Watch Online – Colleen Sheehan on Glenn Beck: James Madison and The Spirit of Republican Self-Government
The fourth President of the United States, James Madison is known for being the “Father of the Constitution,” author of over a third of the Federalist Papers, and a true believer in the idea and ideal of self-government.
On Friday night, author Colleen Sheehan was on The Glenn Beck Show – featured as part of Founders’ Friday and focused on James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government. In a spirited defense of popular government, Sheehan weighed in on the relevance of Madison’s political philosophy for today’s politics – and the importance of reacquainting ourselves with the Constitution.
Founding Father James Madison was not an imposing figure, standing only about 5 foot, 4 inches and weighing less than 100 pounds. He may not have been imposing to look at, but he was an intellectual force to be reckoned with.
Rush transcript from “Glenn Beck,” June 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. Via FoxNews.com > > >
GLENN BECK, HOST: Hello, America. It is Friday, “Founding Fathers Friday.”
Do you recognize that guy? This guy is James Madison.
I can’t relate to a guy who wrote to Thomas Jefferson this many letters. These are the — these are just the letters between James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. I — I can’t imagine what this man had in his noggin.
I will tell you he is — I’m at a disadvantage because he’s one of the Founders I know probably the least about and I’m actually ashamed of saying that because he’s one of the most important Founding Fathers.
I do know this: he was about 5’4″; he weighed less than 100 pounds. It would be hard to take him seriously, but you did. He was — well, I mean, think Victoria Beckham after like a really long, month long fast.George Washington called him a “withered little apple.”
He was not imposing at all, but he was an intellectual force to be reckoned with. He’s the father of the Constitution. A major player at the constitutional convention, referred to as the father of the Constitution.
He’s the guy we have to go today, because I’ve — I have been — I have been trying to restore history, at least in my own mind. I’ve been trying to restore God, at least in my own life. And we have to restore our Constitution — and one very important part of our Constitution is the 17th Amendment.
We have a — we have a studio audience here.
How many people before we called you and say you want to come to the show, how of people here could say, oh, yes, the 17th Amendment, I know what that is?
Two, three. You guys don’t count because you’re doing a constitutional thing. Nobody.
How many really know what it is now, the 17th Amendment? OK.
This is amazing. Like all bad things it started in 1913, Woodrow Wilson yet again. He supported this. Immediately now, when I see Woodrow Wilson, I immediately know — bad thing! You can be quite certain that something is not going to have a good outcome if Woodrow Wilson was involved.
Before 1913, U.S. senators were appointed by the state legislature. Madison said that the House of Representatives would always be a national institution, because the people would be directly elected by the people. But the Senate — the Senate, he said, will derive its powers from the states.
Here is the idea: you have — you have the senators be representatives of the state interest, kind of like a lobbyist for the state. You think progressives would like that. The 17th Amendment changed that and instituted a direct — a direct popular election of United States senators. Two senators right there, two Senate — or the United States Senate shall be comprised of two senators from each state elected by the people. OK?
Why did they do this? Well, they wanted to take the direct representation out. They wanted to make sure that the states didn’t have the direct representation.
This, Thomas Jefferson warned about. 1821, he said this — do we have it up here? “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided by one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” Got it?
Progressive will tell you, well, we had to change this. We had to because the states were just becoming too corrupt.
Oh, well they fixed that, didn’t they? It allowed special interest to lobby senators directly, cutting out the middleman of the state legislatures.
Has anyone noticed that senators routinely get large influxes of campaign cash from outside the state? Does anybody notice that?
I’m from Connecticut. Chris Dodd was my senator. Ugh! I was fascinated because I didn’t know anybody who was ready to give money to Chris Dodd. No one.
Of course, not a lot of people talked to me in Connecticut, so that might have been a problem.
But I looked at where his money was coming from, it wasn’t coming from Connecticut. It was coming nationally. Now, how can you be a representative of Connecticut?
Let me give you an example of the 17th Amendment coming into play right now, today. Obama’s health care bill would have never seen the light of day. A lot of things that they do in Washington would never have seen the light of day. Why? Because it wouldn’t in the interest of your state.
Why would we consider something — have you heard this phrase, “unfunded mandates”? How did they get that passed?
The Senate is not really looking out for your state.
Think of a state like Massachusetts. Why would they pay more in taxes for mandated health care when they already have that system? Why would they do it? It wouldn’t have worked. It wouldn’t have passed.
And James Madison, the little teeny, oh, you little cutie pie — he knew! The founders didn’t intend for the federal government to ever have that much power. They put roadblocks.
