With special thanks to Constituting America and Heritage College, we will be taking part in their project:The U.S. Constitution: A Reader. It is a 90 day challenge to learn and dive deeper into understanding the Constitution.
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James Madison’s Essay: “Property”
James Madison was the fourth President of the United States. Before that, he was elected as a Virginia delegate where he worked tirelessly in the formation of the Constitution. Known as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison also was the leader of the pack when it came time to pen the first ten amendments, what we know today as the Bill of Rights. Some of his commentaries at the time, including his essays for The Federalist Papers, were published in newspapers and discussed at length the Constitution.
One essay that Madison published was simply titled “Property.” In this commentary, James Madison wished to speak on the idea of property rights in connection with man’s natural rights. Speaking very little on the idea that property was a natural right, Madison spent time discussing the rights of the property owner and the intrusion of government.
So, what were the rights of the property owner? More importantly, what is property? Well, it is anything that one would place a value on which would give its claim-holder dominion. If it be his, his natural right to protect what was his is just that, natural. For anyone to have claim of something, it is only natural that they wish to protect it. Also, you are at liberty to do with it what you may.
So, what does the government have to do with property? Taxes! The government looked at property in similar fashion as industry would look to a product being produced. Their view was that if they were being paid taxes, it was as if they were the producer which would give them certain rights. Madison understood this to be incorrect. The property owner had full rights, and none to the government who wished to do with the property what they may.
The foundation of property rights had been laid out by Madison, as did many other rights. These rights, we as Americans, have come to know and love. It separates us from other nations, and it is the magnetism that draws others to want to be Americans.
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