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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics

Madison's inconsistencies

posted Dec 17, 2012 01:21:56 by 14egoodpasture
In this article, Wood discusses the fact that Madison is widely considered to be America's philosopher and the Father of the Constitution, as well as the less commonly known idea that he has two different ideologies and identities. Before reading this article, I was completely unaware of the conflict over his beliefs. However, in my opinion it is not his "flip-flopping" beliefs that are the so-called problem. Many of the founding fathers changed their minds during their political careers, with good reason, having never seen their political system at work before. The more interesting problem with Madison is the misinterpretation of his legacy as the creator of a unique and modern form of government. I think Wood makes a fantastic point that "if any of the founding fathers was a modern man, it was not Madison but Hamilton....[Madison] had no intention of creating the kind of modern war-making state that Hamilton had in mind"(165). Beyond Madison's political ideas, Wood argues that the American government is not really different in practice and outcome from European governments, though it may have different ideological fundamentals. This is contrary to Madison's plan, and thus also contrary to the belief that Madison is the father of the constitution, which is Wood's larger point.
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3 replies
14roppenheim said Dec 17, 2012 03:33:05
Well you've got me feeling a bit silly now, Eliza, because you say essentially what I did in my paragraph but more originally and about two hours beforehand.
Specifically, though, I'm talking about your point that many change their opinions upon seeing the system at work, which I completely agree with--it's quite difficult to know what you'll do as president when you've no clue what it's even like to be president. You're also absolutely right to point out that Madison was less modern-war-oriented than Hamilton, as poor Madison would be appalled to see the degree of executive power claimed in most modern conflicts, starting with Lincoln and Wilson and reaching an uncomfortably self-indulgent climax around Vietnam before puttering about in the Middle East for a few decades.
However, I fail to pick up on how Wood's argument that American and European both can have executive abuses is mutually exclusive with Madison's writing (mostly) of the Constitution. Sure, Madison wrote the thing, but that doesn't mean that Hamilton and his hammy little disciples can't stretch the boundaries of it, and the actions of the government aren't always strictly constitutional or rigidly within their limits. That business started with the Alien and Sedition Acts of John Adams, the first president that wasn't Messianic in nature, and the rule-stretching only seems to have gotten worse from there, but that doesn't mean that the writer of the rules couldn't have been opposed to their stretching.
天宇VasaClarke said Dec 17, 2012 04:03:21
This is interesting. Indeed, the ideals of the American Revolution are now pretty much universal in the Western world--but I wouldn't have thought that the intent of any of our founders was to create a state that would forever be unique. Unique at the time, certainly, and revolutionary (I know Paine wrote something about this but I can't find it anywhere in the other article, woe is me). And America was unique at the time; however, general democratic/republican ideals have been disseminated throughout the rest of the world since that time.

I would also argue that the trend of liberalization and democracy in America was a branch from the general British trend--the monarchy had already lost most of its power at the time of the Revolution, so what we have here is something akin to the speciation of a trend present in British society.

Apologies if this makes no sense, I'm not thinking straight.
14egoodpasture said Dec 19, 2012 16:39:13
I definitely agree with you both, if I understand your points, that the founders/Madison were not attempting to create a unique, completely original form of government. However, I think they sometimes get credit for doing so, and it is this fact that I think Wood is arguing against.
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