Step-by-steps, it’s taken them over 200 years to remove all those roadblocks, but they’re almost done. Maybe it’s time to put a few of them back.
What would they say about us if they could see America today?
BECK: How are you? How are you, sir? Good to see you.
Let me — let me introduce our guests. Colleen Sheehan, she is professor of political science at Villanova University, the author of “James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government.”
And James Best is also here. He is the author of “Tempest at Dawn.”
OK, if it wasn’t for James Madison, we wouldn’t have — we probably wouldn’t have this. We certainly wouldn’t have “The New York Post.” I wouldn’t probably be able to hold up the Bible today, would I? I wouldn’t be able to have my show today, would I? If it wasn’t for James Madison, would I have freedom of speech? Would we have freedom of press?
BECK: Now, we have — we have the hat problem but we now we have a problem from the president. And this is the second time that it’s been tried by a president. FDR, I believe, was the first, that said it’s a negative, a charter of negative liberties. And it should say all the things that the government should do for you.
COLLEEN SHEEHAN, VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY: Well, we may have those things, but it was the Madison who introduced the Bill of Rights in the first Congress of the United States. And he did so at the urging of a number of people, including his best friend Thomas Jefferson, who thought that a Bill of Rights was really essentially to a free government. Madison was a little concerned because he didn’t want it to be interpreted that those were the only rights we have, and thus, the importance of 9th Amendment.
BECK: That is exactly the opposite, right? We are 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
JAMES D. BEST, AUTHOR, “TEMPEST AT DAWN”: Absolutely.
BECK: What did they say? Because you wrote — I love this, I haven’t read it yet. I love this theory. This is a novel, but it’s about the constitutional convention and all the facts are in here so you get everything. But you can read it in novel form. What were they — what were they really — what were they dead set for and against?
BEST: Well, they were dead set against any centralized power. I mean, they had just come from underneath the British. And they feared concentration of power.
And we talk about checks and balances today. But we use it as one word. And they wanted balance to also go into checks.
So if you didn’t have enough power, that check wasn’t any good. So, that’s one of the reasons senators were appointed by the legislature because it gave power to the states.
BECK: Do you think the 17th Amendment if it was — if it was repealed, do you think that would change things in America?
SHEEHAN: Sure. It would — it would add again another check on the national government. I served — I served a small bit of time in the Pennsylvania state legislature.
BECK: Oh, I’m sorry for that.
SHEEHAN: Yes. My condolences.
But our U.S. senators would come pay a visit every once in a while. And at the time, it was Senator Specter and Senator Santorum.
BECK: Oh. Well —
SHEEHAN: And they would come to the Republican Caucus, and it was more like a social visit.
SHEEHAN: If their feet were held to the fire by the representatives of the people of Pennsylvania, it would have been much more than a social visit. They would have had to have been much more responsible and responsive to the people had there been the extra layer of checking and guarding against national power.
BECK: Where did — where did his drive come from? Where — I mean, where — you know, Washington seemed to just want to get back to the farm and to be an honorable man. Jefferson was just an explorer I think, an explorer on everything. Who is he?
BEST: Well, the first thing he wanted to do is a lot of people came to the convention wanting to fix a broken government system. He wanted to do something epic, historic. He wanted to build a republic that would last for generations and decades.
He had studied every republic that had ever existed in the history of the world and he believed that he had figured out a formula. Part of the formula was enumerated powers, not general powers, and decentralizing power.
BECK: Do you guys, does it bother you — if this is — when people used to say, “Oh, we’re a democracy.” I roll my eyes because somebody would inevitably say, no, we’re a republic. OK, I get it. Shut up.
But now, it really drives me crazy, because we’re not a democracy. And there is a concerted effort by the progressives to make us a democracy. These guys believe — when he studied all the other republics, he and Jefferson were very, very clear: democracies never work. Republic always had fatal flaws, right?
BECK: And so, when he came to the constitutional convention, describe the scene a little bit. What was it like? They nailed the shutters closed, right?
BEST: It was a secret meeting because they were afraid if it was public, if somebody made a speech and took a position, then they couldn’t be — they couldn’t change their mind.
BECK: It was like the Bilderbergs.
BEST: And they were actually laid sod out in front of the street so that when the carriages went by it was quiet, and nailed the windows shut. And for the months, those 55 men just stayed in that room and deliberated unlike what we do today.
BECK: He — was he — because he had — I mean, 100 pounds, 5’4″, I hear he had a mousy voice, right?
