Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Birthday James Madison

Originally posted at The Desk of Brian,

259 years later we have completely forgotten one of the greatest minds in our history. James Madison, our fourth President, is regarded as the "Father of the Constitution" as he worked closely with George Washington in those early days to organize our federal government.

Some people only see the name James Madison and wonder if they are referring to the NCAA tournament and the "Dukes"

Never escaping the shadow of Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, the shy Madison present his Virginia Plan draft at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. It was a truly revolutionary three-branch federal system and the backbone for the American Constitution of today.

Celebrating a Presidential birthday in March rather than February has furthered lack of honor, recognition and publicity. Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland and John Tyler join Madison as March Presidential birthdays, but it's Madison that should be reverred.

"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe." - Madison's "Remembrance"

His language, absent of Christian reference, is a point of favor amongst atheists who misrepresent his beliefs and wrongly interpret the goal of mixing church and state:

The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources not adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it. - letter to Frederick Beasley in 1825

At only 24 years old, while the Declaration of Independance was signed, Madison drew up the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He is a shining example of how the founders believe we are a "Godly Nation" which should be run by a secular approach to governing. The right belongs to the individual to determine in their own conscience how best to exercise their duty to the Creator and NOT the State.

It is hard to imagine the impact of boyish looking 36 year old helping craft this amazing document. Specifically, the national government would be made potent in its limited scope of authority, given "few and defined" powers. Meanwhile, the states would retain their "numerous and indefinite" powers, except in the realm of federal authority.

How far America has drifted away from these ideals.

James Madison's joint efforts with John Jay and Alexander Hamiltion to produce the "Federalist Papers" which, more than any other initiative, helped explain and defend the Constitution, and turned public sentiment from skepticism to support.

Madison transitioned from his work in Congress under Washington to Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of State garnering more and more respect and credibility. With Jefferson's endorsement, Madison was elected President in 1809.

France and England refused to respect America’s commercial rights in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars and Madison's ineffective Secretary of State threw Madison into a role he was never best suited: pressuring Congress for results.

Better suited to be a Representative rather than the Commander, Madison's errors in handling the oppressions from England and France led to the War of 1812.

The Congress didn't react to finance a military and while there were successes, the British victory to occupy Washington DC, burn the White House, was the pinnacle of shame for a Madison presidency.

Ridiculed as "Madison's War" Madison left a sour legacy of a chaotic and expensive war. After leaving office, Madison retired to Montepelier and later founded the University of Virginia with his longtime friend Thomas Jefferson.

Another stigma is Madison's failure to stop Alexander Hamilton's Federalists from creating the central bank. From Wikipedia:

Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton built a nationwide network
of supporters that became the Federalist Party and promoted a strong
central government with a national bank. To oppose the Federalists,
Madison and Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party. 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.

Late in life he spoke against secession and how to perpetuate the Union.

On James Madison I'll turn to George Will who wrote in 1981:

If we really believe the pen is mightier, or even more dignified than the sword, the nation’s capital would be named not for the soldier who wielded the revolutionary sword, but for the thinker that was ablest with a pen. It would be Madison, D.C.
James Madison was certainly the most prepared of all delegates. James Madison may never be viewed as a great leader in American history, due in large part to his inadequacy as our nation's Fourth President. The case may also be made, that same inadequacy is directly attributable to many of the problems we face today.

Similar links of interest on DOB:

Famous Quotes: George Washington (32)

No comments:

Post a Comment