If there was one element of a democratic society that Madison feared the most was the potential for violent factions, which would drive American society primarily on the basis of passions unrestrained by reason and a veneration for the rights and views of others. As James Madison described, “By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority and a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or interest, adverse to the right of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Continue reading “The Framers and Associations: The Right to Assemble”
It was 1777. The Second Continental Congress had successfully passed the Declaration of Independence a year ago, and the War for Independence was still ongoing. Unity was critical; it had made the passage of the aforementioned document possible, even while many within the different states objected to its approval.
But now that unity was needed more than ever. A select committee had been assigned a year earlier to determine the form of government the colonies would adopt. Now their proposal lay before Congress; indeed, this was the key moment which would determine the fate of the Articles of Confederation.
For one of my courses that focuses on major issues in western political thought, my professor posed this question to the class as a prompt for which we were to analyze in a research paper:
“Locke is right that an individual’s primary motivation in life is to accumulate property. Furthermore, I should have every right to accumulate as much property as I want, and I shouldn’t have to care that other people are less successful than me. The rich are rich because they work hard and it is right for the government to look out for those of us who have property. If people are poor, it is because they don’t work hard enough. In fact, they are not living up to their potential as rational beings. As such, neither I, nor the government, should have any obligation to provide for them.” Comment.
The enumerated objects over which the federal government was given its jurisdiction during the ratification debates in 1787-89 have been heavily disputed within the court system to this day, with such disagreements frequently appearing before the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court itself. The debate over the separation of the sovereignty of the states from the sovereignty of the national government itself still remains unresolved today (see Federalist No. 39). In Printz v. United States, specifically, the issue at hand involved whether the federal government could issue directives to state law enforcement officers in Montana and Arizona to uphold and enforce federal background checks as required under The Brady Handgun Prevention Act passed by Congress in 1993, which created a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to track the potential criminal histories of consumers wishing to purchase firearms. Upon a writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court agreed to review the issue in greater depth.