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James Madison
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"History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance." — James Madison

"Hence it is that democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and in general have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths... A Republic, by which I mean a government in which a scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking."
— James Madison, Federalist Papers (the McClean Edition), Federalist Paper #10, page 81, 1788

"Democracy is the most vile form of government... democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention... incompatible with personal security or the rights of property."
— James Madison

James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 (O.S. March 5) – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman and political theorist. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for being instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution and as the key champion and author of the United States Bill of Rights. He was the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817). He served as a politician much of his adult life. Like other Virginia statesmen, he was of the landed gentry; he inherited his plantation known as Montpelier, and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime to cultivate tobacco and other crops.

After the constitution had been drafted, Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced the Federalist Papers (1788). Circulated only in New York at the time, they would later be considered among the most important polemics in support of the Constitution. He was also a delegate to the Virginia constitutional ratifying convention, and was instrumental to the successful ratification effort in Virginia. Like most of his contemporaries, Madison changed his political views during his life. During the drafting and ratification of the constitution, he favored a strong national government, though later he grew to favor stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. He is notable for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation’s size. After his election to the presidency, he presided over renewed prosperity for several years. As president (1809–17), after the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Great Britain, he led the nation into the War of 1812. He was responding to British encroachments on American honor and rights; in addition, he wanted to end the influence of the British among their Indian allies, whose resistance blocked United States settlement in the Midwest around the Great Lakes. Madison found the war to be an administrative nightmare, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system; as a result, he afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed.

 

Books & Writings

Madison, James (1865). Letters & Other Writings Of James Madison Fourth President Of The United States (called the Congress edition ed.). J.B. Lippincott & Co.
Madison, James (1900–1910). Gaillard Hunt, ed.. ed. The Writings of James Madison. G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
Madison, James (1962). William T. Hutchinson et al., eds.. ed. The Papers of James Madison (30 volumes published and more planned ed.). Univ. of Chicago Press.
Madison, James (1982). Jacob E. Cooke, ed.. ed. The Federalist. Wesleyan Univ. Press. ISBN 0819560774.
Madison, James (1987). Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0393304051.
Madison, James (1995). Marvin Myers, ed.. ed. Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison. Univ. Press of New England. ISBN 0874512018.
Madison, James (1995). James M. Smith, ed.. ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776–1826. W.W. Norton. ISBN 039303691X.
Madison, James (1999). Jack N. Rakove ed.. ed. James Madison, Writings. Library of America. ISBN 1883011663.

 

Congressman James Madison at age 32

Congressman James Madison at age 32As a young man during the American Revolutionary War, Madison served in the Virginia state legislature (1776–79), where he became known as a protégé of the delegate Thomas Jefferson. He had earlier witnessed the persecution of Baptist preachers in Virginia, who were arrested for preaching without a license from the established Anglican Church. He worked with the Baptist preacher Elijah Craig on constitutional guarantees for religious liberty in Virginia. Working on such cases helped form his ideas about religious freedom, which he applied to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Madison attained prominence in Virginia politics, working with Jefferson to draft the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was finally passed in 1786. It disestablished the Church of England and disclaimed any power of state compulsion in religious matters. He excluded Patrick Henry's plan to compel citizens to pay taxes that would go to a congregation of their choice. In 1777 Madison's cousin, the Right Reverend James Madison (1749–1812), became president of the College of William & Mary. Working closely with Madison and Jefferson, Bishop Madison helped lead the College through the changes involving separation from both Great Britain and the Church of England. He also led college and state actions that resulted in the formation of the new Episcopal Diocese of Virginia after the Revolution.

As the youngest delegate to the Continental Congress (1780–83), Madison was considered a legislative workhorse and a master of parliamentary coalition building. He persuaded Virginia to give up its claims to northwestern territories—consisting of most of modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota—to the Continental Congress. It created the Northwest Territory in 1783, as a federally supervised territory from which new states would be developed and admitted to the union. Virginia's land claims had partially overlapped with those by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and possibly others. All of these states ceded their westernmost lands to national authority, with the understanding that new states could be formed from the land. The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the new territory north of the Ohio River, but did not end it for those slaves held by settlers already in the territory.

