James Madison

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James Madison
4th President of the United States
From: March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817[1]
Vice President George Clinton
Elbridge Gerry
Predecessor Thomas Jefferson
Successor James Monroe
5th United States Secretary of State
From: May 2, 1801 – March 3, 1809
President Thomas Jefferson
Predecessor John Marshall
Successor Robert Smith
Former U.S. Representative from Virginia's 15th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1793 – March 4, 1797
Predecessor Position created
Successor John Dawson
Former U.S. Representative from Virginia's 5th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1789 – March 4, 1793
Predecessor Position created
Successor George Hancock
Party Republican (Jeffersonian)
Spouse(s) Dolley Todd
Religion Episcopalianism

James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836), an American statesman, political theorist, party leader and fourth president of the United States of America (1809–1817), was one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. Misnamed the "Father of the Constitution"—he had little influence on the document—Madison took the most thorough notes during the Constitutional Convention and wrote many of the Federalist Papers to promote its ratification, including its influential Federalist No. 10. Bookish and intellectual, Madison arrived to the Constitutional Convention many days early to pour over documents in preparation, and then developed the "Virginia Plan" for a new bicameral legislature based on population, which the delegates from other states then rejected after the convention began.

As a leader in the first Congresses, he drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights." As a political theorist, Madison advanced the theory of republicanism. Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to limit the powers of special interests, which Madison called factions.[2] He believed very strongly that the new nation should fight against aristocracy and corruption (especially of British origin), and was deeply committed to creating mechanisms that would ensure republicanism in the United States.[3]

As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1792, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized the Jeffersonian Republicans. The new party opposed Hamilton's financial and foreign policies, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. In 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Laws Madison secretly coauthored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that called for states to block federal laws.

As Jefferson's secretary of state (1801-1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation's size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo of 1807 to punish British and French violations of American rights. As president, he led the nation into the War of 1812 against Britain in order to uphold American honor against British insults (especially the impressment of American sailors), to protect America's rights to trade with France, and to stop the British aid to Indians who were blocking expansion into the northwest Territory.

Madison had not seriously prepared for war and lacked a strategy or good generals. The war began poorly, as Americans suffered defeat after defeat by smaller forces, but ended on a high note in 1815, after which a new spirit of nationalism swept the country. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second national bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.

Personal life

James was the oldest of 12 children of James Madison, Sr., and Nelly Conway. The father, an Anglican vestryman, a justice of the peace, and Orange County's leading planter, was the owner of 4,000 acres and about 100 slaves. James attended a local academy and was home schooled, and went off to Princeton (College of New Jersey) in 1769. While at Princeton, Madison helped to found the American Whig Society,[4] a prestigious literary society which is still in existence today. Although small, frail and sickly, he was a brilliant student who finished the three-year course in two years and stayed on as Princeton's first graduate student. Studying under erudite president John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian divine, Madison absorbed the classics, and the main books in Enlightenment thought.


On September 14, 1794, Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, who cut as attractive and vivacious a figure as he did a sickly and anti-social one. Dolley is largely credited with inventing the role of First Lady as political ally and adviser to the president. They had no children.

Both of them were close friends with former President Thomas Jefferson. They lived on a neighboring hilltop near Jefferson's hilltop estate, Monticello, in Virginia.

US Senate chaplains

President James Madison was an example of a leader who ultimately came to think that the positions of Senate and House Chaplains could not be constitutionally supported, although whether he always held this view (and to what extent he believed it at various times during his life) is a subject of debate.

Political career

Madison served in the Virginia state legislature (1776–79) and became known as a protégé of Jefferson, attaining prominence in state politics; he helped draft the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Responding to demands from Baptists and Presbyterians, it disestablished the Anglican Church (Church of England), and disclaimed any power of state compulsion in religious matters. He persuaded Virginia to turn over its claims to northwestern territories (consisting of most of modern-day Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois) to the Continental Congress.

As delegate to the Continental Congress (1780–83), Madison was considered a legislative workhorse and a master of parliamentary detail.

