Daniel D. (Daniel Dewey) Barnard.

Lecture on the character and services of James Madison online

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Albany, March 1, 1837.
To THE Hon. Daniel D. Barnard,

SIR, — Tlie Executive Committee of the ''Young Men's Association for Mutual
Improvement in the City of Albany," have availed themselves of the earliest oppor-
tunity to unite in a tender of their warmest thanks to you, for the very able, inter-
esting and eloquent Lecture delivered by you before the Association last evening,
on the Character and Services of the late James Madison.

The Committee are confident that they are not less actuated by regard to the
wishes of the public, and the interests of the Association, than by their own feel-
ings when they most respectfully and earnestly solicit your compliance with the re-
quest contained in the following resoUuian, which they have unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That the thanks of the Association be presented to the Hon. DaiMEL
D. Barnard for the very instructive and eloquent Lecture delivered by him before
the Association last evening, on the Character and Services of the late James
Madison; and that he be requested to furnish a copy for publication.
With great respect.

We have the honor to be,

Sir, Your most obedient servants,

John Davis, T. W. LockWood,

John V. S. Hazard, Henry Russell,
Robert L. Kearney, Jas. H. Prentice,
C. W. Bender, Chas. T. Smyth,

RoBT. H. Pruyn, Samuel Cauy, Jr.,

Dan'l Fry, Chas. M. Jenkins,

A. 31. Stkong, Jacob Hochsirasser,

Marshall Pepoon, John S. Goold,
E. B. Season, G. Melville,

Henry Q. Havvley, Wm. G. Deyermand.

Albany, March 2d, 1837.

I do not feel myself at liberty to withhold from publication the Lecture which I
had the iionor to deliver before your Association on Tuesday, after the strong and
very flattering manner in which you have been pleased to solicit it.

I pray you to accept my acknowledgments for the terms of kindness and courtesy
employed in your communication; and allow me to add the expression of my sin-
cere admiration for the Institution which you represent, and my earnest and confi-
dent hope that its existence and its benefits may be perpetual.

With great respect,

Gentlemen, Your obd't serv't,

D. D. Barnard.
To John Davis, Esq., and others.

Executive Committee, Sfc,


The benefits which spring from the existence of a great
and good man, to his country and kind, are only half bestow-
ed in his Hfe-time. The rest are the purchase of his death.
This event, by which the name and deeds of common men
drop into obhvion, exalts and hallows a superior character,
and gives him a presence and a power in the world which he
never has, or can have, without it. In truth, his real and ef-
fective existence, even on the earth, seems only to begin
with his death. What precedes is, often times at least, little
more than life in embryo ; life in a state of development ;
life in effort to attain maturity; life half concealed and half
revealed, half acknowledged and half denied, half trusted and
half doubted ; an equivocal condition of being which death
alone resolves and fixes. Having past that ordeal, he be-
comes a reality; an object understood, and felt, and reveren-
ced. He is permitted to occupy his true position ; he re-
ceives credit for what he was and is; the age and the period
become impressed with the wisdom and potency of his recor-
ded words and acts ; he pervades the general mind with the
influence of his name and his example ; and living in the
multiplied and varied life of all his received opinions, and all
his admired virtues, and in the body of his beneficent works,
his existence becomes significant, and substantial, and effec-
tive, beyond every thing which ever belongs to the physical
condition of humanity.

Mr. Madison was more fortunate certainly than most oth-
ers in commanding largely the respect and homage of his fel-
low-men even amid the coUisions and the strifes of active and
exciting business in great affairs, and in out-living most of the

