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Thank you & Happy Birthday, Mr. Madison!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Madison!

(Photo: "President Madison" (John D. Hall) relaxing in his Campeche chair at the Museum.)

In 1973, historian Richard Morris* identified seven (7) key figures among our Founders based on the “triple tests”**:

Leadership, Longevity, and Statesmanship.

Those whom Morris chose were: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.

Just like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and several others of the Founders, James Madison was not an American Revolutionary War military war hero. His career in the Orange County Militia lasted 4 days. Madison was not physically strong and suffered from epilepsy and debilitating intestinal issues. Fortunately, he was endowed with a depth of intelligence not often seen, paired with a life-long thirst for knowledge and service to this country. Madison gave 45 years of service on the state and federal levels.

Madison is most famous for his work in creating our Republic. Throughout 1786 and into 1787, Madison worked tirelessly through reading/re-reading and research, writing what is known as the Virginia Plan (sometimes "Randolph Plan" because Gov. Randolph read Madison's paper at the Constitutional Convention). It is the Virginia Plan that was debated and shaped into our Constitution. Based on his "Plan", never missing a session at the Convention, speaking over 200 times, authoring 29 of the "Federalist" essays with Alexander Hamilton (51) and John Jay (5), and his famous debate with Patrick Henry in Virginia's ratifying convention - Madison's contemporaries called him the "Father of the Constitution."

The Federalist essays, simplistically explained, compared what was occurring under The Articles of Confederation to what could be had under the proposed Constitution. The essays goal was to support ratification of the document. Madison was probably in his element while writing these essays and I would anticipate that he was somewhat surprised and dismayed when urgently requested at the Convention to keep Patrick Henry from persuading the delegates toward not ratifying the proposed Constitution.

Try to imagine the scene. The Richmond theatre (presently Monumental Church), a full house of delegates, many hanging onto every word and gesture of the premiere orator of their time, Patrick Henry, espousing the dangers of the proposed constitution against state's rights, individual liberties and even the interference with the practice of enslavement. Then try to envision a 6-foot-something Henry versus a 5' 6" Madison with his quiet voice (by nature, not design) debating the more flamboyant Henry. In the end, while Henry had the ability to persuade, Madison had the ability to convince. George Mason, one of the Anti-Federalists, was won over when Madison promised to write and put forth to the new Congress Amendments concerning individual rights and liberties. He kept his promise in producing the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution; The Bill of Rights.

(To read more about Patrick Henry and his anti-Federalist (or Anti-Constitution / Anti-Madison) position and actions click here.)

If you have the opportunity, read Irving Brandt's biography on Madison - it's fabulous. It takes dedication, though, as Brandt broke Madison's life into segments through 6 volumes.

*Richard Brandon Morris (July 24, 1904 – March 3, 1989)


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