This Fourth of July we turn our attention to fireworks, parades, barbeques, family picnics, and gatherings with friends. Often our attention is so focused on the festivities of this mid-summer holiday we forget to celebrate what is really important about the day. And when we do remember the reasons for the holiday we tend to remember the obvious reason such as our country’s birthday, our independence from the mother country.
This summer, I find myself reading “James Madison – A Life Reconsidered” by Lynne Cheney. It is an expansive book about Madison, our country’s fourth president, whose life when fully examined shows he did much of the heavy lifting in our country’s early years. Madison, a protégé and close friend of Thomas Jefferson, is considered the “Father of the Constitution” as he provided an outline to follow for the national convention formed after the Revolutionary War to draft a constitution. During the drafting process, he also spoke over 200 times which led to him being considered the most informed person in the room during the constitutional debates.
As a precursor to the constitution, Madison co-authored the “Federalist Papers” which outlined many of the issues later covered in the drafting of the constitution. Subsequently he authored the first 10 constitutional amendments which became known as the Bill of Rights. This led to his second moniker as “Father of the Bill of Rights”. Many historians believe the Bill of Rights is the most important part of the constitution as it is the guarantee of personal liberties: the freedom of religion, speech, the right to assemble, the freedom of the press, and the right to petition our government. Included is the right to bear arms, rights concerning searches and seizures, the right to a jury trial, due process and reserved powers.
Even though Madison was every bit as accomplished as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Cheney says he isn’t as well known by today’s public because he was the calm and cerebral person behind the scenes getting things done. He was a master of the legislative process and his personality was more collaborative. He often let others take the credit for his accomplishments. Madison was fully engaged and instrumental in the early days of our country’s formation. He believed in limited government, low debt, and personal liberties.
If you get a chance at some summer reading, pick up a copy of Cheney’s book. For a history book, it’s a page turner.
Happy Fourth of July Everyone!
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Greg Polacheck. Director of Market Development