Father of the Constitution

Back in the Virginia state legislature, Madison welcomed peace, but soon grew alarmed at the fragility of the Articles of Confederation, and especially at the divisiveness of state governments. He strongly advocated a new constitution to overcome this divisiveness, and was an important organizer of the 1786 Annapolis Convention.[5] At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, Madison's draft of the Virginia Plan and his revolutionary three-branch federal system became the basis for the final plan. Though Madison was a shy man, he was one of the more outspoken members of the Continental Congress. He envisioned a strong federal government that could overrule actions of the states when they were deemed mistaken. His Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 were the most detailed record, but he refused to allow them to be published until after his death, leaving commentators and judges puzzled for 50 years over what the authors intended by various provisions.[6]

Other members of the Virginia delegation to the Convention were John Blair, George Mason, James McClurg, Edmund Randolph, George Washington, and George Wythe.

The Federalist Papers

To aid the push for ratification, Madison joined Alexander Hamilton (and also John Jay) to write the The Federalist Papers. These essays that immediately became the single most important interpretation of the Constitution, and remains so among jurists and scholars. Madison a third of them, most famously paper No. 10, in which he explained how a large country with many different interests and factions could support republican values better than a small country dominated by a few special interests. His interpretation was largely ignored at the time, but in the 20th century became a central part of the pluralist interpretation of American politics.[7] Madison is often hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his role in its drafting and ratification. However, 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".[8]

Back in Virginia in 1788, Madison led the fight for ratification of the Constitution at the state's convention, oratorically dueling with Patrick Henry and other Anti-Federalists who tried to block the nationalistic document. The compromise reached was ratification together with the promise of a Bill of Rights that would be promptly added. All 13 states ratified the new Constitution and it took effect in 1789, as Washington was sworn in as president.

Author of Bill of Rights

Patrick Henry persuaded the Virginia legislature not to elect Madison as one of their first Senators; but Madison was elected by the voters to the new House of Representatives and became a dominant leader from the First Congress (1789–90) through the Fourth Congress (1797–98).

Initially Madison had three main objections to a specific bill of rights:

  • it was unnecessary, since it purported to protect against powers that the federal government had not been granted;
  • it was dangerous, since enumeration of some rights might be taken to imply the absence of other rights; and
  • at the state level, bills of rights had proven to be useless paper barriers against government powers.[9]

But the anti-Federalists in many states had demanded a bill of rights in exchange for their support for ratification. Over two hundred proposals were submitted from throughout the country. Madison ignored the proposals for structural change of the government, and synthesized the others into a short list of proposals for the protection of civil rights, such as free speech and habeas corpus. In June 1789 Madison offered a package of twelve proposed amendments to the House. Reversing his previous opposition he hounded his colleagues relentlessly to accept his proposed amendments.[10]

By December 1791, ten of Madison's proposed amendments were ratified and became the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights did not apply to the states until the passages of Fourteenth Amendment gave a federal guarantee to federal rights inside the states.

First Amendment

The concept of religious liberty was long known to be a Christian concept in the days of the Founders, and Madison directly credited Martin Luther as his inspiration in the crafting of that amendment. He wrote: (referencing an address of a reverend)

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence, and of cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due to God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.[11]

Opposition to Hamilton

The chief characteristic of Madison's time in Congress was his work to limit the power of the federal government. Madison never wanted a national government that took an active role and feared that Hamilton and Washington were creating a European type of government with a bureaucracy, a standing army, and a powerful independent executive.[12]

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 (in collaboration with Jefferson, who had returned to private life), believed that Britain was weak and America strong, and that a trade war with Britain, although it threatened retaliation by Britain, probably would succeed, and would allow Americans to assert their independence fully. Britain, he charged, "has bound us in commercial manacles, and very nearly defeated the object of our independence". Madison had no fear of British recriminations for "her interests can be wounded almost mortally, while ours are invulnerable". The British West Indies, he maintained, could not live without American foodstuffs, but Americans could easily do without British manufactures. This same 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".[13] However, President Washington avoided a trade war and instead Hamilton and Jay secured friendly trade relations with Britain through the Jay Treaty of 1794. Madison tried and failed to defeat the treaty, and it became a central issue of the emerging First Party System. All across the country, voters divided for and against the Treaty and other key issues, and thus became Federalists or Republicans.

