Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Founding

Federalism (and Limited Government) Reaffirmed

Many contemporary friends of limited government adopt erroneous theories ("states' rights," secession) that actually increase the possibility of tyrannical government, as American history bears out.

Often the case for secession as a device of limited government resorts to the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. But Villanova University professor (and MAHG instructor) Colleen Sheehan argues that James Madison, author of the Virginia Resolutions, had a much profounder view of not only federalism but the nature of popular government than his friend Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Kentucky Resolutions.

Whereas Jefferson sought to implement modes outside of the ordinary processes of law, in the form of constitutional conventions or negations of contractual/compact agreements, Madison sought to establish a political practice in which, whenever possible, the settled decisions of the people would control and direct government. Madison's cure was not to pit the extraordinary authority of the people against the ordinary deliberative processes of majority decision-making, but to hold the government dependent on and answerable to the deliberate, sovereign public.

Her essay appears in a series on the provocative Library of Law and Liberty website of the Liberty Fund.

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