James Madison

The Great Constitutional Scholar

Not long after the founding of America, the original Articles of Confederation from 1777 became insufficient to properly govern the people. The country was in crisis. So, something had to be done, or the burgeoning new nation would never last long, but in their day and age, the world was run by rulers, not rules. Still, the former British colonies needed to become the United States of America, at all costs. This inevitably required them to rewrite the founding documents, thus replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution. So, fifty-five men were called together in a meeting that would ultimately change the fate of the nation, once more. They were really just supposed to amend the Articles but it became apparent that they needed to start over from scratch. This meant that a Constitution needed to be drafted and ratified. Fortunately, James Madison came prepared. The short soft-spoken scholar would go on to become the father of our republic, being the architect of a radical nation based on a sort of modern American revival of ancient Greek democracy, including revolutionary new checks and balances.

James Madison is the whole reason that we now have the three main branches of government. This separation of power was meant to create oversight and to prevent tyranny, which it pretty much does, more or less. Along with this, James Madison was in favor of separating other things, like that of the church and state. Contrary to what many people seem to think, most of the founding fathers weren’t actually Christians. You see, although James Madison did very much believe in God, he wasn’t at all Orthodox. The 18th-century Enlightenment gave rise to Deists like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. So, they accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural entity who interacts with mankind. In line with this, James Madison strongly believed in John Locke’s values regarding the separation of church and state. He was not at all in favor of a theocracy, which is what the Puritans had tried to do with the British colonies before. As such, this brought about a radical spiritual transformation in America. Along with this Madison wasn’t a member of a Masonic lodge, like George Washington and some of the other founding fathers. So, he took a different approach to public policy. These deeply held personal convictions would directly influence the way that he wanted the country to be run. This was of the utmost importance because Madison needed to persuade people who had very different ideas about the Supreme Being and the role that divinity should play in society. This was not a trivial matter then, nor is it now.

In line with everything that he needed to do, James Madison was an absolute genius freethinker who wrote a number of great works, the most important of which was the Constitution of the United States of America. It was written during the Philadelphia Convention, which convened from May 25th to September 17th of 1787, when it was finally signed. Following this, the US Constitution was narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland, and then South Carolina. On June 21st of 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the Constitution would begin on March 4th of 1789. Thus, the states were united in a daring and bold social experiment. Luckily, James Madison was a serious student of political science, to say the least. He was undoubtedly a leading American revolutionary, following in the footsteps of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, standing on the shoulders of those great giants, as he made a name for himself alongside them. In this way, the things that transpired during the Constitutional Convention would set the stage for everything that followed, not just in America but all around the world, leading all the way up to this very moment.

As part of this James Madison had a rather extensive political career. He was a representative of Virginia from 1789 to 1797. Then, he was the Secretary of State to Thomas Jefferson from 1801 to 1809. During that time he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the country in 1803. Finally, he became the fourth President of the United States, holding office from 1809 to 1817. His wife Dolley was even the first “First Lady”. As such, Madison was one of the most important Americans of all time. I would even go so far as to say that, George Washington and James Madison were the most important people in US history, I’m just not sure if one was more important than the other or not. The point is that the country would not exist the way that it does were it not for the brilliance of James Madison. He was undoubtedly the greatest constitutional scholar in the history of America, by virtue of having written the document himself. Plus, he was the commander in chief during the Napoleonic Wars, which led to the Treaty of Ghent, thus ending the War of 1812. It was unanimously ratified by the Senate on February 12th of 1815. So, James Madison proved to be very diplomatic, having learned to deal with difficult foreign affairs during the Jefferson administration. The point is that Madison was a great politician, albeit a lousy public speaker.

As the president and a member of the Democratic-Republican party, Madison was beloved by most of the American people, save for his Federalist critics in the opposing party. Thus, James Madison had and still does have a fairly good reputation here in America. That is except of course for his being a misogynist and a racist. After all, most of the founding fathers were staunch white nationalist slave owners in favor of second-class citizenship, for anyone other than male European-American landowners with what they called a “stake in society”. Again, much of this was modeled on classical Athenian policies and procedures, so it continued to incorporate antiquated notions like that of gender inferiority. Centuries later the citizenry in this country is still trying to fix these mistakes in our society, however what Madison did was quite impressive in spite of those failings. The way I see it, he shall forever be remembered as the greatest constitutional scholar in US history, and one of the finest presidents we’ve ever had. For a man who only weighed a hundred pounds he sure did carry a lot of weight. In our somewhat secularized society, and without a royal family of which to speak, he is the closest thing that we have to a legendary iconic figure in our brief history. So, out of all the founding fathers, I think he should mean the most to us, for all the reasons that I’ve mentioned and so much more.

An Eclectic Autodidact Polymath Essayist

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