Madison’s Big Mistake

The Father of the Constitution was not a demigod, and Madison made a few missteps in Philadelphia. The Convention’s failure to include a Bill of Rights almost doomed ratification by the necessary nine state conventions. But the delegates were exhausted by September of 1787. They’d been at it for four long hot months, and they were ready to head home. They ran out of gas, and declined to consider the Bill of Rights that George Mason demanded. This failure wasn’t really Madison making a mistake, it was the whole convention’s decision.

But Madison, himself, screwed up, big time, on Article 1, Section 4. It starts out fine: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof . . .” They should have left it there. Let each state decide on its own elections.

But Madison didn’t trust the state legislatures. During the Revolutionary War, these legislatures refused to provide the funds necessary to prosecute the war. And during the years of the Confederation they had refused to fund it, as well. So when this provision was brought up for debate on August 9th, Madison argued, at length, in favor of this additional language, ” . . .but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such regulations . . .”

So Congressmen get to write the rules about how they get elected. Are we surprised that they’ve rigged the system in favor of their own reelection?

To correct Madison’s mistake we just need to remove the language he added to Section 4, Article 1. You’d think that state legislators would be in favor of this manner of empowering themselves. If they use Article V to get this amendment, they would get to decide how Congressional elections are conducted in their own state. Members of Congress would be subject to their rules and regulation. If I’m a state legislator, I’d like that.

If he were alive today, Madison would be in favor of correcting his mistake, if I know Madison.

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