Madison was elected a second time to the Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 1784 to 1786 in the new years of independence. During these final years in the House of Delegates, Madison grew increasingly frustrated with what he saw as excessive democracy. He criticized the tendency for delegates to cater to the particular interests of their constituents, even if such interests were destructive to the state at large. In particular, he was troubled by a law that denied diplomatic immunity to ambassadors from other countries, and a law that legalized paper money. He thought legislators should be "disinterested" and act in the interests of their state at large, even if this contradicted the wishes of constituents. This "excessive democracy," Madison grew to believe, was the cause of a larger social decay which he and others (such as Washington) believed had resumed after the revolution and was nearing a tipping point. They were alarmed by Shay's Rebellion.

Father of the Constitution: Philadelphia Convention

Prior to the Constitution, the thirteen states were bound together by the Articles of Confederation, which was essentially a military alliance among sovereign nations to fight the Revolutionary War. This arrangement did not work particularly well, and after the war was over, it was even less successful. Congress had no power to tax, and as a result was not paying the debts left over from the Revolution. Madison and other leaders, such as Washington and Benjamin Franklin, were very concerned about this. They feared a break-up of the union and national bankruptcy. The historian Gordon S. Wood has noted that many leaders such as Madison and Washington, feared more that the revolution had not fixed the social problems that had triggered it, and the excesses ascribed to the King were being seen in the state legislatures. Though Shay's Rebellion is often cited as the event that forced the rewriting of the national charter, Wood argues that many at the time saw it as only the most extreme example of democratic excess. Such thinkers believed the constitution would need to do more than fix the Articles of Confederation. Like the revolution, it would need to rewrite the social compact and redefine the relationship among the states, the national government, and the people.

As Madison wrote, "a crisis had arrived which was to decide whether the American experiment was to be a blessing to the world, or to blast for ever the hopes which the republican cause had inspired." Partly at Madison's instigation, a national convention was called in 1787. Madison was crucial in persuading George Washington to attend the convention, since he knew how important the president would be to the adoption of a constitution. As one of the first delegates to arrive, while waiting for the convention to begin, Madison wrote what became known as the Virginia Plan. The Virginia Plan was submitted at the opening of the convention, and the work of the convention quickly became to amend the Virginia Plan and to fill in the gaps. Though the Virginia Plan was an outline rather than a draft of a possible constitution, and though it was extensively changed during the debate (especially by John Rutledge and James Wilson in the Committee of Detail), its use at the convention led many to call Madison the "Father of the Constitution".

During the course of the Convention, he spoke over two hundred times, and his fellow delegates rated him highly. For example, William Pierce wrote that "...every Person seems to acknowledge his greatness. In the management of every great question he evidently took the lead in the Convention... he always comes forward as the best informed Man of any point in debate." Madison recorded the unofficial minutes of the convention, and these have become the only comprehensive record of what occurred. The historian Clinton Rossiter regarded Madison's performance as "a combination of learning, experience, purpose, and imagination that not even Adams or Jefferson could have equaled." Years earlier he had pored over crates of books that Jefferson sent him from France on every form of government ever tried. The historian Douglas Adair called Madison's work "probably the most fruitful piece of scholarly research ever carried out by an American." Many have argued that this helped prepare him for the convention.

Gordon Wood, however, argues that Madison's frustrating experience in the Virginia legislature years earlier most shaped his constitutional views. Wood notes that the governmental structure in both the Virginia Plan and the final constitution were not innovative, since they were copied from the British government, had been used in the states since 1776, and numerous authors had already argued for adoption at the national level. Most of what was controversial in the Virginia Plan was removed, and most of the rest had been commonly accepted as necessary for a functional government (state or national) for decades; thus, Madison's contribution was more qualitative. Wood argues that, like most national politicians of the late 1780s, Madison believed that the problem was less with the Articles of Confederation than with the nature of the state legislatures, and so the solution was not to fix the articles, but to restrain the excesses of the states. This required more than an alternation in the Articles of Confederation: it required a change in the character of the national compact. The ultimate question before the convention, Wood notes, was not how to design a government but whether the states should remain sovereign, whether sovereignty should be transferred to the national government, or whether the constitution should settle somewhere in between.

