Skip to comments.Property
Posted on 02/05/2011 6:18:31 AM PST by Jacquerie
Read this short column and weep, for as a people we have squandered our legacy.
Madison: This term [property] in its particular application means "that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual."
In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage. In the former sense, a man's land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.
In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.
He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.
He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.
He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.
In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho' from an opposite cause.
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. According to this standard of merit, the praise of affording a just securing to property, should be sparingly bestowed on a government which, however scrupulously guarding the possessions of individuals, does not protect them in the enjoyment and communication of their opinions, in which they have an equal, and in the estimation of some, a more valuable property.
More sparingly should this praise be allowed to a government, where a man's religious rights are violated by penalties, or fettered by tests, or taxed by a hierarchy.
Conscience is the most sacred of all property; other property depending in part on positive law, the exercise of that, being a natural and unalienable right. To guard a man's house as his castle, to pay public and enforce private debts with the most exact faith, can give no title to invade a man's conscience which is more sacred than his castle, or to withhold from it that debt of protection, for which the public faith is pledged, by the very nature and original conditions of the social pact.
That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has in his personal safety and personal liberty, is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.
A magistrate issuing his warrants to a press gang, would be in his proper functions in Turkey or compleat despotism. That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions, exemptions, and monopolies deny to part of its citizens that free use of their faculties, and free choice of their occupations, which not only constitute their property in the general sense of the word; but are the means of acquiring property strictly so called.
What must be the spirit of legislation where a manufacturer of linen cloth is forbidden to bury his own child in a linen shroud, in order to favour his neighbour who manufactures woolen cloth; where the manufacturer and wearer of woolen cloth are again forbidden the economical use of buttons of that material, in favor of the manufacturer of buttons of other materials!
A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species: where arbitrary taxes invade the domestic sanctuaries of the rich, and excessive taxes grind the faces of the poor; where the keenness and competitions of want are deemed an insufficient spur to labor, and taxes are again applied, by an unfeeling policy, as another spur; in violation of that sacred property, which Heaven, in decreeing man to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, kindly reserved to him, in the small repose that could be spared from the supply of his necessities.
If there be a government then which prides itself in maintaining the inviolability of property; which provides that none shall be taken directly even for public use without indemnification to the owner, and yet directly violates the property which individuals have in their opinions, their religion, their persons, and their faculties; nay more, which indirectly violates their property, in their actual possessions, in the labor that acquires their daily subsistence, and in the hallowed remnant of time which ought to relieve their fatigues and soothe their cares, the influence [inference?] will have been anticipated, that such a government is not a pattern for the United States.
If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights: they will rival the government that most sacredly guards the former; and by repelling its example in violating the latter, will make themselves a pattern to that and all other governments.
The duty of citizenship includes a positive obligation to recognize and respect the Rights of others. Today, much of the electorate selects representatives based on proven ability to plunder or suppress the property of fellow Americans.
The debt of protection, IMHO is a moral debt we owe to God. Along with His given right to self government, we have the duty to govern according to a standard higher than mere human will and whatever political deals our Congressmen can devise. Our federal Government was brought into being to ensure our unalienable rights. Rather, it has clearly sought to crush these rights. There is no moral obligation to obey laws in violation of the rights given to us by God.
Thanks for a MOST EXCELLENT post!!
Oh, how far we have strayed from the path.
When the common American was protective of his Natural Rights, when we sang from the same sheet of music so to speak, our prosperity and general happiness was assured.
Today, I wonder what single digit percentage of Americans even know the purpose of government, to ensure our Natural Rights.
On the bright side, I think a real awakening is taking place. Perhaps because of the Obamamao’s daily assault on our liberties, the people are starting to notice and refer to our founding principles.
Excellent find. Thanks for posting it.
From the article:
Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.
THAT ladies and gentlemen is why we simply MUST rid ourselves of the yoke placed on us in 1913 under Woodrow Wilson! I refer here to the communist inspired, class warfare inducing, progressive income tax!
What person can feel TRULY free to express himself in the public square while we have an organization called the IRS which can utterly destroy that person at a mere whim? In fact, what person can feel secure in ANY of the things Madison refers to under that condition?
PLEASE join me in the effort rid our nation of this curse and return taxation to a form much more in keeping with what our founders envisioned!
Thanks for the ping.
More activity, no weeping.
Thanks for the ping.
More activity, no weeping.
Not any more!
