Today is the 260th anniversary of the birth of James Madison, fourth President of the United States, principal author of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the latter of which merits him the title of “Father of the 7th Amendment.” Today at Montpelier, his birthplace in Virginia and lifetime home, they’re celebrating by unveiling an historical marker in honor of First Lady Dolley Madison, and by holding a wreath-laying ceremony at President Madison’s grave. And so it is fitting and proper to remember the following:
James Madison loved civil suits. He considered the right to a jury trial for civil suits equal in importance to each and every right in the Bill of Rights, including the freedoms of speech, assembly and religion; the right to bear arms; the right to a jury trial for criminal cases; and the right for the states and the people to exercise those powers neither delegated to the United States not prohibited to the states and people. And James Madison NEVER, EVER, proposed anything close to the subversion of civil jury trial rights through the application of the Supremacy or Commerce Clauses.
Madison wrote the text of the 7th Amendment, posted above in the website banner, as well as the following categorical endorsement of the right to a jury trial for civil suits: “In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.”
Two years ago on this anniversary, Steven Waldman, the Editor-in-Chief, President & Co-Founder of Beliefnet.com , the largest faith and spirituality website, wrote a terrific piece on the Wall Street Journal describing Madison’s love of religious liberty and his strenuous efforts to protect it in the Bill of Rights. Madison knew full well, from the history of the British people, that one peaceful way to ensure the free exercise of religion would be to sue anybody who would infringe upon that right, and have that claim heard before a local jury of peers. He knew that Article 39 of the Magna Carta guaranteed that right, and he knew that the British drifted away from their rights during the years of the Star Chamber. When George Mason and other patriots objected to the ratification of the Constitution without a Bill of Rights, he wanted to ensure that all Americans would recognize and protect their unalienable rights. So after the states ratified the Constitution, he introduced 17 amendments in the first Congress, of which ten were ultimately ratified.
James Madison would oppose every pro-“tort reform” bill proposed in Congress, period. No one can convince me otherwise.