tv James Madison George Mason Constitutional Debate CSPAN April 29, 2021 8:53pm-9:54pm EDT
the colonial williamsburg foundation. this is an hour. well, hello and welcome to the great constitutional debate right here at colonial williamsburg harris and i teach constitutional law at lincoln memorial university in knoxville, tennessee. today we have a real treat for you. we're going back to the time when the constitutional was ratified and we're going to talk about some of the great debates that occurred during that ratification process, but first, let me set some historical context. in 1776, you'll recall we had our declaration of independence, but don't mix that document up with the constitution. there are two very different things and both important. but today we're focused on the constitution. indeed these two documents were separated by 11 years from 1776 to 1787. we had no real constitution.
we had a treaty between 13 independent nations that we called the articles of confederation. now the articles of confederation didn't work too. well and therefore people like madison and washington and george mason decided to come together in the summer of 1787 in philadelphia and debate what form of government our new nation should have this is a big question alexander hamilton suggested that it was perhaps the first time in history that such a decision had been entrusted to people rather than to monarchs or other strong men. the constitutional convention was completely secret. indeed the windows were nailed shut to prevent people from hearing the proceedings. but once those 55 men got together and signed the document or at least 39 of them did and sent it out to the states. there was no more room for secrecy and thus began perhaps the greatest debate over government over democracy in the history of humanity. we're going to go back to that
time to the summer of 1788. when people got together in all the states including here in virginia, and we're going to have two of the leading proponents and opponents of the constitution here with us to present their arguments on the pro side mr. james, madison of orange county. mr. harris a privilege to see you as always sir. the privilege is mine. and on the opposite side the so-called anti-federalist part of the debate. we have george mason of fairfax county. welcome mr. mason. thank you very much and pleasure to meet you mr. harris a pleasure, mr. mason mr. madison. pleasure as always. now today we are going to begin with a brief opening statement as we lawyers like to call them where i'll give each of these gentlemen a chance to state his case in an overview later on we'll go back and ask more specific questions both for me and from other people who are interested in this debate mr.
madison. can we begin with you? i should be honored sir. good day, ladies and gentlemen i shall love for the purposes of exhortium and introduction in endeavor to be succinct. you know first i will open by saying that from the first moments. i was capable of contemplating political principles. i have never ceased wishing success it all well regulated republican experiment of government. the success of such in america has been my utmost wish. now 12 years ago. we embarked upon a singular experiment one for which philosophy has waited for one for which humanity has side for. from the most remote ages of our common experience a war was won to secure that independence and yet our experiment ladies and gentlemen has never been in more danger. in some we have failed. our articles of confederation have proved entirely deficient
and while mr. harris colonel mason, i have no doubt. we will uncover. what took place in philadelphia city in 17 and 87. i will encourage this most wise audience to contemplate these two questions over the course of our debate. first and foremost how have the articles of confederation failed in guaranteeing those principles of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness and second. how shall this proposed constitution perfect this system of government? i encourage you through these debates to harken not to the unnatural voice which tells you the people of america. knit together as they are by so many chords of affection cannot be members of the same family cannot be the mutual guardians of their mutual happiness cannot be children of one flourishing empire harken not to the voice which tells you this system is a novelty in the political world. but it has no place in the wildest of projectors the rashest of intense.
now instead ladies and gentlemen, i invite you over the course of this discourse to bring your mind. bring your curiosity. and together as a singular people. we may yet find a proper course for america. i thank you mr. harris, mr. madison. i must say that they taught me in law school. that you were a soft-spoken and ineffectual speaker, and i see that you now give the lie to that characterization. well, sir, you should see my writing. mr. mason please gentlemen, mr. harris mr. madison people of virginia people of america i do not disagree with mr. madison the endeavor of this last year and a half has been to find our way forward. a constitutional written constitution that the people might debate is the natural and best course for our future. however, this is where i counter
the gentleman. in that this document is in its way the one that must be ratified. i say nay. there are too many problems still inherent. this is uncharted territory to be certain. before that reason we must endeavor the revolt against great britain some years ago is nothing compared to what lies before us now we have an opportunity to create a government not in the time of war but in the time of peace in those article of confederation will woefully woefully insufficient for our causes. however, we must recognize now. though we have a system before us that is better than what was before. that does not make it close enough to what the people of america deserve. inherent in it. there are insufficiencies shortcomings that are dangerous the seeds for monarchy or at
least a corrupt aristocracy our rife in this document. it is for that reason that i oppose this not to what entirely was created. there are elements of this that are fantastic to be certain. mr. madison's work upon the establishment is one that i supported there in the constitutional convention are very early on. but ultimately at the end of that summer i saw too many changes backroom dealings by which men sought to put money in their own pocket not the freedom and liberty of its people we did not address these large issues that plague our country at present. instead allowed a silence a moratorium of 20 years on some of the greatest shadows over all country. and perhaps most importantly. a declaration of rights a bill of rights which we have now
deserved decided that a modern. person deserves more than anything else man kind demands it. and yet within this document it was entirely ignored. though not ignored in the debate. for those reasons gentlemen, i urge you. caution with this constitution debate in amendments are necessary. otherwise we lose ourselves to a new type of monochial in elected one. perhaps even more dangerous. then the last thank you, mr. mason for your eloquent and learned remarks. as we noted previously the public debate has now begun so we will be taking questions from a variety of people who didn't attend the constitutional convention. the very first of them is from one p henry and he he asks mr.
