August 4, 2023


The Madisonian Case Against Trump: Protecting the republic from people like Donald Trump is the whole point of the U.S. Constitution. (FRANCISCO TORO, AUG 4, 2023, Persuasion)

The founding generation was petrified of the class of events to which January 6th belongs. They were haunted by the worry that in overthrowing monarchical authority they would inadvertently set the new republic on the path first to anarchy and then to tyranny. Rather like the makers of Artificial Intelligence today, Madison, Hamilton and the rest of the gang were acutely aware that they were meddling with awesome powers, and that getting it wrong could have disastrous consequences for the future.

In 1786, these were not academic preoccupations. That year, a Revolutionary War veteran from the Wild West (which, in those days, meant western Massachusetts) led a thousand armed men in a protest movement against the heavy taxes being levied on him and his fellow farmers to pay Revolutionary War debts. Though Daniel Shays' movement was, if anything, scrupulously orderly, what came to be remembered as Shays' Rebellion brought back all the old fears that America's poor would begin revolting all the time.

It was the specter of Shays-style lawlessness, with regular people refusing to acknowledge the legal authority of the institutions of the state, that pushed the founding elite to agree, in 1787, that a constitution creating a strong central government was going to be needed after all. 

James Madison in particular, with his dim view of people's ability to govern themselves on a lasting basis, was obsessed with the need to build protections against mob rule into the United States Constitution. For a popular demagogue to lead a conspiracy to defraud the United States in an attempt to obstruct the lawful results of a presidential election was the stuff of Madison's nightmares.

Posted by at August 4, 2023 6:20 PM