rivalries and jealousies which a career of high public honor
and ser\'ice never fails to generate. Ills services were ac-
knowledged, and in some degree rewarded : and his opinions
carried such weight with them as always belongs to the ema-
nations of a master mind. Tlic Country saw, and to some
extent the world saw. tliat they were deeply indebted to him.
They were in the actual possession and enjoyment of bles-
sings of his procuring. They could not wholly mistake the
hand which Providence had employed to help them to his
bounties. But after all, his was the common lot. The
world builds no monuments to thcliving — but to the dead only.
It was necessary that he should set the seal of his death to
all he had thought and all he had wrought for us. It wasnc-
ccssaiy that he should thus place his own character and his
own opinions beyond the possibility of change, and beyond
the reach of accident. It was necessary that he shouhl give
us this last solemn pletige of his sincerity, of his own confi-
dence in the propriety and value of his puldic course, and of
his own conviction of the necessity and imj)ortancc of his
public principles and his public measures. Dying, as he did,
with all his faculties fresh about him, and yet, from the man-
ner in which his term of being was protracted into a quiet
old age, with abundant opportunity and occasion to review
the past, under all the advantages of light from experience,
and of light from the great future into which his vision was
nowextenfled, there is something peculiarly solemn, and aflec-
ting, and sacred, in the sanctions which are thus given to his
opinions, and to all the varied etforls of his life for the good
of his country, and of mankind.

And here, my friends, are the benefits of his death. We
are not called to mourn for that event. On the contraiy,
while we do not forget that the sympathies of the nation are
due for the more intimate and affecting ties which have been
broken by it, we may yet rejoice — rejoice in the soberness of
a chastened and conscious feeling of gratitude to God, as well
for the graceful, becoming and appropriate death of this emi-
nent man, as for his excellent and invaluable fife. The beau-

tiful volume of his being is closed — it is written up, to the last
syllable of its admired contents. We have it as it dropt from
his dying hand, with the last touches, the delicate and exqui-
site finish, of that faithful and practised hand upon it. Oh
how full it is of the lessons of wisdom and of virtue ; so sub-
lime and yet so simple ; so severe and yet so attractive; so
uniform in its tenor and character and so wonderfully consis-
tent throughout, and yet so simple and so various ; how mod-
est and yet how resolved and firm in its tone at the com-
mencement ; how sublime and commanding in its intermedi-
ate passages ; and how surpassingly touching and eloquent in
its close !

The limits of an occasion like the present will not allow me
to dwell in detail on all the particulars of Mr. Madison's life
and career ; and this is of the less consequence now, since
they are already before the public, as far as they can well be,
short of an extended and regular memoir, in the most attrac-
tive and delightful forms.* I must confine myself chiefly to
some of the more prominent portions of his history.

What I desire, on this occasion, is, so to arrange and pre-
sent the materials in hand as to shew, at least in the way of a
just and necessary inference, by the instance and example of
Mr. Madison, what are, and ought to be, the true character-
istics of an American statesman — to shew, especially to the
young men of this Association, what a public man, in this
country, should be, and what he may be, and when, and
when only, he is entitled to receive, and may expect to re-
ceive, the calm approving judgment of the world.

James Madison was descended from a highly respectable
and opulent family in Virginia. He was born on the 5th of
March, 1751, (O. S.) in King George County, though his pa-
ternal home, as well as his own through life, was in Orange
County. At twelve years of age he was sent to a public school,
but he finished his preparatory course under the instructions
of a private tutor, in his father's house. It fell to the honor
of New Jersey to furnish him with his collegiate education.

Mr. Adams' Eulogy on Mr. Madison, and that by Gov. Barbour.


After two years only spent at Nassau Hall, he received his
first literary degree. This was in 1771. He was now twen-
ty ; and he returned to his home as much a student and pupil
as he had left it. For four years, he devoted himself to the
great work of self-instruction, and self-discipline. In this
period he examined tlio foundations of legal science,
and he studied and mastered the secrets which belong to the
histor>' of great nations and of great men. It was at this
time, beyond doubt, that he formed his own character, and
prepared the basis on which his future greatness was built.
In the Spring of 1773, he entered for the first time on public
employment. In nearly all the Colonics, even at that early
pericjd, the authority of the old government establishments,
still in furm preserved, was little relished and less regarded.
By a sim[)le process, almost without seeming to do so, the
people resumed the power of government, to a large extent,
and excrcis.Ml it through their "Conmiittecs of Public Safe-
ty." Mr. M.vnisoN was a member of the body, constituted
under that name, for his native county. Of this committee
his father was the chairman. At the very first meeting, an
occasion presented itself, which demanded the employment
of his pen ; nor did he allow the occasion to pass, without
makinfj public the solemn declaration and opinion of that
body, that Virginia, and every other Colony, must and would
make common cause with Massachusetts, in the war which
had already begun its desolations in her borders.

