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De la nécessité d'une Déclaration des droits au Premier Amendement : quelques enjeux du débat entre Jefferson et Madison

Abstract : In 1787, the draft of a Federal Constitution reveals a strange omission : it is not preceded by a Bill of Rights. This is most paradoxical, as it is the liberal Madison who refuses it, when the democrat Jefferson jealously defends the citizens' liberties. In reality, Madison also defends liberty, but in a new concept of republic : for him, when the people are not only the governed, but the governing part of the republic, the liberties and rights that must be defended are no more the people's at large liberties, but the "minorities and individuals"'s, then of the proprietaries', against the abuses of power which is now exerted by governing majorities. But here they disagree fundamentally, and Jefferson and Madison then develop quite opposite concepts of republic : for Jefferson the law of majority is a natural law of the republic and property is only a "municipal commodity" about which public discussion may and must take place ; at the contrary, for Madison, property is a natural right, beyond all legitimate reach from the political power, and the majority vote is no more than a juridical and relative disposition, that can be dangerous and watched over. However, the quiproquo of 1789, when a Bill of Rights is finally adopted, is replaced by a true synthesis, when Jefferson and Madison found together in 1791 the Republican-Democrat Party : then they elaborate a program of democratic orientation of society by the political power, which is essentially the program of maintaining a small and independent property. This is because, for them, the republic can maintain itself only if it administrates a "democratic" society - if not, it is only the mask of oligarchy.
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Contributor : Annie Lechenet <>
Submitted on : Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 5:07:22 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 3:56:10 PM
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Annie Lechenet. De la nécessité d'une Déclaration des droits au Premier Amendement : quelques enjeux du débat entre Jefferson et Madison. The Tocqueville Review/La revue Tocqueville, The Tocqueville Society / University of Toronto Press, 2003, XXIV (1 (Pritemps-Eté 2003)), pp.17-32. ⟨halshs-00612744⟩

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