A Biography Of James Madison And His

Impact On The Civil War Essay, Research Paper

Madison Report

James Madison: SO MUCH, SO YOUNG

James Madison was ” the greatest man in the world.” This praise came from a source of great accomplishment, Thomas Jefferson. The time was 1790 when great men inhabited the world, such men as George Washington, Goethe, Lafayette, Mozart, Napoleon, and Jefferson himself. What caused this source of intellectualism to state such a phrase? It was Madison’s great intellectual prowess and his belief that the United States of America as a union of free people was committed to the ideals of the American Revolution. As a framer of the United States Constitution, James Madison changed the role of government in this country’s infancy. Madison thoroughly believed he could make a difference and throughout his life he did, whether it was finishing college in two and half years or taking Presidential office on March 4, 1809.

On March 16, 1751 in Virginia, James Madison Senior and Nelly Conway Madison had changed the course of the world. Born to well-to-do parents, James Madison was the oldest of eleven children. Madison, a great thinker of his time, was born within 150 miles and a couple of years between other great minds as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, John Marshall, George Mason, and James Monroe. After his birth his father, a tobacco plantation owner moved his family westward to an Orange County plantation, a place, where young Madison would live and serve most of his Life. As a child, Madison was sickly, taking after his mother who was said to be constantly in her sickbed. He suffered from an assortment of problems the worst, he explained, as some continual disease similar to epilepsy. As well as epilepsy, he experienced attacks of diarrhea, influenza, and hemorrhoids, a common curse of the horseback riding society.

Despite his endeavors with childhood sickness, Madison became a well-accomplished student. Due to plantation life, education came in the form of private tutors or with boarding at nearby academies. Madison’s education came by way of instruction from a tutor named Donald Robertson. Robertson instilled in Madison a passion for learning, and by the age of twelve had taught Madison Latin. His next tutor, the Rev. Thomas Martin, carried on the Madison’s love for learning and directed him to the campus of Princeton, Martin’s alma mater. This college choice was vastly different from most Virginians who tended to go to William and Mary due to its near location. This action was one the first of Madison’s where he chose not to take the easy way.

At Princeton, Madison was a workhorse who stopped sometimes only to breathe. Princeton followed the idea of Presbyterianism, pedantry, and patriotism. Madison however, took the idea of patriotism to heart as he engaged in his future endeavors. He felt that the patriotism he found there filled is body and soul. He collected a bachelor’s degree in just two and a half years. Later, he described his stressful work habits as,

“An indiscreet experiment of the minimum of sleep and the maximum of application?The former was reduced for some weeks to less than five hours in the twenty four.” His work habits allowed him to create the credentials that at twenty would last a lifetime.

After his time at Princeton, Madison returned home and found no pleasure in plantation life. He also was not interested in very much else; he found the ministry boring, but dabbled in law. He soon became content with reading his books and being the dutiful son on his father’s farm. That was until the first shots were fired at Concord; at the age of twenty-four, James Madison’s life would never be the same.

The Revolutionary War had begun, and Madison’s feelings of patriotism had once again been ignited. As many men of his age were enlisting in local militias, young Madison a great shot, but nearly five feet two inches tall and barely one hundred pounds, was restrained from entering the military. He feared his health might deteriorate in the conditions of war. Madison knew he had to help, however, and he did. As Robert Allen Rutland wrote in his book James Madison: and the Search for Nationhood, “Whatever the cause, the Virginia minutemen lost a volunteer and the Virginia Convention of 1776-one of the great legislative bodies in our history-gained a member.” Madison’s disappointing denial to the militia turned him into a legislator, and he represented Orange County as a representative at the May 1776 gathering of the Virginia Convention held in Williamsburg.

Madison now joined the likes of such influential men as Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, and George Mason as he took his seat in the House of Burgesses. Historic business was to take place and he was a part of it. The last ties of England were about to be surrendered and Madison was ready to take a stance for both separation between the colonies and England and for the assembly of a republic. Madison’s feelings are later stated in a letter to Jared Sparks:

My first entrance on public life was in May, 1776, when I became a member of the

Convention in Virginia, which instructed her delegates in Congress to propose the

Declaration of Independence. . . It has always been my impression that a

re-establishment of the Colonial relations to the parent country previous to the

controversy was the real object of every class of people, till despair of obtaining it,

and the exasperating effects of the war, and the manner of conducting it, prepared

the minds of all for the event declared on the 4th of July, 1776, as preferable, with

all its difficulties and perils, to the alternative of submission to a claim of power, at

once external, unlimited, irresponsible, and under every temptation to abuse from

interest, ambition, and revenge.