Madison vs Hamilton

Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton built a nationwide network of supporters that became the Federalist Party, and promoted a strong central government with a national bank. Madison and Jefferson organized the Republican party in 1792. It opposed Hamilton's domestic and foreign policies and the Federalists overall as centralizers and pro-British elitists who would undermine republican values. Madison led the unsuccessful attempt to block Hamilton's proposed Bank of the United States, arguing the new Constitution did not explicitly allow the federal government to form a bank.[14]

States rights

Most historians argue that Madison changed radically from a nationally oriented ally of Hamilton in 1787–88 to a states-rights-oriented opponent of a strong national government by 1795. Madison started with opposing Hamilto; by 1793 he was opposing Washington as well. On most major issues Madison usually lost and Hamilton usually won, notably the National Bank, funding of state and national debts, and support of the Jay Treaty. (Madison did block the proposal for high tariffs.) Madison's politics remained closely aligned with Jefferson's until the experience of a weak national government during the War of 1812 led Madison to appreciate the need for a stronger central government. He then began to support a national bank, a stronger navy and a standing army. However, other historians, led by Lance Banning and Gordon S. Wood, see more continuity in Madison's views and do not see a sharp break in 1792.

Secretary of State: 1801-1809

The main challenge which faced the Jefferson Administration was navigating between the two great empires of Britain and France, which were almost constantly at war. The first great triumph was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, made possible when Napoleon realized he could not defend that vast territory, and it was to France's advantage that Britain not seize it. Madison and President Jefferson reversed party policy to negotiate for the Purchase and then win Congressional approval. Madison tried to maintain neutrality between Britain and France, but at the same time insisted on the legal rights of the U.S. under international law. Neither London nor Paris showed much respect, however. Madison and Jefferson decided on an embargo to punish Britain and France, forbidding Americans to trade with any foreign nation. The embargo failed as foreign policy, and instead caused massive hardships in the northeastern seaboard, which depended on foreign trade.

Jefferson and Madison looked to the yeoman—the independent farmer—for virtues that were founded on an agrarian economy like that of Virginia. They were determined to avoid war, because war meant large armies, permanent navies, military virtues in opposition to the yeoman, new taxes, and increases in executive power. The result they feared would weaken liberty and republicanism. But they were not isolationist. Instead Jefferson and Madison put their faith in the power of American commerce to achieve their objectives, though threats like the boycott. The boycotts failed and Madison took a poorly prepared nation to war in 1812.[15]

The party's Congressional caucus chose presidential candidates, and Madison was selected in the election of 1808, easily defeating Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, riding on the coattails of Jefferson's popularity. Congress repealed the failed embargo as Madison took office.

Presidency 1809–1817

The Bank of the United States

The twenty year charter of the First Bank of the United States was scheduled to expire in 1811, the second year of Madison's administration. Madison failed to block the Bank in 1791, and waited for its charter to expire. Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin wanted the bank rechartered, and when the War of 1812 broke out discovered how difficult it was to finance the war without the Bank. Gallatin's successor as Treasury Secretary Alexander J. Dallas proposed a replacement in 1814, but Madison vetoed the bill in 1815. By late 1815, however, Madison asked Congress for a new bank, which had strong support from the younger, nationalistic republicans such as John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay, as well as Federalist Daniel Webster. Madison signed it into law in 1816 and appointed William Jones as its president.

