. This fundamental difference in nature shaped their approaches to government and their worries regarding the power of the electorate vs. the power of the people: Jefferson was concerned over whether elected officials would accurately represent the views of their constituents while Madison worried what was popular would be represented all too well. Madison was far more skeptical, ever wary of power vested in the hands of the majority. Although Jefferson has been recognized to a far greater extent than Madison, I believe modern America could use a reminder of Madison's beliefs and concerns - can we still rely on the majority to best make decisions and to what extent are elected officials representing those views? Furthermore, Madison's willingness to reform the ineffective Confederation Congress can be learned from today - when institutions are powerless, they ought to be reformed, changed, or abandoned. We suffer from (arguably) ineffective programs and groups even today, both internally and internationally (i.e. the United Nations).

Our political culture has become polarized with time, the two party system, and the influence of the media, so it could be argued that Madison lived in a simple time when less thought had to be given to reelection or party ties. This is true. But Madison also understood that a politician's true duty is to do what is best for the people, not for one's own pride or power. Our political system has shifted, retaining Madison's skepticism but little of his dedication to proper, effective governance over popularity and public recognition.
page   1
3 replies
AidanParker said Dec 16, 2012 23:49:27
I really like the comparison you made between the Confederation Congress and the present-day United Nations. There are many similarities in the structure and running of the two organizations; for example voting by delegation or the underlying disunity and self-serving goals among the groups represented. In addition, the United Nations lacks the same enforcement power that plagued the Confederation government. Luckily countries have created other, more effective ties with smaller groups of countries mostly based on geography, not to mention that individual countries are much more powerful than states were in the Confederation.
14egoodpasture said Dec 17, 2012 01:31:57
I think you make a really good point about Madison's dedication to wise, effective government versus popular recognition. Madison's views were formed in a time when he was surrounded by visionary politicians, and he was understandably of the opinion that men like them would continue to make up the government. Unfortunately, that is not the case today, and ceased to be the case soon after Madison's lifetime. Politics have become a popularity contest, and have little to do today with the actual governing ability of the candidates.
LizWolfe said Dec 17, 2012 01:36:07
Aidan - I think the European Union serves as a good example of a group that has the ability to enforce rulings (to an extent), that is sought after, and that provides cohesion and pursues group objectives for countries that are mostly benefitted by banding together. I wonder if the Confederation government could have done something similar and retained more power for the individual states instead of the federal government.
Login below to reply: