Influential Political Thinker

James Madison was foremost a political thinker. His influence extended from championing a stronger national confederacy to fighting for the separation of church and state in Virginia. In the end, he had an immeasurable impact on the U.S. government.

Early Career

In 1776, James Madison was a delegate to the Virginia Convention before becoming a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He fought for the passage of a statute promising religious freedom. Again, from 1784 to 1786, he would serve in the House of Delegates and create a bill that disallowed religious tests as a requirement for holding public office.

Madison served as the youngest member of the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1783. He was one of the key members in calling for a constitutional convention.

Father of the Constitution

The effect that James Madison had on the United States cannot be underestimated. As the author of the U.S. Constitution, his words and ideas still affect each of us today.

James Madison was responsible for drafting most of the Constitution, a document that created a very strong central government. However, his real struggle began after the creation of the document with the fight for ratification.

Nine of the 13 states had to ratify the Constitution for it to go into effect. However, not every state was immediately on board. James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay authored the “anonymous” Federalist Papers to argue for ratification in New York.


James Madison in Federalist #51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Leaders of other states took up these arguments as they worked to convince their own state leaders to ratify the Constitution.

Bill of Rights and Virginia Resolutions

As a U.S. representative from 1789 to 1797, Madison was instrumental in getting the first ten amendments through the House. They would be ratified in 1791.

Despite his belief in the need for a strong, central government, Madison sided politically with Thomas Jefferson over Alexander Hamilton. In 1798, Madison and Jefferson created the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, respectively, to fight against the Alien and Sedition Acts passed during John Adams' administration.

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