War of 1812

British insults continued, especially the practice of using the Royal Navy to intercept unarmed American merchant ships and "impress" (conscript) all sailors who might be British subjects for service in the British navy. Madison's protests were ignored, so he helped stir up public opinion in the west and south for war. One argument was that an American invasion of Canada (that is, modern Ontario) would be easy and would provide a good bargaining chip. (Since 1940 American and Canadian historians have agreed that Americans did not desire to acquire Canadian lands, but to stop British aid to the hostile Indians.) Madison carefully prepared public opinion for what everyone at the time called "Mr. Madison's War", but failed to build up the army, navy, forts, and state militias. After he convinced Congress to declare war, Madison was re-elected President over DeWitt Clinton but by a smaller margin than in 1808. Historians in 2006 ranked Madison's failure to avoid war as the sixth worst presidential mistake ever made.[16]

In the ensuing War of 1812, the British and their Indian allies won numerous victories, including the capture of Detroit after the American general there surrendered to a smaller force without a fight, and a British raid burned the White House. The British alliance with the western Indians proved a failure, as the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 secured American control of the west, Tecumseh was killed, and his Indian coalition destroyed at the Battle of the Thames. A standoff was reached on the Canadian border, as Americans controlled Lake Erie and the British controlled Lake Ontario after a shipbuilding race. The British sent a major invasion force into New York but Americans sank the supporting fleet and the British retreated to Canada in 1814. At sea, the British blockaded the entire American coastline, cutting off both foreign trade and domestic trade between ports. Economic hardship was severe in New England, but entrepreneurs built factories that soon became the basis of the industrial revolution in America.

Madison faced formidable obstacles—a divided cabinet, a factious party, a recalcitrant Congress, obstructionist governors, and amazingly incompetent generals, together with militia who refused to fight outside their states. Most serious was lack of unified popular support. There were serious threats of disunion from New England, which engaged in massive smuggling to Canada and refused to provide financial support or soldiers.[17] However Andrew Jackson in the South and William Henry Harrison in the West destroyed the main Indian threats by 1813.

After the apparent defeat of Napoleon in 1814, both the British and Americans were exhausted, the causes of the war had been forgotten, the Indian issue was resolved, and it was time for peace. New England Federalists, however, set up a defeatist Hartford Convention that discussed secession. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war in 1815. There were no territorial gains on either side as both sides returned to status quo ante bellum, that is, the previous boundaries. The Battle of New Orleans, in which Andrew Jackson defeated the British regulars, was fought fifteen days after the treaty was signed but before the news of the signing reached New Orleans.

With peace finally established, the U.S. was swept by a sense of euphoria and national achievement in finally securing solid independence from Britain. In the U.S., the Federalist Party collapsed and eventually disappeared from politics, as an Era of Good Feeling emerged with a much lower level of political fear and vituperation, although political contention certainly continued.


Although Madison had accepted the necessity of a Hamiltonian national bank, an effective taxation system based on tariffs, a standing professional army and a strong navy, he drew the line at internal improvements as advocated by his Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin. In his last act before leaving office, Madison vetoed on states' rights grounds a bill for "internal improvements", including roads, bridges, and canals:

Having considered the bill ... I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling this bill with the Constitution of the United States.... The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified ... in the ... Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers.[18]

Madison rejected the view of Congress that the General Welfare Clause justified the bill, stating:

Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms "common defense and general welfare" embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.

Madison urged a variety of measures that he felt were "best executed under the national authority", including federal support for roads and canals that would "bind more closely together the various parts of our extended confederacy".


When Madison left office in 1817, he retired to Montpelier, his tobacco plantation in Virginia; not far from Jefferson's Monticello. Madison was then 65 years old. Dolley, who thought they would finally have a chance to travel to Paris, was 49. But as with both Washington and Jefferson, Madison left the presidency a poorer man than when he entered, due to the steady financial collapse of his plantation. Some historians speculate that his mounting debt was one of the chief reasons why he refused to allow his notes on the Constitution Convention, or its official records which he possessed, to be published in his lifetime.[19] Madison's financial troubles and deteriorating mental and physical health would continue to consume him. By the 1830s, troubled by debts that were threatening to bankrupt him, Madison's mental agitation led to physical collapse.[20]

In 1829, at the age of seventy-eight, Madison was chosen as a representative to the constitutional convention in Richmond for the revising of the Virginia state constitution; this was to be Madison's last appearance as a legislator and constitutional draftsman.

The issue of greatest importance at this convention was apportionment. The western districts of Virginia complained that they were under-represented because the state constitution apportioned voting districts by population, and the count included slaves even though slaves could not vote. Westerners had few slaves, while the Eastern planters had many, and thus the vote of a white easterner outweighed the vote of a white westerner.

Madison, who in his prime was known as "the Great Legislator", tried to effect a compromise, such as the 3/5 ratio for a slave then used by the U.S. Constitution, but to no avail. Eventually, the eastern planters prevailed. Slaves would continue to be counted toward their masters' districts. Madison was crushed at the failure of Virginians to resolve the issue more equably. "The Convention of 1829, we might say, pushed Madison steadily to the brink of self-delusion, if not despair. The dilemma of slavery undid him."[21]

Although his health had now almost failed, he managed to produce several memoranda on political subjects, including an essay against the appointment of chaplains for Congress and the armed forces, on the grounds that this produced religious exclusion, but not political harmony.[22]

Madison lived on until 1836, increasingly ignored by the new leaders of the American polity. He was the last remaining signatory of the United States Constitution.[23][24]

As historian Garry Wills wrote:

Madison's claim on our admiration does not rest on a perfect consistency, any more than it rests on his presidency. He has other virtues.... As a framer and defender of the Constitution he had no peer.... The finest part of Madison's performance as president was his concern for the preserving of the Constitution.... No man could do everything for the country – not even Washington. Madison did more than most, and did some things better than any. That was quite enough.[25]

Views on national government

Madison was the main drafter of the Constitution at the 1787 Philadelphia convention; his Notes remain the best source of the debates at this secret meeting. With Alexander Hamilton and one other he coauthored Federalist Papers of 1788, which helped convince New York to ratify the Constitution. The Federalist Papers remain to this day the most important commentary of the Constitution.

Like other nationalists Madison was disgusted with the weak national government of the 1780s—it was badly organized (with no president and no courts), and lacked the power to raise taxes. It would be unable to defend the new nation in a major war. Hamilton therefore was a strong proponent of powerful national government at this point. (He changed his mind in the 1790s.)

In the two greatest of all the Federalist Papers, numbers 10 and 51, Madison set forth his “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” Those diseases, in his diagnosis, were the diseases attendant on factions. He feared, above all else, factions that might mobilize a plebeian majority capable of invading the rights, especially the property rights, of rich minorities. Since he saw no way to remove the causes of such factions, he set about to control their effects. The crux of that control was his brilliant realization that a large republic would forestall overbearing majorities more effectively than the small republics beloved of all previous democratic theorists. But the precondition of that realization was his distinction between two types of factions.

Idea of a party system

Hofstadter (1969) finds the “idea of a party system” in the pluralistic, antiparty attitudes in the young Republic, especially those of James Madison, primary author of the Constitution (1788) and cofounder of the Republican Party (1793). Americans did not respect English parties of the 18th century, which were shifting coalitions of politicians in Parliament and not based on the opinions of voters. Colonial American "pre-parties" practiced a vigorous, experience-yielding factionalism. However, deferential colonial politics (as in Virginia) elected men not for their proposals but for their reputation. Liberty and republicanism, the basic values of the Founding Fathers, were to be protected by legislative checks since the checks of the political process were suspect. Ideally, two houses, rather than two parties, would check each other. In advocating the Constitution, antiparty thinkers such as Madison actually were establishing the major force in creating two great parties. Madison envisioned a pluralism among the parties rather than within them. He did not foresee parties as great, bland, enveloping coalitions. Because he feared the tyranny of a majority faction, Madison sought pluralism through a large republic and through majorities made up of weak, precarious coalitions. His view of pluralism owed much to his understanding of the liberties of religious dissent; parties were to resemble the multiplicity of religious sects, as in Virginia.[26]

the Right to Bear Arms

In the Federalist Papers #46, he described how essential the right to bear arms (later embodied in the Second Amendment) is to overall freedom from tyranny:[27]

Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached, and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain, that with this aid alone they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will and direct the national force, and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments, and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned in spite of the legions which surround it.