Those, like Madison, who thought democracy in the state legislatures was excessive and insufficiently "disinterested", wanted sovereignty transferred to the national government, while those (like Patrick Henry) who did not think this a problem, wanted to fix the Articles of Confederation. Madison was one of the only delegates who wanted to deprive the states of sovereignty completely, which he considered the only solution to the problem. Though sharing the same goal as Madison, most other delegates reacted strongly against such an extreme change to the status quo. Though Madison lost most of his battles over how to amend the Virginia Plan (most importantly over the exclusion of the Council of Revision), in the process he increasingly shifted the debate away from a position of pure state sovereignty. Since most disagreements over what to include in the constitution were ultimately disputes over the balance of sovereignty between the states and national government, Madison's influence was critical. Wood notes that Madison's ultimate contribution was not in designing any particular constitutional framework, but in shifting the debate toward a compromise of "shared sovereignty" between the national and state governments.

Federalist Papers and ratification debates

The Constitution developed by the convention in Philadelphia had to be ratified. This would be done by special conventions called in each state to decide that sole question of ratification. Madison was a leader in the ratification effort. He, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers, a series of 85 newspaper articles published in New York to explain how the proposed Constitution would work, mainly by responding to criticisms from anti-federalists. They were also published in book form and became a virtual debater’s handbook for the supporters of the Constitution in the ratifying conventions. The historian Clinton Rossiter called the Federalist Papers "the most important work in political science that ever has been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States." They were not scholarly arguments or impartial justifications for the constitution, but political polemics intended to assist the federalists in New York, which was the only state to have a coordinated anti-federalist movement. Madison was involved in the project mainly because he was a delegate to the lame duck Confederation Congress, which was meeting in New York.

If Virginia, the most populous state at the time, did not ratify the Constitution, the new national government would likely not succeed. When the Virginia convention began, the constitution had not yet been ratified by the required nine states. New York, the second largest state and a bastion of anti-federalism, would likely not ratify it if Virginia rejected the constitution, and Virginia's exclusion from the new government would disqualify George Washington from being the first president. Virginia delegates believed that Washington's election as the first president was an implicit condition for their acceptance of the new constitution and the new government. Without Virginia, a new convention might have been held and a new constitution written in a much more polarized atmosphere, since the constitution did not specify what would happen if it was only partially ratified. The states might have joined in regional confederacies or allied with Spain, France or Britain, which still had North American colonies. Arguably the most prominent anti-federalist, the powerful orator Patrick Henry was a delegate and had a following second only to Washington (who was not a delegate). Most delegates believed that most Virginians opposed the constitution. Initially Madison did not want to stand for election to the Virginia ratifying convention, but was persuaded to do so because the situation looked so bad. His role at the convention was likely critical to Virginia's ratification, and thus to the success of the constitution generally.

As the states were leery of creating a powerful central government, the drive to achieve ratification was difficult. Patrick Henry feared that the constitution would trample on the independence of the states and the rights of citizens. In the Virginia ratifying convention, Madison, who was a terrible public speaker, had to go up against Henry, who was the finest orator in the country. Although Henry was by far the more powerful and dramatic speaker, Madison successfully matched him. While Henry's arguments were emotional appeals to possible unintended consequences, Madison responded with rational answers to these arguments; he eventually argued that Henry's claims were becoming absurd. Madison pointed out that a limited government would be created, and that the powers delegated ‘to the federal government are few and defined." Madison persuaded prominent figures such as George Mason and Edmund Randolph, who had refused to endorse the constitution at the convention, to change their position and support it at the ratifying convention. Mason and Randolph's switch likely changed the votes of several more anti-federalists. When the vote was nearing, and the constitution still looked likely to be defeated, Madison pleaded with a small group of anti-federalists, and promised them he would push for a bill of rights later if they changed their votes. When the vote was held, the convention barely had sufficient votes to ratify, and these likely did not appear until the last minute.

Madison was called the "Father of the Constitution" by his peers in his own lifetime. However, he was modest, and he protested the title as being "a credit to which I have no claim... The Constitution was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands". He wrote Hamilton at the New York ratifying convention, stating his opinion that "ratification was in toto and 'for ever'".