henry asks is it wise for virginia? to surrender her preeminence and sovereignty to a body of men congress who have little in common with the people of virginia. what would happen if congress enacted a law which was unfavorable to the people of virginia could virginia nullify that law mr. madison? why don't we begin with you? well, first and foremost i should thank the worthy p henry for his most obstreperous question in every instance curious that he should ask it. he being invited to that convention funny that he should have so much to say now that he withheld in that moment. he not wishing to attend that convention because he quote smelled a rat now as to the nature of this question equally to public opinion we see across this theater of the globe a diversity of factions. faction being a great evil of society yet equally and inevitability. we see factions between
followers of different ecclesiastical sects. we see a faction in identifying with our various state governments. i find great curiosity in the gentleman's question for was it not p henry in 17 and 74 who said boldly? i am not a virginian. i am an american so at this present moment, what is staked mr. harris is a plurality of identities. shall we be a treaty amongst thirteen separate provinces or shall we be all at once the citizens of one state as equally be held the title of american? now once more let us turn to what took place during the articles of confederation a particularly upon the of preeminence and sovereignty now under the articles of confederation each state had an equitable members of delegates an equally an equitable number of votes. virginia's vote counting the same as rhode island. what was the solution what in every instance was the sum of
these various practices that inevitably the smallest states so jealous of their sovereignty should hold back the progress of all. all for the purposes of that self-same identity and sovereignty. now let us then examine this new federal constitution where under the house of representatives in accordance with the proposed article 1 inevitably virginia's vote should count in accordance with its population just as a connecticut just as a rhode island. something which if we are masters of arithmetic, we know shall not cede any sovereignty. other than that, which is owed virginia being the largest the wealthiest of the provinces and we three gentlemen likely constituting the whole population of rhode island upon this stage. it comes down to that self-same idea mr. harris whom shall we be citizens of virginia or citizens of these united states thank you, mr. madison. mr. mason do you agree with mr.
patrick henry or with mr. madison on this issue? i should say i count to mr. henry as a good friend. he having been born in the time of the punic woods would have undoubtedly been the head of that most glorious commonwealth a man who's a oration is praised in it yet is one of the least of his great qualities. no, i should say though that i attended that convention in philadelphia quite for the same reason, mr. henry did not a concern that those there present would see the false with that system those articles of confederation. being insufficient for our purposes far too weak that men would instead run too far in the other direction and instead create a federal power that was oppressive that dissolved our identity entirely as states. thus is what we see and fear from this document. there are ways in which that
judiciary might entirely nullify our states judicial systems. if we see our due to the powers entirely dissolved ultimately owing to instead some foreign. and i do say for it. for if it is a matter that concerns, virginia but is appealed to so many levels over say even a matter of betwixt virginians and say a neighbor such as maryland or the like appeal to such a supreme level by which entirely dissolves the virginian. judiciary we see instead. of a a trial by a jury of your peers instead to be a trial if by a jury not of your peers but those of a different place entirely it is rightful and fearful that we see this new power. potentially dissolving our identities and mr. madison, i do not disagree. we must both balance our identity as americans and virginians, but i believe i have
heard you say it as well that we may embrace both in it. is that desire that i wish we illuminate for we see problems and seeds within this plan as it stands now without proper amendments to dissolve our identity that we no longer may have power and instead see federal laws and legislation past that shall dissolve. the identity the power of the states entirely might i remonstrate against mr. mason's places here briefly. oh, well, i will endeavor to be as brief as possible a colonel. mason has put forward several times that within this document lies the seeds of monarchy despotism. aristocracy etc. now, i'm a student of history mr. harris as i'm certain. we all are show me any system of government being the infantry on it confederations of ancient greece be it. our old english system be it the various state governments or the articles of confederation. what system of government lacks the various seeds for those self-cent qualities a system of government begins to die almost
as soon as it is constituted much like the mortal body. colonel mason will well recall that the way systems of government survive are from a frequent recurrence to fundamental he wrote that sir. and i flatter you for it. and upon that we must ask the question. how shall states resolve various disputes with one another under the articles of confederation? through the coercion of the blood and the sword. article 3 of our constitution the supreme court ensures a method whereby law various states can settle their dispute with peace in some sir revolutions of words and law and not of blood. in brief mr. mason would you like to briefly respond only in that mr. madison is quite right. a fundamental reoccurrence to these principles is necessary, but we have an opportunity to do that now prior to ratification that we see these these seeds dealt with there may always be some but we see too many here at