The War of 1812

Madison is considered to have been an inadequate President. He failed to resole diplomatically the continuing British seizure of American ships. Instead, he pushed for an unnecessary war, and the U.S. eventually invaded Canada (then still a British colony), in what became known as the War of 1812. That war saw the seizing of Detroit by Canada, and the burning of Washington, D.C. by the British. Madison's wife, Dolly, is famously remembered for saving a portrait of George Washington just before the British burned the White House. In hindsight, the War of 1812 is viewed as a needless mistake, but at the time the Federalist Party's opposition to the war (and to Madison's Republicans) led to the Federalists being viewed as "unpatriotic" and "anti-American," and the party disbanded soon after the next election year.

Madison on Religion and Government

Madison, along with his fellow Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson, were less tolerant of religion in government than other Founding Fathers.[28] Like Jefferson, Madison favored separation of church and state.[29]

Decades later, long after the Constitution was ratified, he wrote letters reflecting less of an embrace of religion. The letters may have been written with the opinions of the recipients in mind:

"The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity."[30]
"Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In the strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U. S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. The law appointing Chaplains establishes a religious worship for the national representatives, to be performed by Ministers of religion, elected by a majority of them; and these are to be paid out of the national taxes. Does not this involve the principle of a national establishment, applicable to a provision for a religious worship for the Constituent as well as of the representative Body, approved by the majority, and conducted by Ministers of religion paid by the entire nation?"[31]
"In the papal system, Government and Religion are in a manner consolidated, and that is found to be the worst of Government." [32]
"The rights of persons and property, are the objects, for the protection of which Govt was instituted." [33]


  • "Mr. MADISON thought it wrong to admit in the Constitution the idea that there could be property in men. The reason of duties did not hold, as slaves are not like merchandize, consumed, &c", Constitutional Convention, August 25
  • "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 it's issuance."
  • "Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant."
  • "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few."[34]
  • "When we are considering the advantages that may result from an easy mode of naturalization, we ought also to consider the cautions necessary to guard against abuses. It is no doubt very desirable that we should hold out as many inducements as possible for the worthy part of mankind to come and settle amongst us, and throw their fortunes into a common lot with ours. But why is this desirable? Not merely to swell the catalogue of people. No, sir, it is to increase the wealth and strength of the community; and those who acquire the rights of citizenship, without adding to the strength or wealth of the community are not the people we are in want of."[35]
  • "Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred." - Federalist 20
  • "In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights."[36]
  • "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own."[37]



  • Banning, Lance. "James Madison" American National Biography Online (2000)
  • Brant, Irving. "James Madison and His Times," American Historical Review. 57,4(July, 1952), 853–870.online at JSTOR
  • Brant, Irving. James Madison, 6 vols., (Bobbs-Merrill, 1941-1961). most detailed scholarly biography.
  • Brant, Irving. The Fourth President; a Life of James Madison (Bobbs-Merrill, 1970). one-volume condensation of his series.
  • Hunt, Gaillard. The Life of James Madison. 1902. online edition useful details but outdated interpretations
  • Ketcham, Ralph. James Madison: A Biography (Macmillan, 1971). standard scholarly biography.
  • Rakove, Jack. James Madison and the Creation of the American Republic, 2nd ed., (Longman, 2002).
  • Riemer, Neal. James Madison (Washington Square Press, 1968).
  • Wills, Garry. James Madison (Times Books, 2002). short bio.

