Short but Powerful


Was Madison the Father of the Constitution? Here’s Rick: “If he was not quite the Father of the Constitution — success has a thousand fathers — he was its midwife.”

“Midwife” is probably not a title you want to bear through eternity, but still . . .

Madison could really turn a phrase. When well-meaning Americans wanted George Washington to be called by some fancy, unrepublican name — e.g., “His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of the Rights of the Same” — Madison argued that such “splendid tinsel would disgrace the manly shoulders of our chief.”

The word “manly” is not used much now, except ironically. Pity.

I never knew that Madison was such an Anglophobe. Not just not an admirer of Britain, but a real despiser. Well, guess a couple of wars can do that to a fella . . .

Late in his book, Rick writes, “When in doubt, he could always fall back on Anglophobia. It was Madison’s natural equilibrium point.”

Hamilton was much different. “We think in English,” he said. Wonderful phrase.

Rick on the second president: “If Adams had had to make his living as a journalist, he would have starved; he hid diamonds of psychological insight in dunghills of pedantry.”

Of Madison’s scribbles for the National Gazette, Rick writes, “One almost feels he is writing down, as if for readers who move their lips as they read.”

Funny, but possibly the brightest person I ever knew moved her lips as she read. The exception that proves the rule?

Rick writes that both “Federalist” and “Republican” were self-flattering, or self-congratulatory, names: “Hamilton and his supporters appropriated the prestige and success of the Constitution; Jefferson and Madison claimed the spirit of the government itself.”

Funny, but in a recent essay for National Review, I was talking about self-flattering names — in particular, “progressive” and “realist.” Your opponents, you see, are regressives and unrealists . . .

When I read about the Federalists and the Republicans, and all those early squabbles, I realize I’m everything. I’m sure you are too.

What do I mean by “everything”? I mean, we recognize important components of America and Americanism in all those guys. Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian — we are both of those things, although our emphases may vary . . .

Another winning line, from Rick: “Washington, of course, was reelected unanimously. National electioneering had been barely audible, like mice scurrying in a wall.” Rick goes on to say, “The election of 1792 was the last in American history in which that would be so.”

I must say, I was disgusted — virtually sickened — to read of the reaction of Madison and other Francophiles to the French Revolution.

The death of Louis XVI, so recently the ally of America, was celebrated in banquets; people sang the Marseillaise, and in imitation of the revolutionary salutation “Citoyen” called one another “Citizen” . . . French massacres were denied, or excused. “The French,” wrote the National Gazette, “have made examples of two or three thousand scoundrels, to rescue the liberties of millions of honest men.” Jefferson, better spoken but no less bloodthirsty, told an American diplomat that although he was “deeply wounded by some of the martyrs of this cause . . . rather than it should have failed I would have seen half the earth desolated.”

Madison said that American critics of the revolution were “heretical,” and that a French defector from that revolution was guilty of “apostasy.”

Disgusting, sickening. The line from 1789 to 1917 and Mao and Pol Pot and all the rest is straight, my friends, absolutely direct.

Hamilton accused Madison and Jefferson of “a womanish attachment to France.” Hey, is that hate speech?

Aaron Burr introduced Madison to Dolley, and George Washington encouraged the courtship. “So,” says Rick, “the worst and the best of the founders lent a hand.”


You will like this line about John Jay as diplomat: “He was polite and patient, willing to take half a loaf if that was all he could get and to eat toads along the way.”

Never knew the word “smirched” — “to smirch,” without the “be-”: “Although Hamilton would continue to lead his party, he had been indelibly smirched.”

Loved this line: “In his report, Madison let all the Republican Party’s hobby horses out for a ride.”