Supreme Court Justices Dining with the President: Not Unusual At All

It was announced this afternoon that President Trump will have dinner with members of the U.S. Supreme Court this coming Thursday. It’s not yet clear if all of the justices will attend.

Some questions were raised via social media regarding how often presidents have dined with Supreme Court justices in the past. Some even suggested it was highly unusual. History proves the opposite. These dinners have been quite common since at least the 19th century.

According to the White House Historical Association, “[d]uring the nineteenth century, a series of ‘state dinners’ were held every winter social season to honor Congress, the Supreme Court and members of the diplomatic community. Note: these dinners were called “state dinners” even though they lacked official foreign representation.

I did some research online, and was able to find a number of other instances of Supreme Court justices dining with presidents. The practice appears quite common.

(1) Supreme Court Justices dined at the White House during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.

(2) 1890: Here is a New York Times report on President Benjamin Harrison and his wife hosting a dinner with members of the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1890. Members of Congress were also present at the dinner.

(3) 1939: Here is a photograph from the Library of Congress showing Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and his wife leaving for a dinner on January 19, 1939, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Roosevelt hosted an annual White House dinner honoring members of the federal judiciary.

[UPDATE: Per Smithsonian magazine: FDR dined with Supreme Court Justices just days before announcing his Court packing scheme and during a time when the Justices were hearing challenges to FDR’s New Deal agenda:

The Supreme Court itself had no inkling of what was afoot. When the president entertained the judiciary at a White House dinner on February 2, he told adviser Donald Richberg that “his choice should be whether to take only one cocktail before dinner and have it a very amiable affair, or to have a mimeographed copy of the program laid beside the plate of each justice and then take three cocktails to fortify himself against their reactions.” The banquet was an amiable affair. But as the evening drew to a close, Idaho’s senator William Borah, sensing something as he saw the president chatting with two of the justices, remarked: “That reminds me of the Roman Emperor who looked around his dinner table and began to laugh when he thought how many of those heads would be rolling on the morrow.”

Three days later, on February 5, 1937, Roosevelt shocked Congress, his closest advisers and the country by unleashing a thunderbolt. He asked Congress to empower him to appoint an additional justice for any member of the court over age 70 who did not retire.]

(4) A 1958 issue of Life Magazine about Mamie Eisenhower (clip below) shows her hosting a pre-dinner reception for a state dinner at the White House with Supreme Court Justices.

Screen Shot 2017-04-23 at 3.33.45 PM

(5) President John F. Kennedy hosted a dinner jointly honoring the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

(6) From the Gerald Ford President Library, correspondence regarding the planning of a White House social dinner with Supreme Court Justices.

(7) From the National Archives, a photo of President Jimmy Carter and his wife hosting an informal dinner for members of the Supreme Court and their spouses. (H/T Mitch Harper)

(8) From the Clinton Archives: Following Justice Ginsburg’s confirmation to the Court, White House Counsel Bernie Nussbaum and adviser Ron Klain suggested a dinner at the White House with all of the Justices “and their wives.” They went on to say “The dinner would be a courteous and informal way for the president to strengthen his relations with the members of the court—though, admittedly, the benefits of doing so are difficult to quantify.”

(9) In October 2008, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush hosted a dinner at the White House in honor of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. 

(10) President Obama often invited Supreme Court justices to state dinners for foreign leaders. Justices Kennedy, Sotomayor, Kagan and Scalia all attended such dinners during his presidency.

Oaths of Office for U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Today, Neil Gorsuch was sworn is as the 113th justice of the United States Supreme Court. Video of his swearing in ceremony is available here.

Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are required to take two oaths before they may execute the duties of their appointed office.

The Constitutional Oath

Via Article VI of the United States Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The Constitution does not provide the wording for this oath, leaving that to the determination of Congress.

From 1789 until 1861, this oath was:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.

During the 1860s, this oath was altered several times before Congress settled on the text used today, set out under 5 U. S. C. § 3331. This oath is now taken by all federal employees, other than the President.

I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

The Judicial Oath

The origin of the second oath is found in the Judiciary Act of 1789, which reads “the justices of the Supreme Court, and the district judges, before they proceed to execute the duties of their respective offices” to take a second oath or affirmation.

From 1789 to 1990, the original text used for this oath (1 Stat. 76 § 8) was:

I, _________, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.

In December 1990, the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 replaced the phrase “according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the Constitution” with “under the Constitution.” The revised Judicial Oath, found at 28 U. S. C. § 453, reads:

I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.

