One of the most illustrious figures enshrined in the pantheon of America’s founding generation is James Madison. He is widely regarded as the “Father of the Constitution” not so much for his hand in the style or structure of that document, but rather for his dedication to the study of the timeless principles of republicanism that undergird the clauses thereof.
The number of articles, reports, and blogs that cull quotes from James Madison in defense (or offense) of this or that controversial point of Constitutional theory is staggering. A search of Google News using the words “James Madison Constitution” renders 265 such citations. Predictably, however, few of those authors recruiting Mr. Madison to their cause actually heed Cicero’s advice and look deeper into the “principles that inspired” Madison’s so oft-quoted statements.
James Madison is a historical figure with a legacy that is immeasurable, even by the number of hits on a Google search. His Constitutional position, however, is less diaphanous and has recognizable metes and bounds staked out by the man himself. Two of the stoutest planks of the Madisonian political (and thus Constitutional) platform are first, that the government established by the Constitution of 1787 is a government of limited power; second, that the powers granted by the people to that government are specifically enumerated within the four corners of that same founding charter.