Chapter 1 - America's Freedom Faith and The Cold War

James Madison. James Madison’s Federalist #10, published in November 1787, is one of the more important Federalist Papers written by Madison to inform the debates on the U.S. Constitution. It takes up the issue of how to deal in a republic (a democratic government based on elected representatives and a constitution) with the problem of potentially divisive factions, i.e., groups “whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole.” Madison argues that the causes of faction can only be removed by two paths—either by “destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests” in the name of (inherently fallible) “Reason” or specific factions (in effect, parties or classes).5
For Madison and the other American founders, the only acceptable response for a republic on the issue of factions was to control factions’ potentially “unsteady” and “unjust” destructive effects by limiting them through a legal system of constitutional checks and balances, as in the U.S. Constitution. Modern readers will note that in making the case for the American Republic and its new Constitution, Madison’s analysis anticipates and demolishes the self-serving elitist arguments made by the ideologues of the French, Bolshevik, and Nazi revolutions that led to closed dictatorial interpretations of people’s desires violently imposed by totalitarian regimes.
The U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution—1787, signed in September 1787, builds on the Declaration of Independence as an extraordinary statement of principles and institutions of republican (democratic representative) government. This period included the British surrender in October 1781 and the Treaty of Paris in September 1783, which formally ended the Revolutionary War. After May 1787, this process included intense debate on a new constitution, which was ratified by the constituent states in June 1788, followed by the first U.S. Congress meeting in March 1789 and by George Washington’s inauguration as the first president on April 30, 1789. The Constitution was written after a period of weak government under the Articles of Confederation dating from November 1777.
The Constitution’s Preamble states the purpose, principles, priorities, and laws of the new republic’s democratic government as follows:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.6
The Articles of the Constitution outline the structure of the federal government in terms of powers vested and limited by a series of checks and balances as well as the enumeration of state powers and individual rights that include key elements as follows.
Article I [The Congress] vests all legislative powers in a Congress consisting of two chambers—a Senate (two Senators for each state with six year terms) and a House of Representatives (with Representatives by population with two year terms). Congressional powers included those to collect taxes, declare war, raise armies, provide a Navy, call the militia, etc. Each chamber was assigned specific powers (e.g., the Senate’s advice and consent for proposed treaties) and both were required to effect most U.S. government processes.
Article II [The Executive] vests executive power in a President (with a four year term) and a Vice President. It includes powers of the Commander in Chief of the military, nominations to the Supreme Court (to be approved by the U.S. Senate), and proposed Treaties (to be ratified via Senate advice and consent).
Article III [The Judiciary] vests the judicial power in one Supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may ordain. The power extends to “all cases in law and equity arising under the Constitution and laws of the U.S.” as well as treaties and controversies among the states and involving other countries. [Note: The independent Supreme Court’s power of judicial review of the Constitutionality of Congressional laws and Presidential actions was affirmed in 1803 by Justice John Marshall in the case of Marbury vs. Madison and has been a core of the U.S. political system of checks and balances.]
Articles IV through VII provided, divided, and distributed other powers as part of the overall Constitutional system of institutional and legal checks and balances in the American republic.
The Bill of Rights. The detailed “checks and balances” spelled out in the Articles summarized above were further amplified in an initial group of ten amendments known as The Bill of Rights—including specific individual rights and the Tenth Amendment’s reference to the rights reserved to the states and the people. The ten amendments were ratified by the states as a group and were incorporated into the Constitution on December 15, 1791. They spell out ten fundamental rights, including both intangible freedoms and tangible property
[Book pg. 7]