The Combined Oath

Upon occasion, appointees to the Supreme Court have taken a combined version of the two oaths, which reads:

I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Source: https://www.supremecourt.gov/about/oath/textoftheoathsofoffice2009.aspx

Abe Fortas: A Supreme Court Nominee Filibustered in the Senate

With news coming out this afternoon that Senate Democrats officially have enough votes to filibuster the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Gorsuch, I thought I’d share here more information about Abe Fortas, whose nomination to be elevated to the position of Chief Justice, following Chief Justice Earl Warren’s retirement, was filibustered in the Senate.

Per the Senate Historical Office:

In June 1968, Chief Justice Earl Warren informed President Lyndon Johnson that he planned to retire from the Supreme Court. Concern that Richard Nixon might win the presidency later that year and get to choose his successor dictated Warren’s timing.

In the final months of his presidency, Johnson shared Warren’s concerns about Nixon and welcomed the opportunity to add his third appointee to the Court. To replace Warren, he nominated Associate Justice Abe Fortas, his longtime confidant. Anticipating Senate concerns about the prospective chief justice’s liberal opinions, Johnson simultaneously declared his intention to fill the vacancy created by Fortas’ elevation with Appeals Court Judge Homer Thornberry. The president believed that Thornberry, a Texan, would mollify skeptical southern senators.

A seasoned Senate vote-counter, Johnson concluded that despite filibuster warnings he just barely had the support to confirm Fortas. The president took encouragement from indications that his former Senate mentor, Richard Russell, and Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen would support Fortas, whose legal brilliance both men respected.

The president soon lost Russell’s support, however, because of administration delays in nominating his candidate to a Georgia federal judgeship. Johnson urged Senate leaders to waste no time in convening Fortas’ confirmation hearings. Responding to staff assurances of Dirksen’s continued support, Johnson told an aide, “Just take my word for it. I know [Dirksen]. I know the Senate. If they get this thing drug out very long, we’re going to get beat. Dirksen will leave us.”

Fortas became the first sitting associate justice, nominated for chief justice, to testify at his own confirmation hearing. Those hearings reinforced what some senators already knew about the nominee. As a sitting justice, he regularly attended White House staff meetings; he briefed the president on secret Court deliberations; and, on behalf of the president, he pressured senators who opposed the war in Vietnam. When the Judiciary Committee revealed that Fortas received a privately funded stipend, equivalent to 40 percent of his Court salary, to teach an American University summer course, Dirksen and others withdrew their support. Although the committee recommended confirmation, floor consideration sparked a filibuster.

On October 1, 1968, the Senate failed to invoke cloture. Johnson then withdrew the nomination, privately observing that if he had another term, “the Fortas appointment would have been different.”

For additional information about the Supreme Court confirmation hearing process, check out this post.

March 23, 1775: Patrick Henry Proclaims “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

Patrick Henry’s famous remarks gave voice to the increasingly oppressive measures passed by the British parliament. I’ve reproduced his famous remarks here –

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free– if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending–if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained–we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace– but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

The 45th Anniversary of Congress Passing the Ill-Fated Equal Rights Amendment

On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The ERA reads –

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first drafted in 1923. It was viewed as the next step for guaranteeing equal rights to women following the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Previous versions of the ERA include:

(1) Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. (Known as the Lucretia Mott Amendment; proposed to Congress, 1923-1942)

 

 

(2) Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. (Known as the Alice Paul Amendment; proposed to Congress 1943-1972)

Some version of the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 to 1970. Nearly every time it was introduced, the ERA languished in committee. In 1970, during the 91st session of Congress, Congresswoman Martha Griffiths (a democrat from Michigan) filed a successful discharge petition, which allowed for the ERA to be considered by the whole House of Representatives. The ERA passed the House. Because the Senate attempted to add provisions exempting women from the draft, the ERA failed to pass the Senate that session.

After making some changes to the wording of the amendment, Congresswoman Griffiths re-introduced the ERA in the 92nd Congress. This version of the ERA was approved by the House on October 12, 1971. The Senate then passed the amendment on March 22, 1972. To read the committee report on why Congress believed the the ERA was necessary, follow this link.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires that 3/4 of the states ratify an amendment before it becomes part of the Constitution. In addition to this constitutional requirement, Congress added a seven-year ratification deadline to the 18th, 20th, and all subsequent constitutional amendments. In the case of the ERA, the deadline was included in the preamble to the authorizing resolution, rather than in the text of the amendment itself.