Kill the outrageous business killing Estate Tax!!
Families work their butts off to accumulate base for their business (farms, buildings, businesses) only to be screwed by hungry prostitucians out of their livelihood.
Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.
If I have the timeline right, he wrote this after an intense period of study in 1791. He dove into political philosophy and history, including Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Strabo, Dionysius Halicarnassus, Livy, and Plutarch. His modern sources included Montesquieu, Gibbon.
Anyway, he came away agreeing with Aristotle that the preservation or destruction of the constitution depended on the maintenance and renewal of its principles.
Especially as Madison defined property.
Couldn't be a more timely, or important, statement than that.
Thanks for the ping!
The fairtax would do this permanently!
The right to property IS the right to liberty! Without the former it is not possible to have the latter!
With regard to your quote on the "idea" vs. the "real estate," Madison pointed out that same concept in the following observation:
"The enviable condition of the people of the United States is often too much ascribed to the physical advantages of their soil & climate .... But a just estimate of the happiness of our country will never overlook what belongs to the fertile activity of a free people and the benign influence of a responsible government." - James Madison
May we take the Madisonian wisdom and contrast it with the prevailing wisdom (ignorance) of today?
The American idea, as encapsulated in its Declaration of Independence and structured into a Constitution for self-government, more liberty and opportunity, more productivity, and more goods and services than the world ever has seen.
To utilize Madison again, it happened under what he called "the benign influence of a responsible government."
While Europe struggled with oppressive government intervention, the genius Founders of America recognized enduring truths about human nature, the human tendency to abuse power, and the possibilities of liberty for individuals. Richard Frothingham's 1872 "History of the Rise of the Republic of the United States," Page 14, contained the following footnote item on the condition of citizens of France:
"Footnote 1. M. de Champagny (Dublin Review, April, 1868) says of France, 'We were and are unable to go from Paris to Neuilly; or dine more than twenty together; or have in our portmanteau three copies of the same tract; or lend a book to a friend: or put a patch of mortar on our own house, if it stands in the street; or kill a partridge; or plant a tree near the road-side; or take coal out of our own land: or tench three or four children to read, . .. without permission from the civil government.'
Clearly the government of France laid an oppressive regulatory and tax burden on citizens, robbing them of their Creator-endowed liberty and enjoyment thereof. Frothingham observed that such coercive power constituted "a noble form robbed of its lifegiving spirit."
Thomas Jefferson warned Americans:
"To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:39
Note Jefferson's very last thought here. He declares that when government taxing and debt have reached certain levels, in order for individuals to survive, then their chosen "employment" becomes "hiring ourselves to rivet their (the government's) chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers."
Think about it: in the Year 2011, where are America's levels of employment highest? Is it in the once-thriving private sector, or in the ever-increasing government sector? Have we reached that final phase of what Jefferson described as a logical end to what begins as letting "our rulers load us with perpetual debt"--a state where we actually become participants by "hiring ourselves" to make slaves of our fellow citizens?
Madison's "National Gazette" remarks are pertinent for today. Thank you for highlighting them, for they highlight and distinguish America's founding ideas from those of all regimes who deny the concept of God-given individual rights.
Also thanks to you for introducing Frothingham to me some months ago. I have spent many happy and engrossed hours consuming our colonial history.
Our Constitution could not have happened without the Articles of Confederation, or the revolution, or almost 200 years of colonial (mostly) self government.
I am particularly fascinated with the period during the English Civil wars, in which we were literally abandoned to our own devices to survive French and Indian predations. Do you have any further reference material dealing with this time?
And if the list were to be one with things that most pleased them, could they even get to ten?
And that accounts for the state of the Republic today! For decades, the foundations of liberty have been eroded and replaced with the same old substitutes from which our forefathers escaped in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
"Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court even can do much to help it." - Judge Learned Hand
"If I have learned anything from the reading of history, it is that the man who, in violation of great principles, toils for temporary fame, purchases for himself either total oblivion or eternal infamy, while he who temporarily goes down battling for right principles always deserves, and generally secures, the gratitude of succeeding ages, and will carry with him the sustaining solace of a clean conscience, more precious than all the offices and honors in the gift of man." - Sen. Zacharias Montgomery
After Thomas Jefferson, in his First Inaugural, had enumerated the principles which would guide his Administration in his First Inaugural, he added:
"These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."