present and we have the opportunity merely with a second convention by which the people have now been informed of its intentions that we might see greater amendments even to the document as it now stands that being my greatest argument very similar to mr. madison's only that it is done prior to ratification as opposed to after thank you sir. yes, i think you for allowing this moment of debate and with that we might move to the next question before p henry allows the chance to submit another question. i see sir both of you that we have witnessed yet another eternal truth here today. and that is that statesmen always have more to say but now we must move on to our questions harkening back sir, mr. mason to your opening statement about the bill of rights, and it's important to you. we have a question from emma and emma asks, can you discuss the similarities and differences between the constitution and the virginia declaration of rights and why or how any changes were
made from the first document to the second? i thank you for the opportunity to answer this first as a primary author of that virginia declaration of rights. i have a great many thoughts. however, i think it should be illuminated that ultimately it was passed by a committee a committee was as is our custom overcharged with useless members and yet we see a document coming out of such a flawed collection of men to be great in its man or not. mind you but great. 16 articles ultimately ratified in june of 17 and 76 prior even to our declaration of independence here in virginia. we declared that all men are born equally free and independent and have certain inherent natural rights of which they cannot deprive at best their posterity namely the enjoyment of light and liberty with the means of acquiring and possessing property pursuing and obtaining happiness. and safety pursuing happiness
and safety so a wonderful consideration and yet it is the necessity of such a document a modern bill of rights the likes of which created in virginia in 17 and 76 that we ought see attached to this document. it's important is undeniable. we may look to the history to study that consideration of our own english bill of rights. how one might warrant the necessity of a similar one and yet here we see a new constitution that is totally devoid of declaring all rights. is entirely devoid of those basic insistances of our our rights? not just those ephemeral ideas those those amorphous. the declarations of what a government is or ought to be but so too real rains placed upon a government for the first time ever a division of powers that know positions shall ever again
be hereditary or passed down the idea that a man is born a judge a legislature a magistrate is unnatural and absurd. but this virginia declaration of rights went further. it declared. the rights of you the people the rights to a free press the rights to free exercise of religion. how else was a man to be free mind heart body and soul. and yet this constitution merely is an instruction how a government ought work? though there are some faults. it has great strengths. but it lacks the greatest strength, which is an insistence upon the rights of the individual. that is the great difference between our virginia declaration of rights and the current government as it stands before us we knew in virginia in 17 and 76 that a bill of rights must be created prior to a constitutional to ensure that it
might guarantee the rights promised beforehand. that is the greatest weakness of this document at present sir mr. madison? it seems to me that mr. mason makes some very powerful points there. how do you respond sir? the where they gentlemen speaks with great austerity a very prettily upon that declaration of rights of 17 and 76. and as one of my earliest political actions serving as a young man of 25 years old in assisting and writing that document in committee. i will say it is singularly one of the greatest innumerations of the public rights and private privileges of a people. and yet upon that i will say what have we experience in the course of the declaration of rights existence. we have seen in every instance that these declarations of rights rather than having and holding the sanction of law are instead parchment barriers. i have often written mr. harris that if men were angels no system of government would be
necessary. and so over the course of that what should stop in every instance a majority of people by their general will setting up an interest that is contrary to the rights of the minority. no declaration of rights should be fruitful in putting that forward. now when we speak to our supreme system of government, it does nothing to nullify the various enumerations of rights the declaration of rights that exist upon the state governments. that in every instance is not the end of this general system of government, but rather instead to do explicitly what is said within that constitutional colonel mason speaks, very wondrously regarding that convention in 17 and 76 and yet within the actions of that convention comes the great his argument. to amend the constitution before it is ratified colonel mason. well recalls. three opportunities within that committee to amend that declaration of rights and in within one of those amendments we found the various claws and
various phrase that sparked the opportunity to those rights from society. an interested party within that convention was fretful that the enumeration of these various rights should justify some who are qualified as property in virginia to demand their freedom. i speak of course of the enslaved. and so upon that colonel mason's article 1 the declaration which would promise those self-same liberties to all placed in the phrase when they enter into a state of society. meaning to wit that these various rights and privileges which colonel mason proffers ought belong to all mankind shall by a masterpiece of circumlocution belong to the few. now, can you imagine ladies and gentlemen under this proposed constitution if it were to be amended by those self-same interested parties how soon the various progress forwarded for the rights of human nature and powers could be dissolved. could in every instance find
those strengths that colonel mason speak of entirely undone and from that this bold experiment rendered entirely mood. now i'm not opposed to an american bill of rights. yet our constitution can be amended after it is ratified. so upon that i should pray ladies and gentlemen to stand with my argument to ratify this constitution ensure that its strengths might be forwarded and from that thereafter to establish whatever bill of rights with deliberate care. shall the american people be a people of 10 liberties 16 liberties. or the unlimited rights of human nature that might be decided now yesterday. and indeed in tomorrow. thank you, mr. chairman, mr. harris if i might for just a moment. the idea that a bill of rights is a parchment barrier a paper check is ridiculous to profit such an idea was is paramount to saying that why aren't we light