As originally proposed, the amendment would have expired in 1979 if not ratified by the requisite 38 states. Although the proposed ERA was eventually approved by 35 states, opposition brought the ratification process to a halt as the ratification deadline approached. As a result, in 1978, Congress voted to extend the deadline until June 30, 1982. Opponents of this extension argued this violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the amendment process laid out for the ERA. Supporters insisted that because the deadline was placed in the preamble to the authorizing legislation and not in the body of the Amendment itself, this extension was permissible in order to allow more time for state ratification.

Despite Congress’s extension of the deadline, no additional states ratified the ERA in advance of the 1982 deadline. In fact, the legislatures of 5 states passed resolutions rescinding their earlier ratifications, process referred to as rescission. The Supreme Court had agreed to hear cases on the rescission question, but the ERA expires before the cases could be heard, and, therefore the cases were dismissed as moot. As today’s date, these 15 states have not yet ratified the ERA: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. Note: that on March 20, 2017, the Nevada state assembly did vote in favor of ratifying the ERA.

Congressional proponents of the ERA have argued that Congress possess the authority to repeal the original ratification time limit, as well as the 1978 extension, in order to restart the current clock on ratification. They further argue that the prior ratification by 35 states should remain valid. Known as the “three state” strategy, this interpretation of the ERA ratification process would require only three additional states to ratify the amendment in order to amend the Constitution.

According to a Congressional Research Service report – the arguments in support and against this approach are –

In support of their arguments, ERA proponents claim that Article V of the Constitution gives Congress uniquely broad authority over the amendment process. They also point to Supreme Court decisions, Dillon v. Gloss and Coleman V. Miller, that they claim provide support for this assertion. In addition, they cite the example of the 27th Amendment, also known as the “Madison Amendment,” which was ratified in 1992, after having been pending for 203 years. This, they maintain, further supports their assertion that proposed amendments that do not include time The Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: Contemporary Ratification Issues Congressional Research Service limits within the body of the amendment text itself, remain viable and eligible for ratification indefinitely.

Opponents of further extension may argue that attempting to revive the amendment would be politically divisive, and that providing the proposed ERA with a “third bite of the apple” would be contrary to the spirit and perhaps the letter of Article V and the intentions of Congress in setting the earlier limits. They would arguably reject the example of the 27th Amendment, which, unlike the proposed ERA, never had a ratification time limit. Further, they might claim that efforts to revive the proposed Equal Rights Amendment ignore the possibility that state ratifications may have expired with the proposed ERA in 1982, and that proponents of the amendment do not address the issue of state rescission, which has never been specifically addressed by any U.S. court, but only dismissed by the Supreme Court because the cases accepted on appeal had become moot.

An alternative approach would be to start anew by introducing an identical but new Equal Rights Amendment, and then seeking the requisite state ratification.

 

 

 

 

A Primer on Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

Confirmation hearings begin on Monday, March 20 for President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court: Judge Neil Gorsuch. More information about Judge Gorsuch is available here.

I thought it might be useful to provide a brief primer on Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Background

The procedure for appointing a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court is provided in Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint . . . Judges of the supreme court.” The President must first select and nominate an individual before he or she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate has confirmed a total of 124 Supreme Court nominations out of a total of 161 received. Of those who were not confirmed, they were either outright rejected via roll call vote, were withdrawn, postponed, tabled or never voted upon due to significant committee or Senate opposition to the nominee or president.

The Process

(1) Pre-hearing investigations

Although not mentioned in the Constitution, the Senate Judiciary Committee plays a key role in Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The Judiciary Committee takes on the primary responsibility of investigating the background and qualifications of each Supreme Court nominee.

During this stage, the nominee responds to a detailed questionnaire, providing professional, biographical, and financial information to the committee. Note: The FBI also investigates the nominee and provides the committee with confidential reports related to its investigations.

The nominee also visits with members of the judiciary committee and other senators during what are called “courtesy calls.”

(2) Public hearings

During this stage, a nominee testifies in hearings before the committee.

Judiciary Committee members and their staffs closely study the public record and investigative information about the nominee before the hearings begin. The nominee also intensively prepares. The President’s staff assists the nominee by providing legal background materials and by conducting mock hearings. These sessions have come to be known as “murder boards” because of how grueling the sessions are on the nominee.

A confirmation hearing begins with a statement by the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and is followed by opening statements by other committee members. A panel of “presenters” then introduce the nominee to the committee, and then the nominee has an opportunity to offer an opening statement.

