James Madison: The Accumulation of all Powers, Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary… is the Very Definition of Tyranny

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Published on: September 1, 2014

The British invaded Washington, D.C. and burned the Capitol on August 25, 1814.  President James and Dolly Madison had to flee the White House. 

A week later, on SEPTEMBER 1, 1814, President Madison wrote: 

“The enemy by a sudden incursion has succeeded in invading the capitol of the nation…During their possession…though for a single day only, they wantonly destroyed the public edifices…
An occasion which appeals so forcibly to the…patriotic devotion of the American people, none will forget.”
 

James Madison continued: 

“Independence…is now to be maintained…with the strength and resources which…Heaven has blessed.” 

A few weeks later, on September 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry, as Francis Scott Key wrote of “bombs bursting in air.”

Two months later, November 16, 1814, President Madison wrote: 

“The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a Day of Public Humiliation and Fasting and of Prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace…I have deemed it proper…to recommend…a day of…humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe.”

James Madison stated at the Constitutional Convention, June 29, 1787 (Max Farrand‘s Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, vol. I (1911, p. 465):

“In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body.  A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.  The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.  Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

Madison wrote in Federalist No. 47 (January 30, 1788):

“The accumulation of all powers, Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

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