James Madison Critical Thinking Course

Madison's knowledge of constitutionalism, as well as his willingness to find compromises, made him one of the most influential delegates at the Constitutional Convention.

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James Madison (1751–1836) was born in Virginia and raised on his father's plantation in that state, Montpelier, in Orange County.

His parents encouraged his studies, engaging tutors to provide a classical education and sending him to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where he excelled.

He was disappointed that the Convention delegates rejected proportional representation for the Senate in favor of equal representation of the states (the Great Compromise).

He considered this a breach of republican principles of representative government.

With Thomas Jefferson, Madison formed the nation's first political party in the 1790s in opposition to the policies of Alexander Hamilton.

Madison served as secretary of state during Jefferson's presidency and was elected president in 1808.He led the new nation through its first major war (the War of 1812).His wife Dolley was so successful in establishing the hospitality of the presidency that she inspired the term "First Lady." At the end of his second term in 1817, Madison retired to his home, Montpelier, where he continued to serve as advisor and confidant to many leaders of the day. In later years Madison denied that he was the "Father of the Constitution," observing that the nation's charter was "the work of many heads and many hands" rather than the "the offspring of a single brain." Other delegates to the Convention, however, acknowledged Madison's special stature, one noting that "he blends together the profound politician, with the scholar."Madison showed this blend of abilities in his preparation for the Convention.Madison's views, however, did not always prevail at the Convention.Of the seventy-one suggestions he proposed or supported, forty were voted down.Madison designed an alternative constitutional framework that would avoid these problems.Introduced at the Convention by Virginia's delegates, it became known as the Virginia Plan.One colleague described him as "no bigger than half a piece of soap." Almost painfully shy, he had a soft voice and suffered from chronic ill health.Lacking physical charisma, he influenced others primarily by the force of his intellect and his political skills.He was elected to the Virginia convention in 1776, where he helped draft the state's new constitution.In 1779 Madison was elected as the youngest delegate to the Continental Congress.


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