right laws knowing that they will be broken? no, mr. madison. i understand that men off lord. i understand that these rights may be infringed upon but without stating them explicitly prior to the creation of government is the very first step to tyranny in that manner. it is that belief that i wish to put forward though. i respect the idea that this document may be amended. it is my fear that once ratified once called into creation. it will ultimately disallow such things. i have little trust in the future of the integrity of politicians. mr. madison you mentioned a moment ago that you're not opposed to the idea of a bill of rights and certainly you're familiar with the concept of the you've seen the english bill of rights. you've seen the virginia declarations of rights. let's go from the general to the specific of all of the liberties that have been identified in these various documents and that might be included in a future bill of rights for the entire united states.
which liberty do you think is the most fundamental the most important? i thank you for the question if we're to examine the natural rights those which cannot be infringed upon those rights that come from nature and not from government. we derive in every instance those liberties of life liberty and property simultaneously and yet when we speak of property, it is not solely the tangible. rather the property of one's own mind. the freedom of conscience the ability to think freely and have the mind unshackled perhaps it was growing up in the western counties of virginia. so often seeing man's mind punished because of a difference of opinion the right that is nearest and dearest to my heart. the one that i have not deviated from the one that i have championed from the earliest moments of my political career has been man's freedom of conscience to my estimation. it is the right that all other rights are derived from and the right in every instance mr. harris, which is so often violated at this present moment.
mr. mason i stand with the worthy gentleman at my opposition it is that first declaration that first right enumerated life liberty property and pursuing happiness and safety in that manner. i absolutely agree with the worthy gentleman though. i wish to extend just one further it i may take a moment which that of safety. property first and foremost a man has nothing greater. but what must he guarantee it is his own safety less that property be taken from him. so it is in that manner whether it be a danger and safety from a standing army or danger and safety therefore from a government danger and safety from one's property being taken from them that we must also protect. i am curious upon this mr. harrison some what confounded my worthy opponent speaks consistently of systems of
government dissolving into tyranny and yet wishes to guarantee safety in society. what does john jack russo say of tranquility safety it exists in dungeons, but it does not make them nice places to live. no in state. we must encourage the opinion of safety. from indeed and enforcing safety. we find a system of government that through its laws might justify anything in the name of safety. so from that, i i should say in every instance. we must look towards not only what is right for man, but what we might equip mankind to be and from that to encourage them to make the proper choice. greed mr. madison hunt hence the purpose for protecting the safety of the individual of the government itself. let's talk a little bit about safety. let's talk a little bit about what mr. mason expressed earlier. this concerned that we are creating a government that will be oppressive. i believe it's probably. generally agreed that the most dangerous part of the new
national government is the executive. here you discuss your feeling about the executive power is set out in article 2 of this constitution and more specifically if you could also address a question that we've received as to whether what you've written there. perhaps elsewhere is designed to change with the times as we grow and become a more one hopes powerful nation. mr. mason would you like to discuss this first? yes, i should be happy to discuss the executive the executive app present does not contain a constitutional council any means by which a have a council or a cabinet for support without this the president i can say now and have before will be unsupported by proper information and advice he may surround himself with favorites and minions or become a tool the senate far too easily. we have given a power here to a single individual without a certain term how long they may
be reelected and therefore we see easy roads to an elected monarchy before us. that a man may be elected for only but four years is insufficient if he may be elected again and again throughout his lifetime and thus we see here far more dangerous than that that british system of a inherited monarchy, but instead an elected one. think of how how harshly man might protect that which he elected. even if he wishes it at a lifetime, even if he wishes it act the the detriment of the rest of society. and perhaps the greatest danger i see with the executive is that it's second most powerful position? the vice president for walt of doing anything else has been chosen as the president of the senate. the higher house of our legislature being led by the second most powerful position of
the executive is a dangerous commingling of powers. in runs in the front to that separation as insisted upon here in virginia within our own bill of rights to disallow such a thing we have instead at a higher power allowed such a commingly of an executive and legislative powers. it is only the beginning that i see. the danger of this position and instead should have some spread of power from one man instead, even if it is still held by a single man some elected counsel that may advise him. thank you, sir, mr. madison. how do you respond i'm not in complete disagreement with the worthy gentleman of fairfax. under the virginia plan initially drafted by me the various 19 provisions. i will say initial thought was not given in great deal to the executive. what would become article 2 of our constitution initially the executive of the federal system