The next year Mr. Madison, being then twenty-five years
of age, appeared as a member of the State Convention of
Virginia — a body of men who erected monuments to them-
selves which can never perish — and he was a distinguished ac-
tor in all its great achievements. He participated in the act by
which their delegates in Congress were instructed, so early
as the 15th of May, to move the measure of Independence.
He was a member of the Committee that prepared and re-
ported the Declaration of Rights which was adopted by the
Convention on the 12th of June. And the Constitution of
the State, formed on the basis of that Declaration, and adopt-


ed on the 29th of the same month — the first example of a
written Constitution of government, emanating from the peo-
ple as the true source of power — that Constitution, though
not originally drafted by him, yet passed through his hands
and received his corrections and emendations before it was
presented to the Convention.

The next year (1777) on the meeting of the new Legisla-
ture, he was elected a member of the Council of State, and
he continued in the discharge of the delicate and responsible
duties of that office till the close of the year 1779, when the
scene of his public labors was about to be changed. He was
elected to the Congress of the Confederated States, and he
took his seat in that body in March 1780. The articles of
Confederation did not allow him to serve the country contin-
uously in that capacity, longer than until November 1783.
While in that station, he saw the war of the Revolution out,
peace restored, and independence established. He was a
leading and conspicuous man in all that related to the prose-
cution of the war while it lasted, so far as measures for
its prosecution depended on Congress, and in whatever could
promote and ensure its successful and honorable termination.
With the peace came a new state of things. The States felt
themselves to be independent, each for itself; and they chose
to manifest and maintain their individual independence, by
neglecting the just requisitions of Congress, and by refusing
to vest it with new and indispensablij powers. In truth,
when the Americans had conquered independence and a peace,
they seemed no longerto be a nation. A people cannot claim
to be a nation which is without the means of raising a reve-
nue for its own support, and without the means of providing
for the payment of the public debt, and the establishment of
public credit, and without the means of meeting and dis-
charging its treaty obligations. On this subject, before his
term expired, Mr. Madison prepared an address which Con-
gress transmitted to the States. It was a mighty effort, full
of argument, and wisdom, and strength, and power, and per-
suasion, and terror — and it was not wholly in vain. It did



not induce the States to yield the required powers to the Con-
federation. But, as a lasi eftbrt on that point, it prepared the
minds of thinking men throughout the country, to turn their
attention to the necessity of something better than the Con-
federation. On this high matter it is evident, the thoughts
of Mr. Madison had ah-oady begun to settle.

From Congress Mr. Madison passed into the I^egislature
of Virginia — only, however, to await the period when, his
disqualification being removed, he should be returned again
to Congress. But before this latter event took place, for he
resumed his seat in Congress in Ftbruary, 1787, he with oth-
ers had succeeded in setting measures on foot which were des-
tined in their progress, ver}' soon to extinguish the Confedera-
tion itself, and set up a Constitutional Cuvernment in its place.
This, it seems to me, was the great and crowning service ren-
dered by Mr. Madiso.n to his country. To this service he de-
voted himself: yet he did not enter on it rashly — he did not
rush with inconsiderate and fatal haste on the prejudices and
obstacles which stood in his way — but he never lost sight of
his object.