-James Madison,

letter to Jared Sparks, January 5th, 1828

When George Mason presented the Declaration of Independence, it was taken with very little argument. One of the few problems with the Declaration of Independence was the interpretation of the line, “that all Men are born equally free and independent,” for most delegates were slave owners. However, Mason assured these men that he was talking about whites who had stake in society, not about black slaves. Madison questioned Mason on the topic of religious toleration, when he asked, according to Robert Rutland if he meant, “that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration” in the exercise of religious beliefs? Later in his life Madison said that “[Mason] inadvertently adopted the word toleration,” But when he, Madison, rejected the need to expand the expression, “the change suggested and accepted substituted a phraseology which declared freedom of conscience to be a natural and absolute right.” This debate over a few words showed many people Madison’s potential of being great. By the end of the convention Madison was a well-known young man who was ready for anything.

When Madison returned to he was ready to be elected to the House of Delegates but the voters did not know of his successful and praiseworthy accomplishments at Williamsburg. The voters of Orange County only knew who used the best source of bribery at the polling place. Many voters expected the Delegate Elect to greet them with cider or rum, but Madison refused. Madison lost that election.

As a result of not being elected to the House of Delegates, Madison was appointed to the Council of State. The Council of State’s duty was to carry on the commonwealth’s executive business by way of the governor. During that time, this position was seen as a training ground for new leaders. Madison excelled in his new position and in 1777 was too busy with it to run for a delegate’s office. However, the people of Orange County elected him anyway as an absentee, but he was too busy to accept. In his position, Madison assured the people of Virginia that the revolution would succeed and that it had succeeded. This feeling compelled Madison to stay in public office for another thirty-nine years.

In May of 1787, the Federal Convention took place to revise the Articles of Confederation. There was the Virginia Plan, mostly compiled by Madison, but somewhat by Mason. Madison crafted the idea of each state having one vote in the national council and he also supported the ideas of a two-house legislature that worked with the executive and judicial branch. He believed that each branches should have its own powers but they should be on a system that kept each in check. Madison’s plan only filled a few pages but held, for a summer of debates in Philadelphia. At the age of thirty-six, James Madison’s ideas for a constitution changed America.

During the debate on the constitution, Madison took extremely detailed notes, because visitors were allowed in Independence Hall. Jefferson’s views on the Virginia Plan and the convention were explained in letters to John Tyler, which was not sent, and John G. Jackson, respectively:

That most of us carried into the Convention a profound impression, produced by

the experienced inadequacy of the old Confederation, and by the monitory

examples of all similar ones, ancient and modern, as to the necessity of binding

the States together by a strong Constitution, is certain.

-Letter to John G. Jackson, December 27, 1821

The resolutions [i.e., the Virginia Plan] proposed by him [Virginia Governor

Randolph] were the result of a consultation among the Deputies [the Virginia

delegation], the whole number, seven, being present. The part, which Virginia had

borne in bringing about the Convention suggested the idea that some such

initiative step might be expected from their deputation, and Mr. Randolph was

designated for the task. It was perfectly understood that the propositions

committed no one to their precise tenor or form, and that the members of the

deputation would be as free in discussing and shaping them as the other members

of the Convention. Mr. Randolph was made the organ on the occasion, being then

the Governor of the State, of distinguished talents, and in the habit of public

speaking. General Washington, though at the head of the list, was . . . disinclined

to take the lead. It was also foreseen that he would be immediately called to the

presiding station.

-Letter to John Tyler (not sent), 1833

Although Madison’s Virginia Plan did not hold up, it did set the blue prints for an agreement that set the constitution on September 17, 1787.

James Madison was a great man. Thomas Jefferson was right; his friend had changed America for the better. James Madison did just that, at just thirty-six, not even old enough to be the President of the United States, changed his country forever. Madison later went on to greater things, first as secretary of state in 1800 and President of the United States in 1809. Madison served the public even after he left office and until he died, June 28, 1836 at the age of eighty-five years.


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