To the Honorable James Madison
I am writing to request your help and guidance. It has been some 230 years since you wrote the Constitution of the United States of America, a document I believe you had intended to establish a permanent, cohesive Democratic Republic — the first of its kind on the face of the earth. In that document, you and your colleagues outlined a government that would be subservient to the people, deriving its powers from the consent of the governed.
Having been through decades of rule by a despotic king and parliament you did not elect, you laid out a framework for a government with very limited powers. Instead of creating a powerful, centralized government, your Constitution instead set forth a system that would ensure the people would retain their natural rights and individual states would retain their own sovereignty and control over their own destinies.
Your Constitution specified a government that would be in balance, with an elected bicameral legislature designed to ensure rural, agricultural states would not be ruled by densely populated urban states.
Your document laid forth three branches of government, with each branch having the power to curb the power of the others — designed to prevent any branch of government from developing the power to take away the rights of the people or of the states.
And while the Constitution details very limited powers granted to the government, it also provides for the flexibility of being able to be amended by the people when they determine their freedom and security might be better served with new powers they choose to grant to the government, or powers they wish to take back from it.
In short, you wrote the Constitution to secure the blessings of liberty to yourself and your posterity, to create upon this earth a great experiment: a nation of individuals who would self-govern, where the government would never be allowed to steal the freedom and wealth of its people.
Well, sir, I regret to inform you that your experiment has failed. Your Constitution didn’t work.
If the goal of the Constitution was to form a government that had limited power over its people and would never grow to deprive people of their liberty, their property and their lives, then it was a failure.
Don’t get me wrong, it had a really good run.
The nation you helped to found quickly grew to become the most powerful nation on earth. Freedom was let loose upon this land, and the ingenuity of the people of the United States, unencumbered by a controlling, centralized government was able to build the most prosperous, wealthy and powerful country that has ever existed in the world.
With liberty assured to its citizens, the country you built has been to the moon. We have lifted billions of people around the world out of poverty. We have harnessed the power of the atom. We have vehicles with the power of 800 horses under the hood.
Mr. Madison, the nation you envisioned in your Constitution was real for a while. With the government out of their way, the people did what you thought they would: they flourished.
However, it didn’t last.
Today in the nation you founded, we have lost those freedoms you detailed so thoroughly. The Constitution, designed to ensure a government of limited powers, is largely ignored and forgotten. The government no longer feels compelled to pay any heed to your document. The people of your nation are no longer secure in their own homes.
The government listens to all their conversations without warrants. The government steals their wealth at its own whim. The government’s authority is not limited by the Constitution you wrote. Today in your nation, legislators who stand in defense of your Constitution are openly ridiculed in the media and on the floor of Congress for having old-fashioned thinking that is out of date. The government of today dictates to us what we are allowed to eat, to watch, to say, to purchase.
Our government determines for us what medicine we can take when we’re sick, what our religious leaders are allowed to say from the pulpit, how fast we can drive our cars and what firearms we are allowed to have to defend ourselves. Our government openly spies upon us, forces our children to go to schools that it controls and takes our wealth at the point of a gun to fund endless wars across every continent on earth.
In short, Mr. Madison, I’m writing to beg for your help. I need your help to understand. You see, you wrote the Constitution with what appears to be a fatal flaw: in order to fulfill its function of ensuring a government with limited powers that is incapable of taking away the rights of its citizens, it relies upon people.
The Constitution holds so much promise for a people, but it also relies on them to live it, to enforce it.
Today, if a Senator or House member stands to speak of limited government, they are shouted down as someone who must hate children, or must hate minorities or women. Today, our government is expected by the people to solve every perceived problem for every person and group on earth. Today, the government must control the weather, they must end disease and poverty, they are expected to ensure people don’t get fat, don’t get addicted to drugs, don’t get concussions playing sports. The government must control hate and ensure nobody’s feelings get hurt. Today, people willingly trade their freedom for the illusion of safety.
This great evil — where did it come from? How did it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who is doing this? Who is killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might have known?
Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine?
Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? Did you imagine the evil in your era, James?
I suppose it is unfair to judge you too harshly. After all, you did design and build the most powerful, free and wealthy nation that has ever existed. You designed a country that would see human beings for the wonderful creatures they are, that would respect their nature as a species, that would let them think and act freely.
Your document, in its simple brilliance, respects man as man is by his nature: a self-aware being of free will, endowed by its creator with inalienable rights that are neither granted to it nor dependent upon any other person or group. Rights that belong to each of us simply because we exist at all.
I wonder what you might say to us today. What might you say to Senator Mike Lee or Ted Cruz or Congressmen Thomas Massie, just before they stand up on the floor of Congress to defend some passage in your Constitution? What might you say to a school teacher when she gets to the chapter in the textbook that covers the Founding Fathers?
What might you say to me, sir? I, who have been a staunch defender of your document for most of my adult life. I, who have defended those in government who still try to live by your document?
Maybe you’d say:
Dear Mr. Beck, thank you for your note.
Sorry, the whole Free Nation thing didn’t work out, good luck in the gulags.
Or maybe you’d say:
Don’t give up on it, keep on defending your liberty, as we did in my day when a government stood against us to snuff it out.
Or maybe you’d tell us all the simple truth. The Constitution is just writing on a piece of paper. It only has the power you choose to grant it. Your freedom and liberty are not guaranteed by a piece of paper, nor could they ever be. They are secured and guaranteed by each of you, acting and working together to ensure your fellow citizens don’t act to deprive you of them. Maybe you’d say:
It is not that the Constitution failed the people, Mr. Beck. It’s that the people have failed The Constitution.
– Glenn Beck