Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

James Madison

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
James Madison

James Madison (1751–1836) was a statesman, the fourth President of the United States, and the principal architect of the United States Constitution. He is considered the father of the US Constitution for creating the system of checks and balances for which the American government is known. Keep reading to learn more about James Madison's beliefs, contributions, and more.

Facts about James Madison

Below are some facts about James Madison.

  • Born March 16, 1751, to Nelly Conway Madison and James Madison Sr.

  • Known as "the Father of the Constitution" for his role in drafting the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights

  • Served as the fourth US president from 1809 to 1817

  • His estate manor, Montpelier, became a National Historic Landmark in 1966

  • He died from congestive heart failure on June 28, 1836

James Madison: Biography

James Madison grew up in Orange County, Virginia, in a plantation house named Mount Pleasant. In the early 1760s, the enslaved labor owned by the Madisons constructed another much larger plantation house, later to be called Montpelier. From age ten to sixteen, he attended boarding school in King and Queen County under the tutelage of Scottish instructor Donald Robertson. He learned geography, mathematics, and classical and modern languages, notably gaining proficiency in Latin.

James Madison, Portrait of James Madison, StudySmarterFig. 1 - James Madison preferred to influence policy away from the public eye.

In 1769, he enrolled in the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton University. There, Madison laid the foundation for his political thinking. He continued his studies of classical languages like Latin and Greek, but also law and philosophy. In 1771, he completed the three-year bachelor's program in two years. He became the college's first graduate student studying political philosophy under the University president and future signer of the "Declaration of Independence," John Witherspoon. Witherspoon's enlightenment ideas, such as man's innate ability to reason and rule himself, became fundamental concepts that Madison extolled as a future statesman.

After graduating in 1773, Madison began to study lawbooks heavily, though he would never take the bar nor practice law. This experience, combined with his background in political philosophy, led to the creation of some of his most influential ideas on American Democracy.

James Madison gained his political experience at the state level in Virginia. While in the Virginia House of Delegates, he pushed religious freedom statutes and was a close political ally of then Governor Thomas Jefferson. He became wary of the increasing size and power of certain more populous states, hoping to temper the power of majority rule by pushing for civil liberties at the federal level. This led to the creation of the US Bill of Rights, which was modeled after the Virginia Bill of Rights.

James Madison: Beliefs

James Madison was a nationalist and supporter of a strong centralized government. However, he was well aware of the possibility of a federal government having too much power and authority over the states. He believed a strong central government could be held accountable through a system of checks and balances.

Madison also believed in freedom of religion, though there is no substantial evidence regarding his personal religious beliefs. He was raised in the Anglican church in British America, but generally opposed any state religion and insisted on separation of church and state.

James Madison: Contributions

James Madison made several major contributions to American politics that shaped the nation's destiny in the following centuries.

James Madison, Montpelier estate, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Madison's estate is now a National Historic Landmark. Wikimedia.

The Federalist Papers (1777-1778)

The Federalist Papers were a series of essays arguing for the ratification of the Constitution. Of eighty-five Federalist papers, Madison wrote twenty-nine. His most famous is "Federalist No. 10". He argues that a large republic with a variety of factions will act as a counterbalance to a strong central government.

Drafting the US Constitution

James Madison used his experience in the Virginia state legislature to propose the Virginia Plan. The plan recommended three branches of government, which would form the basis of the United States Constitution. The executive would be led by a single figurehead with self-appointed administrators, with the judicial branch to interpret the laws created by the bicameral legislature.

Each branch can conduct itself independently but cannot become the dominant institution. The executive branch can veto laws passed by the legislature, but the legislature can impeach and vote to remove office holders from the executive branch. The Supreme Court of the judicial branch has the ultimate say in law interpretation and can overturn rulings. While the size, scope, and reach of each branch have changed over time, the establishment of this form of government is the most famous American body of law today.

James Madison, original US constitution handwritten, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The US Constitution is famous for the opening words "We the People..."

Drafting the Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the US Constitution are known collectively as the Bill of Rights. These were proposals by James Madison to appease the opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. Opponents called themselves anti-federalists and were concerned with preventing the central government from gaining too much power. The Bill of Rights guaranteed many civil liberties that are now taken for granted. For example, the freedom of speech, religious liberty, and right to a fair trial if accused of a crime are just some of these freedoms guaranteed to citizens by the US Constitution.

Louisiana Purchase

James Madison served as Secretary of State from 1801-1809 in the Jefferson administration. He oversaw the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, effectively doubling the size of the contiguous United States. France was at war with Great Britain and needed the funds to pay for its military campaign. Madison sent diplomats to France to facilitate the purchase and set the terms of a peaceful transfer to avoid conflict with Great Britain and Spain (who still had the Florida territory).

James Madison, map of Louisiana purchase size, StudySmarterFig. 4 - The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the contiguous United States.

Second Bank of the US

As President, Madison wanted to create a national university and strengthen state militias. He proposed a Second Bank of the US, modeled after Alexander Hamilton's First Bank of the US. Ultimately, Congress approved the Second Bank to fund other projects.

Democratic-Republican Party

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both founded the party. Once Jefferson was out of public office, James Madison became the presumptive leader of the party. The majority of the party base would split off and become the beginning of the modern Democratic Party.

James Madison: Quotes

Below are quotes by James Madison.

Where slavery exists, the republican theory becomes still more fallacious."

- Vices of the Political System of the United States (April 1787), Papers 9:350-51

Madison was wary of a society heavily reliant on enslaved people's labor and felt it was unstable. Rebellion was an ever-present danger to plantation owners. Madison himself owned over one hundred slaves on his Montpelier estate. Much like Thomas Jefferson in private, he held a more empathetic opinion towards slavery. Moralizing slavery was unpopular in Madison's time, and it was more feasible to address the fragile system as a logical contradiction to the principles of the republic.

