‘The phrase’ said by Thomas Jefferson, “mischief may be done negatively as well as positively” is an accurate filter in deciphering the political theories of James Madison, John Adams, John C. Calhoun and of course Thomas Jefferson.
James Madison is a man that wins his campaign by a landslide with the platform that he was the “common man.” He felt that constitutional law limited government and ordinary law limits citizens. Since constitution is the supreme law, the government’s authority is delegated by the people through the United States constitution and the state constitutions operate the reverse way. In order for this to be executed properly, three orders of questions must be raised: questions which theorists have raised and discussed, questions which are inherent, and questions which are a part of the phases. Madison’s three questions have been meshed into one (unfortunate) question, which leads to the right answer for the wrong question time and time again. He believes the government is full of factions (public interest groups that will repress and or exploit human liberty to promote their own beliefs). He also believes that the elitist should rule. As did Jefferson, Madison saw that mischief can have both positive, as well as negative, effects on society.
John Adams was a man that didn’t harbor Madison’s same views. He felt that since the majority had the real power they are also the source of governmental oppression. Federalists (like Adams) wanted more executive powers; Adams wants rights, which is a republican view; not popular view, which is a democratic viewpoint. Since his view of people ranges from corrupt to corruptible (at best) he wonders who checks the checkers (senate, president, court). He definitely believes that, “mischief can be done negatively as well as positively” and he believes that majorities will do just as much bad as good. Wanting more civil rights and less checks is a liberal view but Adams held the desire of a conservative in wanting civil liberties and more checks.
John C. Calhoun was a southern liberties defender. Aside from being an outstanding thinker and rational rejecter of natural rights and the social contract, he blatantly uses these very things to defend his political argument. He has a pluralistic view of man and believes that human nature is ambivalent. He sees our needs and values as being defined by the society that we are born in to and that men are not equal. Man’s social instinct leads to chaos if it’s not organized and controlled. Calhoun is seen as the Marx of the master class. The two doctrines for his political theories include constitutional government (acts in the interests of the society as a whole/ government constitution to the extent that it acts for all) and concurrent majorities (is an application of constitutional government to a democratic society): government cannot work if it is limited and absolute government (interest in part, not whole, of a society) is Calhoun’s definition of tyranny. Calhoun believes that man will naturally do mischief that will harm him so government needs to do what is necessary, sometimes mischief, to protect man from himself.
Thomas Jefferson is against anything, including banks, that aren’t in the constitution. He believes that revolutions are necessary and he was constantly contradicting himself. He wanted a rural secluded country but wants to get involved in foreign affairs. Jefferson believes everyone should be educated and starts public universities in Virginia. He owned over 300 slaves and was an anti-federalist leader. His political thoughts of doctrines included local supremacy, political equality and majority rule. He believed that potentially everyone could make good decisions if educated properly (similar to the way that Parliament is run). He believes that virtue and talent make for a good majority ruling system and that morals limit the authority of government. He preferred a dynamic government to a static government. Even though he felt he was arguing for democracy, Jefferson’s thinking is arguing in favor of Parliamentary rule. And when the parliamentary rule is more applicable the Supreme Court becomes null and void. Of course a person full of contradictions would believe that ‘the phrase’ can be this while it does that.
‘The phrase’ makes a clear distinction on the way in which these men view politics in theory: James Madison believes that mischief has it’s place in politics, John Adams believes that most mischief is executed by the majority, John C. Calhoun believes that government needs to protect man from the mischief that he will bring upon himself and Thomas Jefferson believes this statement. He was a man that remained a walking contradiction his entire life and it’s not surprising that a statement such as this hovers over his grave. “Mischief can be done negatively as well as positively” but mischief is what one makes it mean.