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Madison, foreign policy, and declaring war

Lynne Cheney, author of “James Madison: A Life Reconsidered” in conversation with Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute.  Created by Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson of the Aspen in suit i'm here with lynne cheney author of james madison a life reconsidered so in 1800 they call it the revolution of 1800 there's a very messy election end up with jefferson as president but explained to me that election the electors had two votes and the person who obtained the most electoral votes became president and the person who gained the second greatest amount became vice president however Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were tied and so they were both in the same party and they were running on the same ticket though right well the tickets hadn't become that well differentiated yet they would later on but right now they both had the same amount of votes and though everyone knew that burr had been intended to be vice president he didn't concede he didn't say well Jefferson you go ahead and the Federalists the opposing party launched on to Aaron burrs candidacy with great hopes that they could somehow overcome and it went through more than two dozen votes in the House of Representatives that's how you decide at I election and finally Jefferson one but it was a procedure that left many animosities behind including Jefferson's there after being and willing to trust his vice president as one can understand and he saved actually by Alexander Hamilton who ends up throwing his support to Jefferson and said a bar is that right oh well one of the things that happened is that Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay and talked about how Burr was simply not morally fit to be President and that did have impact did that lead to there was also suggestion than it was log rolling that people were coming to Jefferson and saying if we vote for you will you do this and that Jefferson forever after claimed he had not made any promises but historians have often suspected that you know maybe there was a wink and a deal here and there so Jefferson then asked Madison to be a secretary of state and tell me about what the role of Secretary of State was back then well it was some of what we think of now you know dealing with foreign governments and treaties and so on but Madison also spent a great deal of time dealing with job seekers you know one of the interesting things about the early period is that there weren't a lot of jobs because 95 the population was agrarian you know you just couldn't find one Tad's you know very easily for a job that you needed so people badgered those who were in power for jobs at the letters pile up to a great height that Madison had to deal with and he very politely dealt with all who came before one of the foreign policy crisis he had to deal with as a eerie echo today which I'll call it the shores of Tripoli now that's interesting the past Shaw or bashaw of Tripoli was used to receiving tribute payments from the United States and when they were a little slow in coming he decided he not only needed those but more and he chopped down the flagpole at the embassy in Tripoli to declare war well Madison and his cabinet agreed that we should do something about this sent ships to into the Mediterranean and eventually ended up with a land force and a/c force working in synchronization a group that called themselves Marines and out of that land and sea attack on Tripoli became part of the famous song from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli that is the marine him today now he did not officially declare war Jefferson is president when they do the Tripoli thing what was the constitutional reason for that I don't think they saw a necessity to declare war because the Constitution said thanks to Madison that the president was the commander-in-chief that the Congress had the power to declare war but the president had the ability to respond in an emergency so this is really the first time we see slightly conflicting parts of the Constitution yes we saw an article 1 of the Constitution that Congress has the right to declare war and then we see an article to that the president's commander-in-chief so Washington and then Jefferson both kind of wrestle with it but up until that point Congress has never declared war on anything even though there's been some fighting of the French and the Indians and the British and then in Tripoli so at the moment we're seeing the assent of the executive power of the presidency to be commander-in-chief and Madison is the one who is responsible for the Constitution reading as it does the Constitutional Convention had first considered the idea that the Congress had the power to make war and man a crucial point in the convention left to his feet and said that make should be declare and because he made that distinction the president then became commander in chief the one who waged the war and the Congress becomes the power to declare war thank you very much