of government would be a functioning as a revisionary council working in accordance with article 3 a judiciary of some type appointed by a congress in some fashion in 1776 you well recall the governor of virginia was elected by joint ballot of both house and delegates and senate kept entirely separate from it. i will not need to remind the worthy gentleman of the problems stirred by that. now from that under article 2 of our constitution, we do see a chief magistrate who has no function advisories. this can be solved with policy. once the constitution is ratified a cabinet as colonel mason so wisely said and yet we turn once more to article one particularly the upper house the senate under the worthy gentleman's notion. it is problemat. ic find any intermix device presidency article 2 and the senate article 1 well from that it is a great dilemma in government mr. harris. that power is necessary. it is equally detrimental that power corrupts.
but the absence of power equally corrupts because from that we find a robbery of energy. now the greater fear mr. harris is not the supreme and total corrupt power of an executive, but rather of a congress. and data, it was this measure which ensured that the executive would not be elected by congress, but rather instead a separate body in electoral college fixed between the various states. i will remind colonel mason that under article 2 the vice president in every instance should be the man who receives the second number of votes. setting an interest perhaps adverse to the executive ambition counteracts ambition. now from that, what do we see the fruits of? a body of men who consistently find their interest separate from one another but simultaneously incorporated in some sir a system of government which checks itself but equally through its functions is coerced to move together. it is shameful to say that
coercion is sometimes necessary and government. but upon that we have met a great many of statesmen who upon many instances. fueled by their own ambition must be coerced to work together. thank you if i may only counter this mr. madison it is that idea of coercion that i do not find opposition to but it is my fear that that electoral nature. being not that those individuals president or vice president are directly elected by the people though. i understand how difficult such an endeavor might be. means that it is not actual representation, but only the shadow of representation. in that manner, i find it to be a dangerous system this electoral college. why should it be? and every instance colonel mason, you know as well as i we do not establish a pure democracy, but rather instead a republic that utilizes the power of democracy how shall we across this corner of the globe with
each state having different laws of suffrage constitute an equitable vote with these different laws. moreover how shall we find one gentleman well known enough in his virtue to be a prime candidate for all the people to elect. there is only one upon this continent and as much as we should wish it george washington will not live forever. so from that, it must be a body of people who are equipped well enough in the notions of statecraft to not be swayed by the various novelties or promises any statesman seeking ambition might put forward a vote that might be founded in equity moreover, sir. i will say we have the engines of democracy within the most important article of our constitution the closest to the people that of course being the house of representatives. thank you, mr. madison. let's hope that the electoral college functions as well as you believe it will and that it's not a source of controversy. i don't see it ever going wrong, mr. harris down the road already. let's move on to another area. please something that has been
part of this debate for a long time is the question is whether we can have a republic over such a great geographical expense as we have in this country and especially in franchisement. how will representation work over such an expanse and we have a question again from a member of the public who asks with regard to enfranchisement should proof of citizenship be required before a person shall vote. mr. mason you ask two wonderful questions in there one being a very specific to the individual is a proof of citizenship should be required in this first though. i wish to address as to whether or not we can truly be represented it over such a vast area over such a large population as we sit at present. may we be i believe it is possible, but does the current system allow for it? that is what i question it were only in the last days of the
debate that we altered it from some 40,000 individuals to be represented by one to 30,000 individuals to be represented by one. i still think 30,000 individuals representing the being represented by a single individual is insufficient to say the least here in virginia at present. we have a some 130 men deciding whether or not to ratify this constitution and if ratified should have less than 100 to represent all 13 that very close connection to the people that mr. madison just prays to a moment ago in yet still how how may they be represented by one individual who is unfamiliar some 10 individuals? for all of virginia, we know how expansive our home is and yet we hope that some 10 individual twelve including the senate should be represented in that way. i i fear frankly that it is
insufficient in its current system. may we be represented? i think it possible with our current constitution the one whether or not we should ratify impossible. and as to some proof of citizenship, it is already that a man votes there in public. i don't know what more proof one may need. i am unfamiliar with such proof. being established at present unless the worthy gentleman opposite of me wish to speak upon it some more. i'm somewhat baffled by the question. mr. madison no to colonel mason. yes to mr. harris. well, that was very succinct. thank you mr. madison. i appreciate that continuing on the subject of the franchise and voting one. last question. we have is should voting by mail be allowed should one be able to fill out a ballot. oh, i i thought you meant should voting be male.
