Talk:James Madison

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Money ChangersEdit

Here's a little more context for the "money changers" quote. Dwinell's The Story of Our Money is apparently both the original source for the quote and where the confusion arose. On pages 70-71, there is a quote from Alexander Hamilton, followed by a note, then a couple more sentences:

“Among other material differences between a paper currency, issued by the mere authority of Government, and one issued by a bank, payable in coin (and that is not done), is this: That, in the first case (government issuance), there is no standard to which an appeal can be made, as to the quantity which will only satisfy, or which will surcharge the circulation: in the last (bank issuance of paper), that standard results from the demand.”

NOTE:—Weasel words; the demand does not refer to the demands of business and the peple but to the whims of private corporations. And that the government could have no standard of a nations currency needs is just so much bosh.

   Hamilton's whole monetary policy is based on unconstitutional grounds and unsound reasoning, and fraudulent statements. His policies were fought through the whole public career of Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Randolph and many another truly great lover of Repulican Government.
   His policies have proved to be more destructive of our independent and democratic form of government than the old subjugation of the Colonies by Great Britain. The deliberations in Congress over Hamilton's Bank Bill, and the opinions of members of The Cabinet show the intensity of feeling between the private money interests and those supporting the Constitution. History records that the “money changers” have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling the money and its issuance.

From Writings of Madison, previously quoted. Vol. 2, Page 14.

“The National Bank Bill was signed by President Washington Feb. 25th, 1791”

The note's language is clearly not 18th Century and it refers to Madison in the third person, so it is not a quote from Madison. The note can only be from Olive Cushing Dwinell. The reference to Writings of Madison is apparently just an editor's error since neither the words preceding or following are from that. The Writings of James Madison by Gaillard Hunt is available at the Internet Archive or on Google Books.

KHirsch 05:05, 24 December 2008 (UTC)


It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow.” – James Madison, Federalist no. 62, February 27, 1788

If anybody can verify this quote, I think it deserves to be put in. 21:14, 26 December 2008 (UTC)

It is definitely in Federalist No. 62, with one correction. There is a hyphen in "to-morrow". Bracton 22:28, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
This is indeed from The Federalist, No. 62, at Part IV, Section 4 (a rather rambling section), paragraph 4. [1] "To-day" is also hyphenated, and the text includes three additional commas not shown above, at least in the linked 1886 edition of Henry Cabot Lodge, which takes pains to follow the text of the original publications rather than subsequent, amended versions.

Note, however, that the authorship of No. 62 is not entirely certain, and it may have been written by Alexander Hamilton. Attribution to Madison may be supported by textual analysis, but contemporaneous reports, including accounts by Madison and Hamilton themselves, are not consistent. (See, e.g., E. G. Bourne, "The Authorship of The Federalist", in The American Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, April 1897, pp. 443–460.) ~ Ningauble 16:05, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

A possible false quote,

"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."

This is coming into increased usage, though no original primary source is ever cited, and the language is inconsistant with Madison's usual style of writing or speaking. Perhaps further research can place this under "Misattributed?"

I see that it's been circulating among "militia" groups since the mid-1990s, at least. It certainly seems bogus. I'll try to rule out the possibility that it's legitimate. —KHirsch 01:10, 24 September 2010 (UTC)
The comment about "militia groups" is inappropriate. We need to identify bias in ourselves and strive to keep it out of our editorial judgment. This quote has been accepted by many authoritative sources, although none of them seem to cite it, either. If it's bogus, it goes back a long way. Bracton 22:28, 22 December 2010 (UTC)
GoogleBooks reveals no mention of anything resembling this prior to the 1990s, whether attributed to Madison or otherwise. Notwithstanding the above unnamed "groups" and unspecified "authorities" (which cannot really be very authoritative if they don't cite sources), this is clearly bogus. It is so patently anachronistic that I don't think it even merits an entry under "Misattributed." Is it our job to rebut every implausible hoax? It is one thing to correct the errors of credible sources, but it is another thing altogether to confer notoriety upon purveyors of nonsense. ~ Ningauble 16:08, 23 December 2010 (UTC)

Attribution of ‎"The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few."Edit

I have come across this quote, attributed to Madison, in several blogs, and would like to know if it is authentic.

The quote goes on to say: ‎"When that day comes, we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation."

Thanks. Tclose 13:28, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

It doesn't appear to be an authentic quote. It isn't given in any of the collections of Madison's writings. The earliest I find it is from 1900, when Daniel De Leon is speaking at the convention of the Socialist Labor Party:

Will you tell me that James Madison did not understand the situation when he said in a magnificent little essay of his: "We are free to-day substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions."