The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge the wants or feelings of the day-laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages."

- Statement (June 26, 1787) as quoted in Notes of the Secret Debates of the Federal Convention of 1787 by Robert Yates

Equality in representation was a radical idea in Madison's time. He recognized that a society with a variety of people had different needs, and each deserved representation. Colonial America was populated mainly by immigrants. Some, like the Madisons and Jeffersons, managed to amass wealth over a few generations. Despite his higher economic status than most Americans, Madison understood that a peaceful union of the states required a genuinely representative democracy.

To secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction, and at the same time to preserve the spirit and the form of popular government, is then the great object to which our inquiries are directed."

- Federalist No. 10

James Madison recognized and valued differing opinions in an open democracy. He felt factions were essential to counterbalance the power of a central government that was susceptible to majority rule. While the US Constitution created a stronger federal government to unite the states, the Bill of Rights addressed anti-federalist concerns and protected civil liberties. Madison believed in government for the people, by the people, and his position on defining civil liberties evolved throughout his political career.

James Madison - Key takeaways

  • James Madison was a statesman and the fourth President of the United States.
  • Madison grew up on a plantation and received a formal education that was heavily influenced by enlightenment ideas.
  • He helped draft the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
  • Madison believed in a strong central government that protected civil liberties.
  • He oversaw the Louisiana Purchase, helped start the Second Bank, and led the Democratic-Republican Party.

References

  1. Fig. 2 - Madison's estate (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Montpelier_%28Orange%2C_Virginia%29%2C_James_Madison_home_at_Sunset.jpg) by Jennifer Glass (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Special:Contributions/Jenniferglass) is licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
  2. Fig. 4 - The Louisiana Purchase Map (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/56/Louisiana_Purchase.jpg) by William Morris is licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Frequently Asked Questions about James Madison

James Madison was a statesman and the fourth President of the United States of America.

James Madison believed in a federal government to unify the states, but was officially a member of the Democratic-Republican Party.

James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

James Madison helped create the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Three facts about James Madison are:

  • He helped draft the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights

  • Served as fourth president from 1809 to 1817

  • His estate manor, Montpelier, became a National Historic Landmark in 1966

Final James Madison Quiz

Question

Who was James Madison?


Show answer

Answer

James Madison was a statesman and the fourth President of the United States of America.

Show question

Question

Was James Madison a federalist?


Show answer

Answer

James Madison believed in a federal government to unify the states, but was officially a member of the Democratic-Republican Party.

Show question

Question

When was James Madison president?

Show answer

Answer

James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817.

Show question

Question

What did James Madison do?

Show answer

Answer

James Madison helped create the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Show question

Question

When was James Madison born?

Show answer

Answer

March 16, 1751

Show question

Question

What is the name of the estate manor that Madison lived in?

Show answer

Answer

Montpelier

Show question

Question

Which teacher influenced Madison's political philosophy?

Show answer

Answer

John Witherspoon

Show question

Question

Who was a close and powerful ally of James Madison?

Show answer

Answer

Thomas Jefferson

Show question

Question

Madison helped draft

Show answer

Answer

the US Constitution

Show question

Question

The Louisiana Purchase, which Madison oversaw, increased the size of the US by how much?

Show answer

Answer

Double

Show question

Question

Madison's Second Bank was modeled after

Show answer

Answer

Alexander Hamilton's First Bank

Show question

Question

Madison helped start which political party?

Show answer

Answer

Democratic-Republican Party

Show question

Question

The Bill of Rights 

Show answer

Answer

addressed anti-Federalist concerns and civil liberties.

Show question

Question

What was Madison's political philosophy?

Show answer

Answer

Madison believed people are fully capable of ruling themselves.

Show question

Question

What were Madison's private beliefs regarding slavery?

Show answer

Answer

Madison felt that a society that heavily relied on enslaved labor was fragile, unstable, and prone to rebellion.

Show question

Question

Who wrote "On Property"?

Show answer

Answer

James Madison

Show question

Question

When was "On Property" published?

Show answer

Answer

March 29, 1792

Show question

Question

Which newspaper published "On Property"?

Show answer

Answer

The National Gazette

Show question

Question

How is "On Property" similar to the Federalist Papers?

Show answer

Answer

"On Property" and the Federalist Papers both sought to explain political platforms and influence public policy.

Show question

Question

How does Madison expand the definition of property?

Show answer

Answer

He includes civil liberties as property.

Show question

Question

How does Madison justify his expansion of the definition of property?

Show answer

Answer

Madison says that if one recognizes property as valuable, then what one values should be recognized as property.

Show question

Question

What threatens property?

Show answer

Answer

An excess of power

Show question

Question

According to "On Property" what is a government's purpose?

Show answer

Answer

To protect and secure property.

Show question

Question

According to "On Property" how does a government derive its authority?

Show answer

Answer

From the consent of the people.

Show question

Question

What is the most sacred of properties?

Show answer

Answer

Conscience

Show question

Question

American citizens should have the freedom to


Show answer

Answer

to pursue a life of liberty and happiness, so long as it doesn’t infringe upon anyone else’s ability to do the same.

Show question

Question

Man is entitled to 


Show answer

Answer

earn his keep and keep what he earns.

Show question

Question

A main idea of "On Property":

Show answer

Answer

Civil Liberties as Property

Show question

Question

If America wants to choose a model government, then it needs one that

Show answer

Answer

enshrines civil liberties

Show question

Question

To this day, Madison’s “On Property” is referenced as 


Show answer

Answer

a basic founding principle in the crafting of public policy and political debate.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the James Madison quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.