obviously, that's another good question you need that's another good question should one be able to vote via the postal system. oh. yeah, you can found me mr. harrison first. i should amend in every instance it was and has been allowed for some time in the province of new jersey for the female to vote. and so upon that should the vote be male. that becomes a question for another time and yet upon that voting by mail confounds me for further now as colonel mason spoke on the election airing of virginia and a great many of other provinces has ever functioned the same upon the apportion election day the freeholders of the various county should go to a polling place and from that it'll voce by voice say specifically whom they are voting for this ensures that a man's vote is equitable to his house as well as those two his own honor, right it prevents various measures why which a vote might be tampered with providing a great many
witnesses you insinuate mr. harris that well there should come a day that someone should cast their vote in secret. yes, that's implicit in the question. isn't it sir? well upon that i i know not how i feel upon it sir. i have never given great consideration to it. i should say the constitution upon many instances allows for the establishment of postal roads a post office a postal service. and upon that we have witnessed in many instances the dangers of male upon the roads male being tampered with utilizing our own ciphers to ensure that letters that might be apprehended cannot be a red or coded. but from that sarah i should say it. it must remain a question for tomorrow for whatever. innovations or patents america might ask it let's present moment outside with the drinking and carousing that often comes from election day our present system of voting functions very well indeed aren't people
penalized if they don't vote at one of these open. oh, yes as i think they ever should be should any freeholder not appear when his name is cold upon the roles well from that he should be fine a third of his annual tax. levy. because if a people do not vote in a system of government a republican system of government. well the various sources of democracy we find such pride and shall become imposters a system will become what colonel mason has claimed it will. aristocracy monarchy a tyranny the vote in many instances is sometimes confounded as a right and perhaps it is. but most importantly it is the greatest civic duty a citizen might have good point mr. madison. how do you feel mr. mason i find myself in agreement with worthy gentleman, mr. madison and i have been friends for a great many years and though we find ourselves on opposite ends of this particular debate as to the constitution. there are great many things that we agree upon this being one of
them. i think the only fear that i see for our future of voting is the degeneracy and i do call it as such if there are those who do not see the insistence upon. it is difficult to find one's self there upon the courthouse steps upon the voting day, but as he mentioned it is a day of of celebration where you see individuals who you might not have for some time it is perhaps that greatest celebration of the freedom of what this american experiment is and was even prior. it was our vote that we had that allowed us to take pride that allowed us to ultimately revolt against great britain because we knew the importance of voting and so long as it is never. altered or taken from the people it is that fear that worries me far greater that there are those who will not vote or not be punished for not voting for our future than the means by which they go about it. thank you.
