James Madison And Henry Lee The First Amendment Analysis

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James Madison and Henry Lee’s respective reports on the Virginia Resolutions embody two distinctive interpretations of the First Amendment. Lee defines the First Amendment as an extension of the Common Law inherited from Great Britain, while Madison argues that the First Amendment is designed to protect the right of the American people to check and balance the government of the United States. Madison’s Report on the Virginia Resolutions upholds the notion of popular sovereignty and the idea that Congress can not, in any shape or form, infringe upon the freedom of speech and the press. James Madison’s report emphasizes the fact that the United States, unlike Great Britain, is a self-governing democracy, and that this form of government entails …show more content…
This is, according to Madison, the basis of political power in the United States. Madison also stresses the fact that citizens of the United States have the right to check both the legislative and executive branches of government, unlike Great Britain, where the Magna Carta and the English Bill of Rights only checked the King. The freedom of speech and press is essential to the American democratic process, as it is the only way Americans can freely and fully fulfill their duty as citizens. The preamble of the Constitution, “We the people,” represents this interpretation of democracy in the United States. This statement declares the people the ultimate framers of government, as the preamble continues to grant the right to “…establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility…and secure the blessings of liberty to …show more content…
In his report, Madison claims that “…all powers not given by it [the Constitution] were reserved; that no powers were given beyond those enumerated in the Constitution…particularly over the press, was neither among the enumerated powers, nor incident to any of them…” This statement represents Madison’s belief that the powers delegated to Congress are limited and explicitly defined by the Constitution. These powers do not extend onto the regulation of the press and of speech, and any attempt to do so is in direct violation of the Constitution and the ubiquitous contract between government and those it governs. Congress, therefore, does not have the right to make any law abridging the freedom of speech and the press. This idea is rooted in and exemplified by the elastic clause of Article One of the Constitution. The elastic clause dictates that Congress shall only make “…Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States.” This clause gives Congress the powers that are implied, but not explicitly stated, in the Constitution. However, the Constitution does not, in any manner, imply that Congress can

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