So-called "progressives" of the 20th and 21st Centuries, in their arrogance, have removed (censored) the Founders' ideas of liberty from America's textbooks, but technology has outstripped their efforts. Every American school child and adult now has potential access to almost every word the Founders' spoke and wrote, and their ideas are being rediscovered and circulated in a manner unheard of even 10 years ago, as if by the hand of Divine Providence. How else can one account for the events of 2010?
Enduring principles, according to the Founders were just that--enduring and "self-evident."
The sacred Rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power>" - Alexander Hamilton
"Kings or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness, as you confess those invaded by the Stamp Act to be. We claim them from a higher source - from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchments and seals. They are created in us by the decrees of Providence, which establish the laws of our nature. They are born with us, exist with us, and cannot be taken from us by any human power, without taking our lives. In short, they are founded on the immutable maxims of reason and justice." - John Dickinson (Signer of the Constitution of the U. S., as quoted in "Our Ageless Constitution, p. 286)
That very well may be where that quote came from.
I would also add that I STRONGLY believe the following Jefferson quote to be SO timely and SO relevant to our current situation that it needs to be posted as a stand alone thread here on Free Republic! Please consider doing that!
"To preserve [the] independence [of the people,] we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses, and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes, have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account, but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers."
Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:39
And if you’re homeless the Constitution doesn’t apply.
The constitution applies to all of course!
Do you imagine that the homeless do not possess property as defined by Madison in the essay under discussion here?
Written while owning slaves.
One sometimes forgets that almost 200-year "seedbed" for liberty which, then, in its miraculous accomplishments, provided another 200 years of the greatest experiment in liberty the world has ever witnessed.
Yes, written with the knowledge that human bondage was a contradiction of our founding principles.
“Providence punishes national sins with national calamities.” George Mason
But, our original sin was expunged some 80 years later at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
What confounds me is that the people most prone to criticize America today for the sins of 220+ years ago, are the same who support the white men who defend the murder of hundreds of thousands of black babies a year.
Black Slavery was awful. It has been in the past tense for 150 years. Black Murder is now. It is also illogically framed as a fundamental “right.”
Orgs. start up innocently enough and then rot sets in as people figure out how to profit from it until it's septic and they walk away.
Everything’s a right until someone bigger than you wants it.
Thanks for pinging me to the aip website.
Madison’s thoughts are as timely now as when they were written. I really appreciate you bringing them to our attention today.
Peeling away the covering on the constitution....
For the youth among us, we should, it seems, make every effort to present as complete a history as is possible regarding this point, however, in order that we do not assist in undermining the truly unique events of that period in our nation's history. The so-called "progressives" have done enough rewriting of our history in order to set us against each other to allow their counterfeit ideas to prevail and "change" America.
When observing that the Founders were slave owners, one must consider the historical context within which those Founders found themselves, as well as the enormous contributions they and their generations made toward eradicating slavery from these shores and creating a constitutional republic which could, ultimately, affirm and protect the rights of ALL people:
Of special interest in that regard is Jefferson's Autobiography, especially that portion which states:
"The first establishment in Virginia which became permanent was made in 1607. I have found no mention of negroes in the colony until about 1650. The first brought here as slaves were by a Dutch ship; after which the English commenced the trade and continued it until the revolutionary war. That suspended...their future importation for the present, and the business of the war pressing constantly on the (Virginia) legislature, this subject was not acted on finally until the year 1778, when I brought a bill to prevent their further importation. This passed without opposition, leaving to future efforts its final eradication."
Jefferson also observed:
"Where the disease [slavery] is most deeply seated, there it will be slowest in eradication. In the northern States, it was merely superficial and easily corrected. In the southern, it is incorporated with the whole system and requires time, patience, and perseverance in the curative process."
He explained that, "In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by the choice of the county in which I live [Albemarle County, Virginia], and so continued until it was closed by the Revolution. I made one effort in that body for the permission of the emancipation of slaves, which was rejected: and indeed, during the regal [crown] government, nothing [like this] could expect success."
Here is another quotation, cited in David Barton's work on the subject of the Founders and slavery, which also cites the fact that there were laws in the State of Virginia which prevented citizens from emancipating slaves:
"The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other. Our children see this and learn to imitate it; for man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do. If a parent could find no motive either in his philanthropy or his self-love for restraining the intemperance of passion towards his slave, it should always be a sufficient one that his child is present. But generally it is not sufficient. . . . The man must be a prodigy who can retain his manners and morals undepraved by such circumstances. And with what execration should the statesman be loaded who permits one half the citizens thus to trample on the rights of the other. . . . And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep for ever. . . . The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. . . . [T]he way, I hone [is] preparing under the auspices of Heaven for a total emancipation."