Political history

  • Adams, Henry. History of the United States during the [First and Second] Administrations of James Madison (1890–91; Library of America, 1986).
    • Wills, Garry. Henry Adams and the Making of America (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). a close reading of Adams.
  • Banning, Lance. The Jeffersonian Persuasion: Evolution of a Party Ideology (1978)
  • Banning, Lance. The Sacred Fire of Liberty: James Madison and the Founding of the Federal Republic (Cornell Univ. Press, 1995). online edition; online ACLS History e-Book. Available only to subscribing institutions.
    • Gibson, Alan. "Lance Banning's Interpretation Of James Madison: An Appreciation And Critique." Political Science Reviewer 2003 32: 269–317. Issn: 0091-3715 Fulltext: at Ebsco
  • Brant, Irving. James Madison and American Nationalism. (1968).
  • Brown, Roger H. The Republic in Peril: 1812 (1964), stresses intense hostility between partisans online edition
  • Brown, Stuart Gerry. The First Republicans: Political Philosophy and Public Policy in the Party of Jefferson and Madison. (1954). online edition
  • Elkins, Stanley M. and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism (1995). most advanced analysis of the politics of the 1790s. online edition
  • Koch, Adrienne. Jefferson and Madison: The Great Collaboration. (1950) online edition
  • Labunski, Richard. James Madison and the Struggle for a Bill of Rights. Oxford U. Pr., 2006. 337 pp.
  • Leibiger, Stuart. Founding Friendship: George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic. U Press of Virginia, 1999. 284 pp. online review
  • McCoy, Drew R. The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (W.W. Norton, 1980). mostly economic issues.
    • McCoy, The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989). JM after 1816.
  • Miller, John C. The Federalist Era: 1789-1801 (1960), survey of political history
  • Peterson, Merrill D. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation: A Biography (1975) online edition
  • Rutland, Robert A. The Presidency of James Madison (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1990). scholarly overview of his two terms.
    • Rutland, ed. James Madison and the American Nation, 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia (Simon & Schuster, 1994). highly detailed coverage of Madison and the era
  • Sharp, James Roger. American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis (1993), political narrative of 1790s
  • Skeen, Carl Edward. 1816: America Rising (1993) popular history
  • Smelser, Marshall. The Democratic Republic 1801-1815 (1968) standard scholarly survey of politics and diplomacy.
  • Stagg, John C.A., "James Madison and the 'Malcontents': The Political Origins of the War of 1812," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 33,4(Oct. 1976), 557–585. online.
    • Stagg, "James Madison and the Coercion of Great Britain: Canada, the West Indies, and the War of 1812," in William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 38,1(Jan., 1981), 3-34. online.
    • Stagg, Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783-1830 (Princeton, 1983).
  • Trees, Andrew S. The Founding Fathers and the Politics of Character. Princeton U. Press, 2004. 208 pp. compares Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson and Adams
  • Wood, Gordon S., "Is There a 'James Madison Problem'?" in Wood, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different (Penguin Press, 2006a), 141–72.
    • Wood, "Without Him, No Bill of Rights," The New York Review of Books (November 30, 2006b).

Political theory

  • Kernell, Samuel, ed. James Madison: the Theory and Practice of Republican Government (Stanford Univ. Press, 2003).
  • Kramer, Larry D. "Madison's Audience." Harvard Law Review. 112#3 1999. pp 611+ online edition
  • Matthews, Richard K., If Men Were Angels: James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1995), political philosophy
  • Morgan, Robert J. James Madison on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Greenwood Press. 1988. online edition
  • Muñoz, Vincent Phillip. "James Madison's Principle of Religious Liberty," American Political Science Review 97,1(2003), 17–32.
  • Read, James H. Power versus Liberty: Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, and Jefferson (2000). political philosophy
  • Riemer, Neal. "The Republicanism of James Madison," Political Science Quarterly, 69,1(1954), 45–64 in JSTOR.
    • Riemer, James Madison : Creating the American Constitution (Congressional Quarterly, 1986).
  • Rosen, Gary. American Compact: James Madison and the Problem of Founding (1999), political philosophy
  • Samples, John, ed. James Madison and the Future of Limited Government. (Cato Institute, 2002), essays by libertarian and conservative scholars. online edition
  • Sheehan, Colleen A. "The Politics of Public Opinion: James Madison's 'Notes on Government'," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 49,3(1992), 609–627. in JSTOR.
    • Sheehan, "Madison and the French Enlightenment," William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 59,4(Oct. 2002), 925–956. in JSTOR.
    • Sheehan, "Madison v. Hamilton: The Battle Over Republicanism and the Role of Public Opinion," American Political Science Review 98,3(2004), 405–424. in JSTOR.
    • Sheehan, "Madison Avenues," Claremont Review of Books (Spring 2004), online.
    • Sheehan, "Public Opinion and the Formation of Civic Character in Madison's Republican Theory," Review of Politics 67,1(Winter 2005), 37–48.
  • Smith, Robert W. Keeping the Republic: Ideology and Early American Diplomacy. Northern Illinois U. Press, 2004. 196 pp. online review