I don't know that De Leon meant that as an exact quote. It appears that he was speaking extemporaneously, not from a prepared statement. The whole convention was "stenographically reported by B. F. Keinard."
Earlier, in 1889, De Leon had written an essay, The Voice of Madison, discussing what Madison had written about suffrage and property. De Leon's essay is a little vague, but I believe that he is talking about remarks that Madison made at the Federal Constitutional Convention and later elaborated upon in a series of notes. Madison is talking about whether the right to vote should be limited to landholders, a restriction he opposed.
There is some similarity in theme between the purported quote and Madison's discussion of suffrage. Madison does say that, as the population increased, the proportion of the population with property, especially farm land, will decrease. And he discusses the inherent conflict between the rights of those with property and those without. But I don't see anything about our republic being an impossibility.
De Leon's essay "The Voice of Madison" was reprinted, along with an essay about Karl Marx, in a small book in 1920, prefaced by the quote in question. De Leon had died in 1914, so he didn't have the chance to proofread this book, so is not responsible for it appearing there. As I said earlier, I'm not sure that he meant it to be taken as an exact quote.
I hope that helps.
KHirsch 03:08, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Yes, that helps a lot. Thanks for your excellent reply. Tclose 13:53, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

Additional Info: RE: "When that day comes, we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation."

It was apparently published in an essay in the New York Post.

"The quote is included in the 1972 book entitled The Great Quotations: The Wit and Wisdom of the Ages. The book was written by George Seldes who spent thirty years researching the book for accuracy."

Source [2]]

The purported quote looks more like it is De Leon giving his own quick summary of what Madison had to say in the essay which can be found here: Mackwa (talk) 01:43, 30 May 2012 (UTC)

Will of the majority is biggest danger to our rights today?Edit

I've come across this quotation purportedly by James Madison, which I found in places that I'd expect to have correct quotations. James Madison was also quoted on the DVD for the PBS documentary LIBERTY! The American Revolution as saying it.

The biggest danger to our rights today is not from government acting against the will of the majority but from government which has become the mere instrument of that majority. Think about it. That's where the abuse of power comes from. Not the tyranny of the King but the tyranny of the majority. Wrong will be done as much by an all-powerful people as by an all-powerful Prince.
- James Madison

This quotation does not pass the smell test for me. It does not sound like Madison, and it does not sound like the 18th (or early 19th) century. Furthermore, the sentiments expressed do not quite mesh with other (much more positive) statements Madison made about the "will of the majority" obtained by doing a search of the writings of James Madison. Can anyone find the correct attribution? There's also the possibility that the writers of that PBS documentary themselves made up quotations for the "historic personages" to say. - Embram (talk) 21:57, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Never mind, I found it: PBS (or the writers of the program) apparently took a lengthy letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson (17 October 1788), took the passages regarding the need for a Bill of Rights and the danger of an establishment of religion, thoroughly rewrote, condensed, and paraphrased it out of context, in the process profoundly changing the import of what Madison was trying to say. The thrust of the actual passage is not that "tyranny of the majority" is "the biggest danger to our rights today." In fact, the phrases "biggest danger" and "tyranny of the majority" aren't even in the original passage. the relevant portions of the original letter are below (italics in the original; bold added for emphasis). - Embram (talk) 02:01, 12 January 2014 (UTC)

"… My own opinion has always been in favor of a bill of rights; provided it be so framed as not to imply powers not meant to be included in the enumeration. At the same time I have never thought the omission a material defect, nor been anxious to supply it even by subsequent amendment, for any other reason than that it is anxiously desired by others. I have favored it because I supposed it might be of use, and if properly executed could not be of disservice. I have not viewed it in an important light—1. because I conceive that in a certain degree, though not in the extent argued by Mr. Wilson, the rights in question are reserved by the manner in which the federal powers are granted. 2 because there is great reason to fear that a positive declaration of some of the most essential rights could not be obtained in the requisite latitude. I am sure that the rights of conscience in particular, if submitted to public definition would be narrowed much more than they are likely ever to be by an assumed power. One of the objections in New England was that the Constitution by prohibiting religious tests, opened a door for Jews Turks & infidels. 3. because the limited powers of the federal Government and the jealousy of the subordinate Governments, afford a security which has not existed in the case of the State Governments, and exists in no other. 4. because experience proves the inefficacy of a bill of rights on those occasions when its control is most needed. Repeated violations of these parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. In Virginia I have seen the bill of rights violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current. Notwithstanding the explicit provision contained in that instrument for the rights of Conscience, it is well known that a religious establishment would have taken place in that State, if the Legislative majority had found as they expected, a majority of the people in favor of the measure; and I am persuaded that if a majority of the people were now of one sect, the measure would still take place and on narrower ground than was then proposed, notwithstanding the additional obstacle which the law has since created. Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents. This is a truth of great importance, but not yet sufficiently attended to; and is probably more strongly impressed on my mind by facts, and reflections suggested by them, than on yours which has contemplated abuses of power issuing from a very different quarter. Wherever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done, and not less readily by a powerful & interested party than by a powerful and interested prince. …"

"The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted" (much like this quote).Edit

I can't find a primary source for this anywhere. I have, among other things, Bartlett's, the Federalist, and Madison's Convention notes (contained in this thing) in hard copy in front of me, and the Internet at my fingertips. But still I can find no work of Madison's to which I can attribute this quotation, other than the secondary source presented here that was published over a century after Madison died. My suspicion is that this quote was a misremembered and mis-attributed version of John Adams's "There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty" (Notes from an oration at Braintree, Massachusetts [Spring 1772]). Does anyone have access to Madison's collected works in a searchable format? Dynaflow (talk) 07:34, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

Last modified on 19 March 2014, at 07:36