SHEEHAN: A Frenchman once called him “Mr. Mutterson.”
BECK: Mr. Mutterson. Was he a pleasant fellow at all?
SHEEHAN: He was known to have a very sweet temperament. He’s very quiet and very shy. And so, he often had to be asked to speak up when he was on the floor of the House or in the convention and so on. But among his family and his close friends, he was actually quite humorous. He loved his nephews and nieces.
BECK: Because the thing that I have seen is — and again, I know very little about him and I’m ashamed to say that. But what I do know is: when he came to the convention, if this history is right, he was absolutely convinced, no, no, no. I have the plan. This is the plan, no deviation — no deviation from it. And so, he seems like he was a royal pain in the ass because he was — am I wrong?
BEST: No, no, you’re absolutely right.
BECK: Because he was like no! No, wait. I think we should — no. This is it. This is the plan, right?
BEST: Yes. He stuck with what he thought was a correct plan, long after many other people at the convention had changed their minds. For instance, Sherman came and convinced them to have two senators per state, which was another thing to improve state’s authority and control over the federal government. And he fought long after everyone else, including Washington, had agreed to the two-state compromise. But he wanted it by population.
SHEEHAN: I’ll disagree with you guys just a little bit.
BECK: All right.
SHEEHAN: I’m sure that’s why you have a woman on the show.
SHEEHAN: I don’t think he was a know-it-all. He did know a lot. And he was confidence in what he — he was confident in what he knew, but he wasn’t like John Adams, where John Adams actually was a bit of a know-it- all and therefore offended people. Madison was very well-liked.
BECK: When I — when I say in this particular, I don’t mean he was know-it-all, like, you just have to take mine. He had — I mean, did you see the letters he wrote back and forth? He had done his homework. He did know, if not all of it, most of it, where, you know, when you are put in a situation where you have done that much homework, you can kind of get a little testy with people are like, no, wait!
I don’t know if anybody else has ever been in a meeting before where you worked really hard on something and there’s some yahoo that you know has just been at the candy, you know, the candy machine for the last three weeks while you’ve been working. And they get in a meeting going, “I think that is a dumb idea.” You’re like, “Shut up, candy man, I’ve been working.”
This guy really works. So, he did know, you know, what he was talking about with the republics.
What did he find in the — with the republics that was the fatal flaw?
BEST: He believed the fatal flaw was factions. He called them factions. We call them special interest. And everything that he did in design of the government was an attempt to diminish the ability of factions or alliances of factions to take over the leaders of government.
SHEEHAN: And the problem with factions, particularly majority faction, if you have a country based on the idea of majority rule is that any pleading passion can almost immediately become law. And so, Madison what he wanted to do was not take away the idea of liberty to make our own choices and to mistakes even and how like —
SHEEHAN: — think through things. But to develop a system of refining and enlarging the public views so that the people themselves ultimately are the rulers. And it doesn’t have to be abdicated to the few who form the government.
BECK: These guys would be — he would be crazy with anybody who said, well, it’s very complex and you won’t understand it. That’s why you hired me to do, wouldn’t he? He’d be crazy on a politician saying that.
SHEEHAN: A true believer in the idea of self government. That’s what he dedicated his entire life to.
BECK: These guys, because Jefferson said pretty much the same thing when he was talking about the constitutional amendment system. He said you can amend it.
And I think the amendment system is so brilliant because — for instance, prohibition. That amendment is still there, plus the repeal. So, when you look at the Constitution, you’re like oh, really? We banned alcohol. That didn’t work out well. The scars are left there.
And I think it goes to what Jefferson said and I’m hearing the same thing from Madison, that the people — trust the people. They’re going to make mistakes. But they’ll eventually get it and they will correct it.
Right now, we live in a situation where everything was with the last president, with this president, been with presidents in the past — it becomes an emergency. Got to go it, got to do it. And you don’t even read it. And so, it just goes through.
Wasn’t everything that he did basically a roadblock or a speed bump?
SHEEHAN: He wanted to slow things down. And allow for communication between the representatives and their constituents. In the newspapers, circulating, he said throughout the entire nation, so that we take time to think about these things, to have second thoughts so that the judgments we might come to are more reasonable.
Jefferson once said the world of majority is in all cases to prevail, but that will to be rightful must be reasonable because the minority have their equal rights, which government must protect. So, it’s the idea of deliberation, as Jim put it.
What we don’t want to do is what happened in ancient Greece, Madison says in “The Federalist Papers,” which is to make the philosopher drink hemlock on one day and erect statues to him on the next.
BECK: Back in just a second.