the gentleman is concerned of not voting. he should choose to vote in the affirmative for the constitutional. i should say a negative vote is still a vote mr. madison. thank you. thank you both gentleman one last thing about voting. you mentioned mail m a l e voting which brings up yet another question. should women be allowed to vote. let us examine under this proposed constitution. what should exist? let us examine the various state governments many of whom still have caveats pertaining to religion. many of whom discrimination through various aims of society now by the grace of god this constitution forbids any religious test to exist in regards to citizenship thus ensuring that the various religious wars that have prevaded society need not happen in america. now we examine the first three words of our constitution the first three words of our preamble written primarily by governor morris. we find the words. we the people not we the men not
we the states although some find great opposition to that sentiment. this means that the people of america might grow. this means the people of america might change. this means the people of america might choose to incorporate themselves if they step away from those various prejudices, which pervade now that is not a system or opinion or change that i colonel mason perhaps even you mr. harris might profit, but rather instead the people of america to decide that there are those who call me the father of the constitution. this is a fallacy. there were 55 gentlemen in attendance colonel mason myself the great many others. government is the work of many heads many hands. citizenship in the united states requires that south same participation that self-same openness no greater trust has ever to a political society. so shall be establish any notion as to whom should have the right to vote. i am certain a great many
gentleman would have the sentiment that it should belong only to the white male. that it should always be apportioned by property. inevitably sir. i need not speak upon my personal sentiments. this is a public debate. so to that i say such a question belongs to the people of america thank you, mr. mason. i should only wish to add that 12 years ago here in virginia when creating a new constitution. we attempted to expand. merely the property consideration to not be refined confined. i'm sorry to the manners by which it had been to include a leaseholders and fathers of three or more children. not a lick of property. was necessary to demonstrate one. commitment to sufficient evidence of attachment to their country and yet it was voted down. fathers of three or more
children was far too radical. for the men of virginia to alter that wow, i think mr. madison put it wonderfully in succinctly that it should be a matter of opinion of the people of america sometime in our future. i do not see that happening in our lifetime. so adverse were they here in virginia to even expanding a property consideration? understood understood perhaps as mr. madison says the country will simply need to grow on the issue of who was included in the phrase we the people let's move to our final major constitutional consideration one. that is i'm reminded of course because we were talking about the equality of the franchise. what about to that terrible issue? of slavery both of you gentlemen, i must say our slave owners how do you defend the institution of slavery while at the same time mr. mason insisting that we need a bill of individual rights? if i may gentlemen i put forward
that. here in america at present there is a slow poison which daily contaminates the minds in the morals of our people. every gentleman here ourselves not excluded. is born a petty tyrant? practiced and acts of despotism in cruelty we we become callous to the dictates of humanity to the finer feelings of the soul top. to regard a portion of our own species in the most abject and contemptible degree below ourselves. habituated from our infancy to trample upon the rights of mankind. we bring the judgment of heaven upon ourselves. and as nations will not be rewarded or punished in the next lifetime as we certainly shall be. they shall meet their just rewards upon this globe.
and the laws of impartial providence may insist that through an inevitable chain of cause and effect national sins will be punished by national calamities. here within this document the greatest sin is that it puts a moratorium upon one type of legislation and one type of legislation alone. and that is the end of the trafficking of slaves into this country men there. thought it wise to include but one. reduction within that legislation that we should not touch. that importation of slavery a practice. i debolical trade would which only weakens and perverts this country? this is one of the other great reasons though. it would perhaps prove valuable. to the people of virginia i think instead the one power that ought be at the highest level.
to deal with this this subject was instead. robbed of the american people for the next 20 years so i thank you for those noble sentiments but at the risk of rudeness i must point out. that your posterity may consider you a hypocrite as you yourself just pointed out if we restrict the slave trade then virginia which already has a surplus of slaves. would actually benefit in fact you yourself would benefit because each of your slaves would become more valuable in the absence of more importation. so are you concerned that future generations will look back on you and say this man was a hypocrite. all men are hypocrites at some point in their life as i earlier stated every gentleman here is born a petty tyrant. i did not exclude myself from that consideration. no, i think the grade is danger of this document is the fact that it also does not guarantee
our property at time for us to thoroughly consider this question of this most diabolical trade. i believe that two things must be done. we must first end the increase of an end the trade to to stave off the growth of this institution, but so too we must be guaranteed our property how difficult is it? that we may move forward and have a subjective opinion upon this when we have the consideration of fiscal self-interest. tied to it so irrevocably so in that manner this this constitution done everything it ought not to have done in left undone everything it ought to have done. may it be hypocritical i i have little doubt and yet is it necessary in this time? i can see no other path out. mr. madison and fairness i have to pose the same difficult
question to you to the extent that you're not willing to defend slavery on a moral basis. won't you be considered by your descendants and by your posterity to be a hypocrite? yes. most assuredly american mistake mr. harris, we have seen the mayor distinction of color as justification for the most oppressive dominion of man over man. colonel mason will recall at that convention the various southern interest putting forward that they would not put their hand to a document unless there was some guarantee of their right to hold property in men. it is my sentiment mr. harris that you cannot find property in men and you are correct, sir. from the age before i could consent to own them. i have had people. prescribed to my name a baptism gift from my grandmother some seven individuals as a babe. i was initiated into an institution that my grandfather
