James Madison: A Study in Success

More of this Feature

• Part 2: Witness to History
Part 3: Peace and Prosperity

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5 Things Everyone Should Know about James Madison
The Making of the Constitution
James Madison links

Part 1: Political Beginnings

James Madison was a small, frail child who lived to study. He studied with private educators, entered the College of New Jersey, then graduated in two years. He also joined the American Whig Society, his first exposure to politics.

In 1774, he was elected to the Committee of Safety in Orange County, Virginia. Two years later, he served on a committee to create a Virginia constitution. This committee developed the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which later formed the basis for the Constitution's Bill of Rights. Madison also served in his home state's first legislative assembly in 1776. He met Thomas Jefferson there; the two were lifelong friends. Three years later, he was elected to the Continental Congress. He returned to Virginia politics for a time and was later elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

It was here that Madison made his mark. He drafted the Virginia Plan, which formed the basis for the Constitution that the delegates eventually adopted. He also took detailed notes of the debates, which were later published as Notes on the Federal Convention.

Madison supported the Constitution by serving in the Virginia Ratifying Convention and by teaming with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write The Federalist, a series of newspaper letters urging the people of New York to ratify the Constitution.

Next page > Witness to History > Page 1, 2, 3

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David White