Member of Congress

Madison had been a delegate to the Confederation Congress, and wanted to be elected senator in the new government. A vengeful Patrick Henry wanted to deny Madison a seat in the new congress, so he ensured that Madison remained in the lame duck Confederation Congress to prevent him as long as possible from campaigning. Henry used his power to keep the Virginia legislature from appointing Madison as one of the state’s senators. When Madison decided to run for election to the house instead, Henry gerrymandered Madison’s home district, filling it with anti-federalists in an attempt to prevent Madison's election. Madison could have run in another district, so to prevent this, Henry forced through a law requiring congressmen to live in the district they represent. Later this was recognized as unconstitutional but, at the time, the law made it increasingly unlikely that Madison would be elected to congress. He ran against James Monroe, a future president, and traveled with Monroe while campaigning. Later as president, Madison was told by some of his former constituents that, had it not been for unusually bad weather on election day, Monroe likely would have won. Madison defeated Monroe and became an important leader in Congress.

Father of the Bill of Rights

Though the idea for a bill of rights had been suggested at the end of the constitutional convention, the delegates wanted to go home and thought the suggestion unnecessary. The omission of a bill of rights became the main argument of the anti-federalists against the constitution. Though no state conditioned ratification of the constitution on a bill of rights, several states came close, and the issue almost prevented the constitution from being ratified. Some anti-federalists continued to fight the issue after the constitution had been ratified, and threatened the entire nation with another constitutional convention. This would likely be far more partisan than the first had been. Madison objected to a specific bill of rights for several reasons: he thought it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted; that it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and that at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.

Though few in the new congress wanted to debate a possible Bill of Rights (for the next century, most thought that the Declaration of Independence, not the first ten constitutional amendments, constituted the true Bill of Rights), Madison pressed the issue. Congress was extremely busy with setting up the new government, most wanted to wait for the system to show its defects before amending the constitution, and the anti-federalist movements (which had demanded a new convention) had died out quickly once the constitution was ratified. Despite this, Madison still feared that the states would compel congress to call for a new constitutional convention, which they had the right to do. He also believed that the constitution did not sufficiently protect the national government from excessive democracy and parochialism (the defects he saw in the state governments), so he saw his amendments as a way to mitigate these problems. On June 8, 1789, Madison introduced his bill proposing amendments consisting of Nine Articles comprising up to 20 Amendments depending on how one counted. Madison initially proposed that the amendments would be incorporated into the body of the Constitution. Through an exhaustive campaign, he persuaded the House to pass most of his slate of amendments. The House rejected the idea of placing the amendements in the body of the Constitution and instead adopted 17 Amendments to be attached separately and sent this bill to the Senate. .

The Senate took up his slate of amendments, condensed them into eleven, and removed the language which Madison had included so that they would be integrated into the body of the constitution. The senate also added what became the Ninth Amendment, which was not included in Madison's original slate. To Madison's deep disappointment, they excluded a proposed amendment that guaranteed national sovereignty over the states. Scholars have argued that, if this amendment had been included, the Civil War might have been avoided. By 1791, the last ten of the proposed amendments were ratified and became the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment originally proposed by Madison (but not then ratified) was later ratified in 1992 as the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The remaining proposal was intended to accommodate future increase in the members of the House of Representatives.

Debates on foreign policy

When Britain and France went to war in 1793, the U.S. was caught in the middle. The 1778 treaty of alliance with France was still in effect, yet most of the new country's trade was with Britain. War with Britain seemed imminent in 1794, as the British seized hundreds of American ships that were trading with French colonies. Madison believed that Britain was weak and the United States was strong, and that a trade war with Britain, although risking a real war by the British government, probably would succeed, and would allow Americans to assert their independence fully. Great Britain, he charged, "has bound us in commercial manacles, and very nearly defeated the object of our independence." As Varg explains, Madison discounted the much more powerful British army and navy for "her interests can be wounded almost mortally, while ours are invulnerable." The British West Indies, Madison maintained, could not live without American foodstuffs, but Americans could easily do without British manufactures. This faith led him to the conclusion "that it is in our power, in a very short time, to supply all the tonnage necessary for our own commerce". However, George Washington avoided a trade war and instead secured friendly trade relations with Britain through the Jay Treaty of 1794. Madison threw his energies into fighting the Treaty—his mobilization of grassroots support helped form the First Party System. He failed in both the Senate and House, and the Jay Treaty led to ten years of prosperous trade with Britain (and anger on the part of France leading to the Quasi-War). All across the United States, voters divided for and against the Treaty and other key issues, and thus became either Federalists or Jeffersonian Republicans.

