Jefferson thought Madison’s conclusions were too absolute. He thought that, although a bill of rights may not be “absolutely efficacious under all circumstances, it is of great potency always, and rarely inefficacious.” More to the point, all the evils that could be anticipated from having a bill of rights were much less fearsome than the evils that might arise from not having one. If the country were without a bill of rights when one were needed, they would face evils that are “permanent, afflicting and irreparable: they are in constant progression from bad to worse.”
Jefferson concluded his rebuttal on an optimistic note: “I am much pleased with the prospect that a declaration of rights will be added: and hope it will be done in that way which will not endanger the whole frame of the government, or an essential part of it.” Jefferson knew he could enjoy this verbal parry and thrust with Madison free from worry, because his friend had already decided in favor of a bill of rights.
Jefferson’s letter rebutting Madison’s arguments against a bill of rights arrived only a few weeks before Madison’s proposal in the First Congress would introduce the topic, and many of Jefferson’s arguments made it into Madison’s speech before the House. Madison, ever the astute political mind, added a few arguments of his own.