When he first entered the Legislature of Virginia, the
times were not yet quite ripe for any movement towards his
great purpose : and other objects for a while demanded his
attention. The great jirinciple of Religious Liberty was in
danger, and required to be established, in the Commonwealth;
and it was established by his efforts and influence. A most
embarrassing and nearly fatal difficulty, relating to the dispo-
sal of the Public Lands, required to be adjusted ; and it was
adjusted under his lead. The Statute I^aws of the Slate, re-
quired to be revised throughout, and made to square with the
new principles and new forms which had been introduced into
the government ; and the revision was mainly effected by

But at length, the time came to move in that great matter,
which viially concerned the whole countiy. Mr. Madison
first brought forward a Resolution to instruct the Delegates
from Virginia in Congress, to agitate again, in that body, the


subject of the enlargement of its powers. This was in No-
vember 1785. The Resohition, after having passed the House
of Delegates, was re-considered, and there, suffered to sleep.
It served the purpose of calling attention in that quarter
anew, to the fatal inadequacy of the Confederation. In Jan-
uary 1786, on the suggestion of Mr. Madison, it was propo-
sed to constitute a distinct body, consisting of Commissioners
from the several States, to consider the trade of the United
States, and the means of establishing a uniform system of
commercial regulations. This measure was adopted, and Vir-
ginia appointed her Commissioners, of whom, Mr. Madison
was one.

Under this proposition, Commissioners from five of the
States, met at Annapolis, on the 11th of September, 1786.
The Convention dissolved itself on the 14th of the same
month, having first adopted a report, drawn by Mr. Madison,
£md which was transmitted to each of the States and to Con-
gress, setting forth the reasons of the Convention, for declin-
ing to proceed to business, and earnestly recommending the
appointment of new Delegates, with enlarged and more ample
powers, to meet at Philadelphia, on the second Monday of
the following May. This Report was promptly responded to,
by Congress, and on its recommendation, Delegates were ap-
pointed by the States, who met in Convention, at Philadel-
phia, and proceeded to their great work, on the 25th of May,

Of this Convention, Mr. Madison was a member. With
him, more than with any other man, it originated. To him,
as much as to any man, are the country and the world in-
debted for the successful issue of its deliberations. It was
right that he should at last survive every man who had helped
to compose it. I shall not undertake to say a word in honor
of this Convention. It is stamped with an unapproachable
excellence and greatness, which mock at commendation and
praise. The Constitution, having been first revised in its lan-
guage, and its parts arranged into order and harmony, by a
Committee, of which, Mr. Madison was one, was finally re-


ported, and became the act of the Convention on the 17th of
September, 1787.

But the most difficult part of the achievement, -which ]Mr.
Madison and liis compatriots had taken in hand, rcniaiucd to
be accomplished. They liad undertaken to bring tlic peoples
of thirteen independent sovereignties, for so at least they es-
teemed themselves to be, to consent to form themselves into
one people, under one government. They had now framed
the instrument \vhich, being adopted and ratified, was to ef-
fect this mighty change; and it remained that they must pre-
sent themselves before the people, to gain if possible, that free
acceptance and consent, without which, they had labored up
to the present moment in vain. They had built the ark, and
it remained to be seen, whether the people would enter it.
Her3 was an experiment to be tried, such as had never been
attempted before, and in its success a moral spectacle was
exhibited, such as hitherto, the world had never witnessed,
where the agents and actors were merely human.

The common Government nf England had been thrown off,
and the States were free. The mass of the people in the
States rejoiced in this freedom, not only because ihcy were
relieved from the actual oppressions of the British govern-
ment, but because they felt themselves, to a certain extent,
relieved from all government. It was a prevalent impression
undoubtedly — not to call it a sentiment — that every species of
foreign power was a species of tyranny, and they regarded
every sort of authority as foreign, which did not manifestly
originate within the territorial limits of the State where it was
exercised. The very idea of Liberty — of that Liberty for
which they had toiled and fought, and which they now wor-
shipped — consisted mainly, perhaps, certainly in part, in the
notion of an entire personal exemption from tiio fact and the
possibility of all extraneous control. Whatever they permit-
ted of government over them in any form, was yet something
with which a stranger must not intermeddle. The govern-
ment must be within themselves and of themselves. Even
the Confederation had become an object of jealousy, or of


contempt. From the moment that the common danger which,
by surrounding them on every side, had driven them into
something hke union, had compelled them to range themselves
shoulder to shoulder and stand close, in order to make their
resistance effectual — from the moment that common impul-
sion was suspended — was no longer felt — the palpable dispo-
sition was manifested in various quarters, to count the Confe-
deration as an agency that had served its purpose ; at least
that it should not be resuscitated by any new grant of power,
but be suffered to languish and die, if die it would, of its own
inherent and constitutional debility.