Founding the Democratic-Republican party

Supporters for ratification of the Constitution had become known as the Federalist Party. Those opposing the proposed constitution were labeled Anti-Federalists, but neither group was a political party in the modern sense. Following ratification of the Constitution and formation of the first government in 1789, two new political factions formed along similar lines as the old division. The supporters of Alexander Hamilton's attempts to strengthen the national government called themselves Federalists, while those who opposed Hamilton called themselves "Republicans" (later historians would refer to them as the Democratic-Republican party). Madison and Thomas Jefferson were the leaders of this second group. As first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton created many new federal institutions, including the Bank of the United States. Madison led the unsuccessful attempt in Congress to block Hamilton's proposal, arguing that the new Constitution did not explicitly allow the federal government to form a bank. As early as May 26, 1792, Hamilton complained, "Mr. Madison cooperating with Mr. Jefferson is at the head of a faction decidedly hostile to me and my administration." On May 5, 1792, Madison told Washington, "with respect to the spirit of party that was taking place ...I was sensible of its existence".

In 1798 under President John Adams, the U.S. and France unofficially went to war—the Quasi War, that involved naval warships and commercial vessels battling in the Caribbean. The Federalists created a standing army and passed laws against French refugees engaged in American politics and against Republican editors. Congressman Madison and Vice President Jefferson were outraged. Madison and Jefferson secretly drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts to be unconstitutional and noted that "states, in contesting obnoxious laws, should 'interpose for arresting the progress of the evil.'" These turned out to be unpopular, even among republicans, since they called for state governments to invalidate federal laws. Jefferson went even further, urging states to secede if necessary, though Madison convinced Jefferson to back down from this extreme view. According to Chernow, Madison's position "was a breathtaking evolution for a man who had pleaded at the Constitutional Convention that the federal government should possess a veto over state laws." Chernow feels that Madison's politics remained closely aligned with Jefferson's until the experience of a weak national government during the War of 1812 caused Madison to appreciate the need for a strong central government to aid national defense. He then began to support a national bank, a stronger navy, and a standing army. However, other historians, such as Gary Rosen, Lance Banning and Gordon S. Wood, see Madison's views as being remarkably consistent over a political career spanning half a century.

Presidency 1809–1817

James Madison Two Dollars Stamp
Upon his Inauguration in 1809, Madison immediately had difficulty in his appointment selection of Sec. Albert Gallatin as Secretary of State. Under opposition from Sen. William B. Giles, Madison chose not to fight Congress for the nomination but kept Sec. Gallatin, a carry over from the Jefferson Administration, in the Treasury. The talented Swiss born Gallatin was Madison's primary advisor, confident, and policy planner. Madison appointed Robert Smith for Secretary of State, Jefferson's former Secretary of Navy. For his Secretary of Navy, Madison appointed Paul Hamilton. Madison's Cabinet, that included men of mediocre talent, was chosen in terms of national interest and political harmony. When Madison assumed office in 1809, the federal government had a surplus of $9,500,000 and by 1810 the national debt continued to be reduced and taxes had been cut.

 

James Madison Gold CoinBank of United States

Madison sought to continue Jefferson's agenda, in particular the dismantling of the system left behind by the federalists under Washington and Adams. One of the most pressing issues Madison confronted was the first Bank of the United States. Its twenty-year charter was scheduled to expire in 1811, and while Madison's treasury secretary said the bank was a necessity, Congress failed to re-authorize it. As the absence of a national bank made war with Britain very difficult to finance, in 1814 Congress passed a bill chartering a second national bank. Madison vetoed it. In 1816, Congress passed another bill to charter a second national bank; Madison signed the act, having learned the bank was needed from the war with Britain.

James Madison signature

 

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