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Gene Weingarten: James Madison revisits the Second Amendment

Transcript of a conversation between James and Dolley Madison; Heaven, Dec. 27, 2012. Exclusive to this newspaper.

WASHINGTON — Dolley: Gracious. Another deranged person has used an assault weapon to murder defenseless innocents.

James: How damnable! Whoever allows these madmen to have such powerful weapons should be tarred, feathered, pilloried, subject to the ducking stool and then paraded naked through town. Sometimes I curse the mercy shewn by my Eighth Amendment! Still, the scoundrel must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Dolley: You are beyond the reach of law, James.

James: Me?

Dolley: You are to blame, it would appear. They are saying your Second Amendment gives any person the right to a gun.

James: It says nothing of the kind! I distinctly wrote that it was to maintain a "well-regulated militia." How much clearer could I have been?

Dolley: Quite a bit, I'm afraid. Your punctuation and syntax were somewhat slovenly, dear. People seem to think you meant everyone, everywhere, any time, anyhow.

James: Why, that's prepofterous!

Dolley: Becalm yourself, James. You are reverting to that sissy talk again.

James: If I wanted every idiot and lunatic to have a gun, I would have written "Every idiot and lunatic can have a gun, even the perfidious Burr." Besides, what does it matter what I thought? It was 230 years ago!

Dolley: Oh, but they still worship you, James.

James: Fie! It is against the Commandments.

Dolley: 'Tis a secular worship. A "man crush" is the modern term. You should really pay more attention to the goings-on down there, James. It's the most curious thing: For hundreds of years, courts have been parsing the Constitution, not by judiciously applying its general principles to modern needs but based on exactly what they think you had in your mind at the moment you wrote it. …

James: What did I know? I thought you could treat a tumor with a poultice of warm milk and figs!

Dolley: Yes, but …

James: My main accomplishment as president was being the first to wear proper trousers instead of those knee britches that made us all look like dressed poultry. Other than that, I go without note.

Dolley: Now, that's not true, dear.

James: Oh, tut —

Dolley: You also cleverly managed to flee the White House before the British burnt it quite to the ground.


Dolley: I'm sorry, dear.

James: It's not as though the other framers were gods. Franklin once almost killed himself trying to electrocute a turkey.

Dolley: You were fine men all, but of flesh, blood and bone. You knew vanity, and you sometimes erred.

James: We must fix this, Dolley, before even one other senseless death occurs. There is no time to lose. But how?

Dolley: It is taken care of, dear. Franklin will print up this conversation. We have already arranged to have it delivered to a modern newspaperman, who will publish it.

James: Just make sure it isn't some damned fool whom intelligent people will ignore.

Dolley: Er …

© 2013 Washington Post Writers Group