It has been said, that it is necessary to load the constitution with this provision, because it was not found effectual in the constitution of the particular states. It is true, there are a few particular states in which some of the most valuable articles have not, at one time or other, been violated; but does it not follow but they may have, to a certain degree, a salutary effect against the abuse of power. If they are incorporated into the constitution, independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive; they will be naturally led to resist every encroachment upon rights expressly stipulated for in the constitution by the declaration of rights. Beside this security, there is a great probability that such a declaration in the federal system would be enforced; because the state legislatures will jealously and closely watch the operation of this government, and be able to resist with more effect every assumption of power than any other power on earth can do; and the greatest opponents to a federal government admit the state legislatures to be sure guardians of the people's liberty. (Emphasis mine.)
James Madison, Speech to Congress, June 8, 1789
And so it was that James Madison, architect of the Constitution, rose on the floor in the first U.S. Congress to propose what he also called, "the great rights," including trial by jury for criminal and civil cases, to protect individual liberty from the power of the new national government and the states. He proposed up to 20 amendments to the Constitution for consideration, of which ten ultimately were approved by the states. He proposed the right to a jury trial for civil and criminal cases together in the same amendment, and stated his proposal on civil jury trials using text already adopted in state constitutions:
In suits at common law, between man and man, the trial by jury, as one of the best securities to the rights of the people, ought to remain inviolate. More on that sentence below.
This speech is so loaded, so full of the doctrines underlying limited government, that I could have chosen other passages to emphasize. For instance, it's in this speech that Madison said something I quote often in meetings and panels, Trial by jury cannot be considered as a natural right, but a right resulting from the social compact which regulates the action of the community, but is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature. (Emphasis mine.)
Other pertinent quotes include the following:
(Referring to Great Britain) In the declaration of rights which that country has established, the truth is, they have gone no farther, than to raise a barrier against the power of the crown; the power of the legislature is left altogether indefinite. Although I know whenever the great rights, the trial by jury, freedom of the press, or liberty of conscience, came in question in that body, the invasion of them is resisted by able advocates, yet their Magna Charta does not contain any one provision for the security of those rights, respecting which, the people of America are most alarmed. The freedom of the press and rights of conscience, those choicest privileges of the people, are unguarded in the British constitution.
In our government it is, perhaps, less necessary to guard against the abuse in the executive department than any other; because it is not the stronger branch of the system, but the weaker: It therefore must be levelled against the legislative, for it is the most powerful, and most likely to be abused, because it is under the least control; hence, so far as a declaration of rights can tend to prevent the exercise of undue power, it cannot be doubted but such declaration is proper.
So why, after winning the long fight to ratify a new Constitution, did Madison commit so quickly to amending it? He states the reason up front and reiterates it later:
It will be a desirable thing to extinguish from the bosom of every member of the community any apprehensions, that there are those among his countrymen who wish to deprive them of the liberty for which they valiantly fought and honorably bled. And if there are amendments desired, of such a nature as will not injure the constitution, and they can be engrafted so as to give satisfaction to the doubting part of our fellow citizens; the friends of the federal government will evince that spirit of deference and concession for which they have hitherto been distinguished... It has been a fortunate thing that the objection to the government has been made on the ground I stated; because it will be practicable on that ground to obviate the objection, so far as to satisfy the public mind that their liberties will be perpetual, and this without endangering any part of the constitution, which is considered as essential to the existence of the government by those who promoted its adoption.
Madison knew, after correspondence with Thomas Jefferson and others, that the arguments made by George Mason and other Founding Fathers for a declaration of rights had taken hold in the hearts and minds of Americans, to such an extent that the only through amending the Constitution could Congress ensure unity.
It's clear that James Madison intended these amendments to limit all powers delegated to the national government as enumerated in every clause of the Constitution, including the power delegated through the Commerce Clause. He said so quite clearly, as I've already quoted him: "an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive." And he proposed to protect the "great rights" after those clauses had been drafted and ratified, so the rights enumerated in the amendments were obviously meant as limits on the exercise of those clauses. Finally, with respect to the right to civil jury trials, he used the term "inviolate," meaning pure or undisturbed, untouched, and unbroken. James Madison never described the Commerce Clause as "inviolate;" he must have meant that clause to be subordinate to the right to civil jury trials.
As I wrote in February, a Constitution in which individual liberty is subordinate to Congress' power to regulate "commerce," which is so broadly defined today, is a roadmap to tyranny. Sen. Rand Paul, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Rep. Ted Poe have already sounded the warning siren on this point. Will Congress listen?