and my father have participated in. we are raised with it. now from that we have seen various public innovations, whereby we might allow men to choose. i have endeavored over the course of my life. into distance myself from the institution and to take what measures i can to ensure the most humane measures by which i can participate in the ending and abolition of such a painful institution. colonel mason is correct upon this regard that the constitution for the first time propriet provides a method over the course of time where we can gradually take steps forward to abolish the institution. this is the argument so many gentlemen and statesmen make that it must be done through careful measure. and yet when a careful measure is put forward they say it is not enough i can guarantee you sir under the articles of confederation. there is no such caveat nor any measure by which there can be a gradual manuition. this leads me finally to the final point. i will make we find a dichotomy
upon this issue one, which is often taken for granted. there is of course the institution of slavery which a great many gentlemen with pretty words may speak out against and then there is the painful racial prejudice. upon which the self same gentleman upon one side of their mouth will speak pretty words regarding the various injuries of humanity and yet upon the side of prejudice. we'll speak a great many things to further disenfranchise into humanize people. this is my sentiment mr. harris. if we end the institution of slavery. what shall we do to fight that prejudice? another very important question mr. medicine, but sadly our time is drawing to a close. so at this juncture, i would like to give each of you the opportunity of what we in the law call a summation. so mr. mason if you would would you please sum up your arguments
or what you feel are the most important arguments in this great debate. i thank you, sir. the influence of the establishment now proposed of this constitution the influence it may have upon the happiness or the misery of millions yet unborn. his of such a magnitude as to absorb and suspend the principles of human understanding. we now hold in our hands to sign this document or not sign. we have that happiness or misery. upon the tip of our pens it is my fear. that two two afraid. are we of that former system? that we may run too readily into a flawed or incomplete system. there are greek many points
which mr. madison has made today. that while i agree with they do not go far enough. this constitutional for which i fought many a day. insisting upon its necessity is a work but is not done. it lacks. too many great aspects and contains too many dangerous seeds. that the executive might grow to be overpowerful corrupt that our congress has the seeds of a tyrannical? aristocracy that the judiciary may overshadow the individual states and finally and most importantly that it lacks a bill of rights. means that the rights of the people frankly not guaranteed until they are i can never see myself putting my hand. to such a document as i said in
the convention, i would sooner chop it off. and put it to this document as it now stands. thank you, sir, mr. madison. would you care to sum up? my worthy opponent is desirous of a complete system of government. and yet america finds itself in experiment. one which we endeavor to perfect today, but must leave to our posterity to continue to perfect. should never be incomplete. from data as soon as it should be it should begin to die as generations progress beyond us. this constitution allows a people to perfect themselves. never to be perfect. but to be more perfect. the final day of the convention dr. benjamin franklin a manuel regarded for for his virtues and his vices. spoke address to the whole of the body. he said in examining this constitution. it has its faults.
it is not perfect. but never to his eyes had he seen a system of government so little imperfect. he said all systems of government end in despotism. they end as such when a people become so unruly that despotism is the sole form of government that can rule over them. he gestured to the chair that president washington occupied. their upon its back a half son a sat carved. he gestured to me. he said he had often looked at that chair to see if it was a rising sun or a setting sun. he confided upon examining that constitution. it is a rising sun. and that is where we find ourselves ladies and gentlemen. fixed upon a new dawn of a day well that can go for good or for ill. get a government will only ever be as good as its people. how devoutly it is to be wished then that the public opinion of the united states should be enlightened. we might declare that all men
are created equal we might say all nations are beso and yet still we have seen slavery has been the common law of the human race. sleep they are surprised. ignorance they are deceived divided. they have had the yoke put upon them. here now. we see the opportunity. in this wondrous experimental time for a people to choose the former of those ideas. to be together to unify and every instance to awaken the happy union of these states is a wonder this constitution a miracle. it's example the hope of freedom and liberty throughout the world. thank you, mr. madison and gentlemen, we must now draw to a close. that if i may observe, i think there's one thing we're all agreed on that. these are fundamental questions. and that many of them will not be answered in 1788. in fact, i will predict that
many of these same issues will be debated for many years to come. thank you very much for your legacy for your efforts and for being with us here today. weak notes this month. we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span 3 former vice president and us senator walter mondale died on april 19th at the age of 93. friday we start a night of programs featuring mr. mondale with a conversation from 2015 with former president jimmy carter. this was part of a tribute to mr. mondale hosted by the university of minnesota's humphrey school of public affairs. watch friday beginning at 8pm eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on
c-span 3 here next on american history tv jeffrey rosen talks about james madison and democratic ideals mr. rosen is president and ceo of the national constitutional center in philadelphia. he argues in part that social media platforms work against the founding father's core values and intended cooling mechanisms
on popular opinion the james madison memorial fellowship foundation and the national constitutional center co-hosted this event. it's an hour and 45 minutes. and we welcome you to the james madison lecture which our foundation sponsors every year. citadeland seated in our seats today are 49 james madison fellas over here at georgetown university studying the foundations of american constitutional constitutionalism. they are all high school teachers or middle school teachers of american history american government or civics. and then we have several of our alum that have come so we have james madisonville's that are teaching teaching those subjects across the nation. i now like to introduce. our guest speaker our guest speaker. today is jeffrey rosen president and ceo of the national constitutional center.