Accountability

James Madison was a reluctant father of the Bill of Rights – he wasn’t convinced the the Constitution needed amendments. However, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on October 17th 1788, Madison outlined two  interesting benefits a Bill of Rights could produce.

1) The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free government, and, as they become incorporated with the national sentiment, counter-act the impulses of interest and passion

2) Although it be generally true, as above stated, the the danger of oppression lies in the interested majorities of the people rather than in usurped acts of the government, yet there may be occasions on which the evil may spring from the latter source; and, on such, a Bill of Rights will be a good ground for an appeal to the sense of the community.

History has proven Madison’s friendly analysis correct. Today the Bill of Rights regularly thwarts the heedless solutions of impassioned majorities, and frequently provides a legal springboard from which to challenge misguided government policies. Americans must always remain thankful that the government is accountable to the Constitution and Bill of Rights at all times.

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