Madison’s 17 Proposed Amendments

Three times in 1789 – August 24th, September 5th, and September 25th – the First Congress voted to ratify Madison’s amendments either as originally written or as modified by the legislative body. By the time the First Congress adjourned, all but three of the 17 worked their way into the 10 amendments that made up the Bill of Rights.

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The Mighty Ninth and Tenth

Understand that Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights, was afraid that a strong central government might run roughshod over the states. Hence the concept that if is if it not a power enumerated in the Constitution, the rights belong to the individual states or the people, i.e. the voters.

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Competing Plans for the New U.S. Constitution

The states refused to provide money to the central government. Under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress, now known as the Confederation Congress, could not regulate either interstate or international commerce. There was no executive or judicial branch of government so the Congress had no means to enforce laws.

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Jefferson’s Foreign Policy Mess

Jefferson believed that if the U.S. imposed restrictions its merchants defining with whom they could trade, the warring European powers would accept them. They didn’t. England, through the Royal Navy was hell bent on cutting off supplies going to Europe.

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The Essex Case and the Rule of 1756

Jefferson responded to the Essex ruling by getting the Congress to pass the Embargo Act of 1807 which forbade U.S. merchants from trading with countries at war. It backfired and U.S. trade declined dramatically causing Jefferson to push through the Non-Importation Act of 1807 that prohibited U.S. merchants from doing business in either France or Britain or any of their colonies. It too was largely ignored.

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Impressment Is Kidnapping By Another Name

To sail these ships, the Royal Navy needed men, lots of them. Desertion, often exceeding 25% annually, compounded its manning problem. One solution was emptying its jails, but this didn’t provide enough men.

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Jefferson and the French Revolution

Jefferson was committed to the republican form of government. If an absolute monarchy could not be abolished, a government needed to be put in place that would severely limit is ruler’s power.

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The Twelfth Amendment Changes the Electoral College Votes

Our Founding Fathers feared politically maneuvering by members of the Electoral College (Senators and Representatives) who would “sell” their vote, make alliances to gain a majority, or abstain from voting. These actions would negate the “will of the people.”

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America’s First Political Party

When John Adams garnered the most votes in the electoral college, the man he beat – Thomas Jefferson – became the VP. As per the Constitution, the candidate with second largest number of electoral votes became the vice president. Jefferson spent much of his tenure as VP attempting to discredit Adams and push legislation through the Congress based on the Democratic-Republican ideals.

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Who Were the Democratic-Republicans?

Thomas Jefferson’s differences with John Adams and Alexander Hamilton led to the formation of the Democratic Republican Party. By the time Martin van Buren was elected in 1837, two parties had emerged – Democratic and Republican. The evolution of the two-party system ended the Founding Father’s dream of leaders who would rule in the best interest of the country, free from partisan politics.

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