A visit to David Bartons web site (www.wallbuilders.com) provides an essential, excellent and factual written record of the Founders' views on the matter of slavery.
One source he does not quote, I believe, is the famous 1775 Edmund Burke "Speech on Conciliation" before the British Parliament, wherein he admonished the Parliament for its Proposal to declare a general enfranchisement of the slaves in America.
Burke rather sarcastically observed that should the Parliament carry through with Proposal before it: "Slaves as these unfortunate black people are, and dull as all men are from slavery, must they not a little suspect the offer of freedom from that very nation (England) which has sold them to their present masters? from that nation, one of whose causes of quarrel with those masters is their refusal to deal any more in that inhuman traffic?" He continued: "An offer of freedom from England would come rather oddly, shipped to them in an African vessel, which is refused an entry into the ports of Virginia or Carolina, with a cargo of three hundred Angola negroes. It would be curious to see the Guinea captain attempting at the same instant to publish his proclamation of liberty and to advertise his sale of slaves."
Ahhh, how knowledge of the facts can alter one's opinion of the revisionist history that has been taught for generations in American schools (including its so-called "law schools"!!)
Human beings are allotted ONLY A TINY SLIVER OF TIME ON THIS EARTH. Each finds the world and his/her own community/nation existing as it is. If lawyers and judges educated themselves (in this day of the Internet) on the history of civilization and America's real history, and if they used that knowledge and the resulting understanding, to do as much on behalf of liberty for ALL people as did Thomas Jefferson and America's other Founders, the world in the next century would be a better place.
Remember, Thomas Jefferson was only 33 years old when he penned our Declaration of Independence which capsulized a truly revolutionary idea into a simple statement that survives to this day to inspire people all over the world to strive for liberty!
Your reference to the Edmund Burke speech prodded me to review it.
He so much as told George III and his ministers, in a gentleman's way of course, that they were vengeful idiots who would deprive the empire and its people of the vast wealth of the American colonies.
“An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another Englishman into slavery.” Edmund Burke to Parliament 22 March, 1775
Yet another GREAT post!
Burke also held a firm understanding of the role of religion in the "fierce spirit of liberty" of the colonists.
Burke and Thatcher - two kindred spirits of American liberty!!
Exploration of the idea of "property" and its meaning in the Madisonian way of thinking reminded me of something from Tobin James Mueller's 1987 "The New Age Politics - a contemporary declaration of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dignity."
In Mueller's section, "Property Rights as Basic Right," he wrote:
"Separating out specific rights from the generic concept of property rights causes them to be transformed into privileges defined by the government. They can no longer be inherent, inalienable, unabridgeable rights upon which no one, including government, can morally or legally infringe."
He then quotes Auberon Herbert, as follows:
"It is impossible to look upon a man as free, so long as others have unlimited command over his property. It is imposssible to separate the rights of actions from the rights of acquiring and possessing. A man acts through and by means of the various substances of the world, and if he is not free to acquire and own these substances as an individual, neither is he free to act as an individual."
Mueller's observations, coming from a contemporary mind not molded by the same background of thought as James Madison, are both interesting and encouraging.
There are encouraging signs, but the "enemies of freedom" have worked like termites to undermine our foundations, and unless the foundations are restored, the light of liberty could be extinguished for a time. Hopefully, the same Divine Providence so revered by America's Founders, will aid in a re-establishment of "self-government" under "the People's" Constitution.
Excellent and well done.
For your list:
My favorite a Justice of the 19th Century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Johnson_Field
He needs to be rehabilitated from the savaging of the progressives and his ideas championed in our law schools.
When the Constitution fell away: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1940/2/2/the-revolution-of-1937-pappropriate-but/
Roosevelt had threatened to pack the Court and then regularly excoriated the media named “Four Horsemen”, while praising the media named “Three Musketeers”. The Court, terrified after being vilified in the press and public, caved to Roosevelt.
Thanks. That Johnson was quite a character.
Roosevelt got away with abusing the court; Hussein will not, at least I hope not.
Fields had it right on property and liberty. We need to get Obama out so that the next appointment to the Court will be from the right in the vein of Thomas if I have any influence.