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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

The publication by Liberty Fund of Hamilton and Madison’s The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates of 1793-1794 (2007) and the putting online of a 10 volume collection of The Writings of James Madison (1909) is an excellent opportunity to begin exploring the thought of James Madison. Here we look at the “Pacificus-Helvidius” debates. President George Washington’s proclamation of the Neutrality Act in 1793 sparked a spirited debate between Alexander Hamilton (“Pacificus”) and James Madison (“Helvidius”) over the war-making powers of the executive and legislative bodies. Hamilton, preferring more centralised control and a more powerful presidency, was in favor of broad powers for the executive branch; whereas Madison feared that under the guise of war the president could and would amass great powers over budgets, patronage, and honours. Hence he favoured the balance of powers remaining with the legislative branch.

Other quotes about War & Peace:

10 September, 2007

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James Madison argues that the constitution places war-making powers squarely with the legislative branch; for the president to have these powers is the “the true nurse of executive aggrandizement” (1793)

Read the full quote in context here.

In 1793-94 Madison and Hamilton in the Pacificus-Helvidous Debates argued about the proper role of the executive and the legislative branches of the U.S. government in the conduct of war. Writing as "Helvidius", Madison observed that:

War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

[More works by James Madison (1751 – 1836)]