Now it was communities of men, holding sentinients and
indulgino: feelinos like these, to whom the Constitution of the
Convention at Philadelphia, was to be presented for accep-
tance and ratification. This Constitution was framed to act
directly on the individuals composing these communities, and
it was framed to make the Government a strong and effi-
cient one ; a Government, moreover, which was to interfere
in an eminent degree with the authority of the state govern-
ments themselves. This government was to possess, by
transfer, the very attributes which, while they remained with
the States, were chiefly, if not alone, essential to their sove-
reignty. To this extent, at least, the sovereignty of tlie States
was to be yielded up ; and to this extent was the power over
the subjects of that sovereignty to be transferred to another
and a distant government — one, too, which was contemplated
to be so completely foreign to every State, that the very seat
of its power — the place of its visible presence — was to be
isolated from the territory of all the States ; for it was to pos-
sess an absolute and exclusive jurisdiction, for this purpose
over a District of ten miles square. The Constitution and
laws of tills government were to be supreme over all other
constitutions and laws ; and having the power to make laws,
it was to have the power, both to interpret and to enforce
them. It was to have power to impose taxes, and power to
regulate commerce, and power to coin money, and power to
define and punish crimes, and power to form treaties and al-


liancc?. and power to make war and conclude peace — power,
in short, and in some cases exclusive power, over the proper-
ty, and the persons, and the lives of all who should become
subject to its authority — power to prescribe and power to
compel, power to judge and power to execute.

And besides ; IJiis was, indeed, to be a representative and
republican government ; but while the people of one Slate and
the State itself were to be represented in it, yet so were the
people of every other State,and all the other States themselves,
to be also, and equally represented in it. And it miii;ht hap-
pen, to say the least, that one .section of the Union would
make laws for another section, and that one State, and the
people of that State, would be subjected to the operation of
measures, touching the very highest interests, which not only
were not the measures of their own immediate representa-
tives, but which those representatives had op()Osed, and against
which. they had protested — a possible evil, moreover, this,
which was not likely to be made lighter or less liable to hap-
pen, in consequence of the inherent and almost illimitable
capal)ility of extension and expansion which the government
was to possess.

Undersuch circumstances, my friends, the men of the Con-
stitution brought forward their system. They put the Con-
stitution boldly into every man's hand, and asked him to ac-
cept of its provisions. They did not disguise its operation
and effect. It was to impose great lestraints on personal lib-
erty. It was to place large powers over property, and per-
son, and life, in the hands of those who should exercise its
functions — and possibly, at times, in the hands of persons who
would be strangers to the individuals, and the interests aflbct-
ed, as distant in feeling and sympathy, as they might be in
habitati(jn. Still they fearlessly asked the people to accept
it. It demanded the free surrender of privileges and immu-
nities which were held in more than common estimation ;
yet they did not hesitate to ask the people to put their hands
to the act of cession. It was a garment purposely fitted, when
once assumed, to operate largely in restraint of human ac-


tion ; and they insisted that the people should put it on.—
They came to the people with the language of truth, and of
sincerity, and of earnest and high appeal. Government is a
restraint on human freedom, but governments are necessary
things. All time and all experience have established this one
universal truth at least ; — That men must consent to govern
themselves, or they must submit to be governed. Wherever,
and whenever they prove themselves unfit, unable, or unwil-
ling to establish and conduct their own government, a gov-
ernment of power, established and conducted for them, and
without their agency or consent, follows of necessary conse-

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Online LibraryDaniel D. (Daniel Dewey) BarnardLecture on the character and services of James Madison → online text (page 1 of 4)