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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: June 2020

1 - From the Founding to the Present

from Part I - A History of the Eighth Amendment


On June 8, 1789, James Madison — then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives — rose in the First Congress to propose a set of amendments to the recently ratified U.S. Constitution. “This day, Mr. Speaker,” he said, “is the day assigned for taking into consideration the subject of amendments to the constitution.” Some of his congressional colleagues thought the discussion premature, but Madison persisted, contending that “[t]he applications for amendments come from a very respectable number of our constituents, and it is certainly proper for Congress to consider the subject, in order to quiet that anxiety which prevails in the public mind.” Madison had sorted through nearly two hundred recommendations for constitutional amendments, and he wanted Congress to act promptly. “I hold it to be my duty to unfold my ideas, and explain myself to the House in some form or other without delay,” Madison stressed.