More on July 17

Greg Weiner’s very useful post on Madison’s efforts to advance a national veto over state legislation offers a good opportunity to make a larger point about the Convention and the Constitution. It is striking how nationalist Madison is in the convention compared to his later efforts as a partisan within Jefferson’s party — a party that can be understood as an heir to the anti-federalist tradition. In the convention debates, as recorded in his Notes, Madison is more forthrightly nationalist than he is in The Federalist, where his argument is more circumspect and iterative.

Recently we learned that Madison’s Notes understate his nationalist founding perspective. Mary Bilder’s recent book, Madison’s Hand, shows how the Notes which were originally confidential, were edited by Madison for publication well after the founding to better align interpretations of the Constitution with the state centered projects of Jefferson’s party. Bilder’s book suggests that Madison the founder, and the convention more generally, were even more nationalist than the proposal for a negative on state laws suggests.

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