The fourth U.S. president was James Madison. He was born on March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, Virginia. He is important because he wrote the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers and sponsored the Bill of Rights. This consisted of the first ten (10) of the Amendments to the Constitution.
He and his friend Thomas Jefferson established the Democrat-Republican Party. Jefferson became the third President and Madison the fourth President in 1808. Madison initiated the War of 1812 with England and served two terms in the White House, with First Lady Dolley Madison. He died on June 26, 1836 at age 85. Historically, he is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”
Madison grew up in Orange County, Virginia and was the oldest of 12 children. Seven of his siblings lived to adulthood. His father, James, was a successful farmer and owned more than 3,000 acres and had scores of slaves. When Jefferson became President, James Madison was his Secretary of State.
James Madison was sickly in his early years and was tutored privately. In 1769, at 18 years old, he enrolled at the College of New Jersey. It became obvious that Madison was more of a writer than a fighter and his talents were put to good use in 1776. He became a member of the Virginia Convention where he met Thomas Jefferson. They became good friends and a lifelong relationship.
Which brings me to a vague and often misunderstood thought. Is there a difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Yes, there is. Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the former. It espouses the hopes and dreams of the new nation. It separated the Colonies from the British nation. It established the ideals of the new nation.
The latter, the Constitution, formulates the structure of government. The Executive Branch; the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court), and the Legislative Branch (the Senate and the Congress). Laws are made, another carries them out and one considers their legality.
Another important part of the Constitution is the Amendments.
This deals with items that were omitted from the Constitution and developed after it was written. The basic ones are the Bill of Rights followed by seventeen more Amendments; a total of 27.
For many years Madison moved through several Virginia political roles. His main position was always as a “federalist at heart.” He campaigned for a strong central government. In 1787 he represented Virginia at the Constitution Convention.
In the Virginia Plan he expressed his ideas about forming a three-part federal government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. His views would be basic to the writing of the U.S. Constitution.
Amazingly, the beginning was controversial. Madison, along with Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and Patrick Henry, wrote the Federalist Papers, which turned the tide to secure the document’s ratification.
In 1789, Madison was elected to the House of Representatives and was instrumental in forming the Bill of Rights. His priorities were, “to ensure that Americans had freedom of speech, were protected against unreasonable searches and seizures and received a speedy and public trial if forced with charges.” After much debate, his proposal was adopted.
Madison and Jefferson both opposed Alexander Hamilton and George Washington’s establishing of a Federal Bank and formed their own Party. In 1794 he and Dolley were married and he adopted her son.
In 1801, he joined his friend Jefferson’s Presidency as Secretary of State. He was influential in acquiring the Louisiana Purchase. Madison became President in 1808 and faced the War of 1812 with the support of Henry Clay of Kentucky and John Calhoun of South Carolina.
He died on June 28, 1836 at his Montpelier estate. After his death his 1834 message, “Advice to My Country,” was released. He wrote, “The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and be perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.”
Ten years after James Madison had written the Bill of Rights he realized the importance of the First Amendment. He was inspired to place the First Amendment as being “First” by Thomas Jefferson. All ten (10) of them were ratified on December 15, 1791.
The text of the First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“It contains forty-five (45) words and encompasses the most basic of American rights: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right of assembly, and the right of petition.”
Amen. Selah. So be it.