The chair of the committee will begin the questioning, followed by the ranking minority member and then the rest of the committee in descending order of seniority, alternating between members of the majority and minority party. There is a uniform time limit for each senator during each round of questioning. When the first round of questioning is complete, the committee begins a second round, which may be followed by more, if the committee chair permits additional questioning.

Questions tends to focus on legal qualifications, past judicial opinions or other public actions, private backgrounds. Questions may also be aimed at identifying the nominee’s views on social and political issues, the Constitution, and judicial philosophy. In some cases, a nominee may decline to answer a question for fear of appearing to comment on an issue that may later come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

(3) Public Witnesses

After the nominee’s hearing is complete, the committee will also hear testimony from public witnesses. These witnesses typically include the chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary (who explains the ABA’s rating of a nominee), professional colleagues of the nominee and/or representatives of groups who support or oppose the nominee.

(4) Closed-Door Committee Session

Starting in 1992, the Judiciary Committee started conducting a closed-door session with the nominee in order to help address questions regarding that person’s background brought to the committee through confidential investigations. Then-Senator Joe Biden explained the procedure saying that they would be conducted “in all cases, even when there are no major investigative issues to be resolved so that the holding of such hearing cannot be taken to demonstrate that the committee has received adverse confidential information about the nomination.”

(5) Committee decision on what recommendation to make to the full senate

Usually within a week upon completion of the hearings, the Judiciary Committee meets in open session to determine what recommendation to report to the full Senate.

The committee may: (1) report favorably on the nomination; (2) report on it negatively; or (3) make no recommendation. In all three cases, the nomination will go forward.

After the Judiciary Committee has reported a nomination, it is placed on the “Executive Calendar” and assigned a calendar number. Business of the “Executive Calendar” is considered in executive session, which is open to the public.

(6) Bringing the Nomination to the Floor

Consideration of a nomination is scheduled by the majority leader (Senator Mitch McConnell), who typically consults with the minority leader (Senator Chuck Schumer) and all interested Senators. The chart below explains the contemporary practice for bringing a Supreme Court nomination to the floor.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 6.18.39 PM

Once the Senate debate begins, it is typical for those Senators who choose to take the floor to state his or her reasons for voting in favor or against a nominee’s confirmation.

Filibusters and Motions to End Debate

Senate rules place no limits on how long floor consideration of a nomination may last. This allows for the possibility of a filibuster by the nominee’s opponents. Supporters may seek to limit debate by invoking cloture, which limits further consideration of the matter to 30 hours. Cloture requires 60 votes. Cloture ensures that a nominee will receive a vote and be decided on by a voting majority.

(7) The Vote

When floor debate on a nomination concludes, the presiding officer puts the following question to a vote: “Will the Senate advise and consent to the nomination of [nominee’s name] of [state of residence] to be an Associate Justice [or Chief Justice] on the Supreme Court?”

A roll-call vote to confirm requires a simple majority of Senators present and voting. Since 1967, every Senate vote on whether to confirm a Supreme Court nomination has been by roll call. Prior to 1967, fewer than half were by roll call, the rest were done by voice vote.

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 6.29.07 PMScreen Shot 2017-03-19 at 6.29.34 PM

Sources:

(1) https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44234.pdf

(2) https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44236.pdf

Happy Birthday, James Madison!

James Madison was born on March 16, 1751. In honor of Madison’s 266th birthday, I thought I’d share some of my favorite Madison quotes.

(1) “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” – Federalist No. 51

(2) “As the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived[.]” – Federalist No. 49

(3) “What use then it may be asked can a bill of rights serve in popular Governments? I answer the two following which though less essential than in other Governments, sufficiently recommend the precaution. 1. The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion. 2. Altho’ it be generally true as above stated that the danger of oppression lies in the interested majorities of the people rather than in usurped acts of the Government, yet there may be occasions on which the evil may spring from the latter sources; and on such, a bill of rights will be a good ground for an appeal to the sense of the community.” – James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, October 17, 1788

(4) “In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example and France has followed it, of charters of power granted by liberty. This revolution in the practice of the world, may, with an honest praise, be pronounced the most triumphant epoch of its history, and the most consoling presage of its happiness.” – January 18, 1792

(5) “Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man’s house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man’s conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.” – March 29, 1792

(6) “[The Constitution] was not like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many hands & many heads.” -James Madison to William Cogswell, March 10, 1834

(7) “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” – James Madison to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

(8) “[I]t is universally admitted that a well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people[.]” – December 5, 1810

(9) “Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” – James Madison to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822