Primary sources

  • James Madison, James Madison: Writings 1772-1836. (Library of America, 1999). over 900 pages of letters, speeches and reports. [ISBN 1-883011-66-3].
  • Ketcham, Ralph, ed., Selected Writings of James Madison. ( Hackett, 2006. xxxii, 396 pp. isbn 978-0-87220-695-3.)
  • James Madison, Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 Reported by James Madison (1987); [ISBN 0393304051] ([2])
  • James Madison, Letters & Other Writings Of James Madison Fourth President Of The United States, 4 vols., (1865); called the Congress edition. online edition
  • William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (U. of Chicago Press, 1962-). the definitive multivolume edition. 29 volumes have been published, with 16+ more volumes planned.
  • Gaillard Hunt, ed. The Writings of James Madison, 9 vols., (1900-1910). online edition
  • Marvin Myers, ed. Mind of the Founder: Sources of the Political Thought of James Madison (1973) [ISBN 0-87451-201-8].
  • James M. Smith, ed. The Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, 1776-1826. 3 vols., (1995).
  • Jacob E. Cooke, ed. The Federalist (1961).


  1. http://www.trivia-library.com/a/4th-us-president-james-madison.htm
  2. Robert Alan Dahl, "Madisonian Democracy," in Dahl, et al., eds. The Democracy Sourcebook (MIT Press, 2003), pp. 207-16.
  3. Banning, 1995; Kernell, 2003; Riemer, 1954.
  4. The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
  5. James Madison: A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation
  6. Wood, 2006, pp. 163-64.
  7. Kramer, 1999
  8. Lance Banning, "James Madison: Federalist," note 1, [1].
  9. Wood, 2006b.
  10. Wood, 2006b.
  11. Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 1816-1828, Letter to F. L. Schaeffer, Montpellier, December 3rd, 1821
  12. Wood, 2006a, p. 165.
  13. Paul A. Varg, Foreign Policies of the Founding Fathers (1963), p. 74.
  14. 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. Hamilton, Writings (2001), p. 738. On May 5, 1792, Madison told Washington, "with respect to the spirit of party that was taking place ...I was sensible of its existence". Madison Letters (1865), 1:554.
  15. Smith 2004
  16. CTV
  17. Stagg, 1983.
  18. Tax Foundation
  19. "He knew the value of his notes, and wanted them to bring money to his estate for Dolley's use as his plantation failed -- he was hoping for one hundred thousand dollars from the sale of his papers, of which the notes were the gem." Wills, 2002, p. 163.
  20. McCoy, 1989, p.151.
  21. Ibid., p. 252.
  22. He was tempted to admit chaplains for the navy, which might well have no other opportunity for worship. The text of the memoranda
  23. Virginia's Historic Homes and Gardens
  24. The American Presidents, Washington to Tyler
  25. Wills, 2002, p. 164.
  26. Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840 (1969).
  27. Federalist No. 46 (emphasis added)
  28. Madison did NOT write the false quote:
    "Religion is the basis and Foundation of Government.... We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God."
  29. The case for separation of church and state by Michelle Mueller
  30. Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec 3, 1821.
  31. Detached Memorandum, circa 1820.
  32. God and the Oval Office by John C. McCollister, W Publishing Group, 2002.
  33. James Madison and the Future of Limited Government‎ - Page 193
  34. 1829-1836, By James Madison
  35. House of Representatives, Rule of Naturalization, February 3rd-4th, 1790
  36. God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson
  37. James Madison: A Biography

External links