“THE CRUCIAL FIRST DRAFT OF THE FEDERAL BILL OF RIGHTS”: ONE OF THE RARE EARLIEST PRINTINGS OF MADISON’S PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION— THE FOUNDATION OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS— PRINTED IN THE GAZETTE OF THE UNITED STATES NEWSPAPER ONLY DAYS AFTER MADISON PRESENTED THEM TO CONGRESS
(BILL OF RIGHTS) (CONSTITUTION) MADISON, James. The Following are the Amendments to the New Constitution, proposed by the Hon. Mr. Maddison [sic]… IN: The Gazette of the United States. New York: Published by John Fenno, Saturday, June 13, 1789. Folio newspaper, single folded sheet (measures 10-1/4 by 16-1/4 inches); pp. . Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Exceptionally rare and important June 13, 1789 issue of The Gazette of the United States newspaper, containing one of the very earliest printings of Madison’s proposed amendments to the new Constitution, the foundation of the Bill of Rights. This newspaper printing of the full text of Madison’s amendments precedes any official government printing and was issued only one day after the first newspaper appearance. Printed only five days after Madison presented his Bill of Rights to the First Congress, with guarantees of religious freedom, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to bear arms. This is “the crucial first draft of the Federal Bill of Rights… Every provision of the Bill of Rights is based directly upon Madison’s original draft” (Schwartz).
James Madison, America’s fourth president, is renowned as the Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. “The role of the federal Bill of Rights in American constitutional development has been monumental… Without the commitment of James Madison, who drafted the amendments, and then, virtually begging, guided them through the House of Representatives, there would have been no federal Bill of Rights” (Conley, Bill of Rights and the States, 46-7). “The decision to omit a federal bill of rights almost proved fatal to the new Constitution… [and it] became the single most important issue during the year-long debate over ratification of the Constitution. Federalists primarily justified the lack of a bill of rights by arguing that the Constitution created a federal government with strictly delegated powers… [so] rights would not be endangered… Furthermore, if certain rights were in fact protected in the Constitution, that would indicate that the government had implied powers over these rights, and that any right not listed might be considered as unprotected… Antifederalists drew on history and human nature to justify the need for a bill of rights. The corrupting nature of power required written protections for liberties specifying the boundaries which government could not cross… Antifederalists argued that the Constitution would create a government with dangerous, infinite powers” (Schechter, Roots of the Republic, 425-27). Some states refused to ratify the Constitution without the promise of a bill of rights, and though he had previously opposed it, “Madison promised at a critical point in the ratification debate that if the Constitution was approved, he would personally see that a bill of rights was added to the document” (Lutz, Publius 22:40).
On June 8, 1789, in the early weeks of the First Congress, Madison rose in the House of Representatives and “delivered his famous speech explaining his proposed amendments and why they were necessary…. Madison delivered what was, in effect, the sponsor’s statement on the legislative measure that was to become the federal Bill of Rights…. Madison then read the ‘amendments which have occurred to me, proper to be recommended by Congress to the State Legislatures.’ Here we have the crucial first draft of the federal Bill of Rights. The Madison proposals covered all of the articles which were eventually included in the Bill of Rights, including much of the language that was ultimately adopted…. If we analyze the amendments introduced by Madison, we find that they cover all of the articles which eventually became the federal Bill of Rights… [They] have survived substantially in their original form as the federal Bill of Rights itself. Every provision of the Bill of Rights is based directly upon Madison’s original draft. Where changes were made during the congressional debate, they relate to form rather than substance” (Schwartz, Bill of Rights II:1006-8).
The earliest printings of the full text of Madison’s proposed amendments to the Constitution were in three New York newspapers, all of which are exceptionally rare: the June 12, 1789 New York Daily Advertiser and the June 13, 1789 Gazette of the United States and New-York Daily Gazette. Earlier newspaper accounts of Madison’s June 8th speech, such as the June 10th issue of Gazette of the United States, did not include the text of the amendments.
Madison’s amendments appear on page 3 of this July 13, 1789 issue of the Gazette of the United States (under the section “Sketch of Proceedings of Congress”) with the heading: “The following are the Amendments to the New Constitution, proposed by the Hon. Mr. Maddison [sic]— as mentioned in our last.” Madison’s resolution reads: “RESOLVED, That the following amendments ought to be proposed by Congress, to the legislatures of the States, to become, if ratified by three fourths thereof, part of the constitution of the United States.” This is followed by the full text of Madison’s proposed nine amendments, several of which contain multiple clauses. His first amendment proclaims that “all power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from the people,” that government is instituted for the benefit of the people, and that they have an unalienable right to reform or change their government. His fourth amendment includes guarantees of religious freedom, freedom of speech and of the press, freedom to assemble, and the right to keep and bear arms. Also included are defenses against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to confront witnesses against the accused at trial, protections against self-incrimination, safeguards against double jeopardy, the right to a speedy and public trial, as well as provisions on the separation of powers and reserving for the states powers not delegated by the Constitution.
Madison’s amendments were sent to committee that July, regrouped into 17 propositions, and fiercely debated. Madison originally intended his amendments as alterations and additions to the text of the Constitution, but in August the articles were reframed to stand separately. The Senate subsequently made changes to the House version, and the amendments were reduced from 17 to 12, of which ten were ultimately ratified by the states. “It took two and a half years for the necessary three-fourths of the states to ratify ten of the twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution, which together are now known as the Bill of Rights” (Lutz, 43).
“At the time Madison presented his proposals, the First Congress of the United States— which had been in session in New York City a little less than ten weeks— had already established working arrangements to have important documents printed for circulation to its members. Madison’s proposals do not, however, appear to have been so printed,” in that no such congressional document is known to exist, and the July 12th and 13th New York newspapers were the earliest printings. Though “Madison’s proposals were also printed in a section covering June 8 in The Congressional Register… [this] quite definitely was not prior to their newspaper publication, for [Thomas Lloyd] was lagging considerably in his printing schedule… Madison did not begin sending copies to his correspondents until after the text had appeared in newspapers, and stray phrases in his letters indicate that it was the newspaper form that he enclosed to them… There is very little in the content of the final Bill of Rights that did not exist originally in Madison’s proposals” (Eaton, New Colophon II:VII, 279-280). John Fenno’s Gazette of the United States was the Federalist newspaper of record, generally the first to press with news from the First Congress, then meeting in New York. “In 1789, when Fenno proposed to publish a newspaper that would represent the Constitution and Washington’s administration in a favorable light, the Federalists were quick to lend their support” (Remer, 26). The first issue of Fenno’s Gazette appeared in April 15, 1789, less than two months before this issue, promising to print “essays upon the great subjects of Government in general, and the Federal Legislature in particular; also upon the national and local Rights of the American Citizens, as founded upon the Federal or State Constitutions.”
Minor stab marks at spine from being bound at some point, not touching text; minor foldlines, a few spots, one faint dampstain. A lovely, near-fine copy, scarce and most desirable in such excellent condition.