The Federal Protectionism of Minority Rights in the United States

2269 WordsJun 18, 201810 Pages
Thomas Jefferson, in his 1801 First Inaugural Address for President of the United States of America, stated, “All . . . will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression (Inaugural Addresses, 1989).” Jefferson was not alone in this thinking. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and others understood that the unbridled power of the majority, which is the life-blood of a democracy, could be easily used to ignore or degrade the rights of a minority group. The framers of our nation intended for the protection of minority rights over the…show more content…
In his 1816 letter to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, Jefferson reiterates this thought, “The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society (Classically Liberal, 2008).” The founder’s thoughts are echoed from across the Atlantic Ocean as well by a French visitor to America and an English thinker. In his book Democracy in America published in 1835, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Men do not change their characters by uniting with one another; nor does their patience in the presence of obstacles increase with their strength (Majority Rule, 2012).” Throughout his American travels in 1831 and 1832, de Tocqueville saw instances of minority oppression by the force of the majority, especially in regards to the rights of African-Americans. As he watched black people, entitled by law to vote, refuse to do so for fear of retaliation by the white majority standing nearby, de Tocqueville’s ideas of minority rights began to take shape, alluding to the federal protectionist opinion that he later formed; he wrote of the incident in Democracy in America, “Since the majority has the greatest
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