And I'll Be Arguing with Myself, Whoa-oh, Arguing with Myself...

George Washington, having come to admire James Madison's intellect during the debates over constitutional ratification, asked him to draft his first inaugural address. And he did so.

Then Congress, in which James Madison was sitting, asked him to draft a response to the president's inaugural address. And he wrote that, which was essentially a response to his own speech.

Having become aware of this congressional response, Washington felt the need to have a comeback. And who do you think you turned to, in order to respond to Congress?

You guessed it: James Madison!

So at this point, Madison was three levels deep into an argument he was conducting essentially on his own. Even in our age of meta-ness, I don't think we have anything to rival that scenario from 1789.

(Source: Kevin Gutzman, James Madison and the Making of America, p. 243.)

11 comments:

  1. I like Gutzman, he seems to be a pretty good guy. He also happens to be considered an "authority" on Madisonian history, but I have not read this book (I've only read some of his articles and the book that he did with Woods). What's your impression so far (on this book)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well, it was less of a rebuttal (like we do nowadays for the State of the Union) and more of a response. Washington said in his inaugural address "I think there should be amendments to the constitution." Then the House of Representatives responded "Good idea! We'll look into it." And then Washington responded, "Good! I look forward to seeing the amendments you propose!" So Madison, although writing on both sides of the correspondence, was arguing for the same point, which is that there should be amendments. Amendments was something that Madison was much more enthusiastically in support of than Washington was, which is why both the President and the House of Representatives wanted him to enunciate why they were such a good idea, because he was the most passionate on the issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Well, it was less of a rebuttal (like we do nowadays for the State of the Union) and more of a response."

      You are correct: in fact, if you look above, you will see *I* used "response," not "rebuttal"!

      Delete
    2. I was quibbling with your word "arguing". It was more like agreeing with himself. "Here's an idea" "Wow that's a great idea!" "I know, right!"

      Delete
    3. Yeah, but I wanted to quote Billy Idol.

      Delete
    4. Or, paraphrase Billy Idol, rather.

      Delete
    5. What song would that be?

      Delete
    6. Dancing with myself.

      Delete
    7. How did I miss that?!

      Delete
    8. The "whoa-ho" was my attempt to leave a clue.

      Delete
  3. Thanks!

    FWIW: I really like Billy's last record: "Devil's Playground", except the first two songs. And I really love his "Plastic Jesus" cover.

    ReplyDelete