Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reconsidering Luther Martin


A review of Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet, The Life of Luther Martin, by Bill Kauffman, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2008

“Happiness is preferable to the Splendour of a national Government”

 Luther Martin to the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787, Kauffman at 41

This book takes no prisoners. Nor does it gloss the favored actors. It sides with Martin’s stance at the 1787 Convention but does not disregard his faults. As for the usual suspects – Madison, Hamilton, Wilson and Morris, Washington et al  – Kauffman simply sets the record clear. The usual nomenclature is proven false. Madison was not the Father of the Constitution. He was severely blunted, just not decisively. Instead, a vaguely nationalist hybrid of Madison and Martin came about, absent all defining nomenclature, e.g. “national” or “federal”. It’s been a battle that in the countering of Time and despite Jefferson’s later intrusion, Madison has won.

The inexorable excretions of human nature in the turmoil of political and commercial battle would finally yield what Madison, Wilson, Washington and Hamilton wanted: a nationalized State dwarfing and dismissing the sovereignty of the individual States. Today’s Constitution, as it runs our government in the hands of national politicians and courts, is decisively Madison’s Constitution. His imperial twin pillars: 1) negating the sovereignty of the States and 2) negating State legislation by the national legislature (or courts, a later addendum), have come true. Only a modicum of sovereignty continues to reside in the States.

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