We say farewell to James Madison on this day… he died June 28, 1836 at the age of 85, the last of the Founding Fathers. Often called the ‘Father of the Constitution’, the ‘Father of the Bill of Rights’, he served his country in Congress, at the Constitutional Convention, as Secretary of State, and President of the United States. Madison authored the Virginia Plan( the blueprint for the Constitution), 26 of the Federalist papers, and assisted in drafting the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Madison was instrumental in founding the country’s first political party and led the country as its first war-time President.
How should Madison be remembered? Here are some final thoughts….
Historian Garry Wills argues Madison is vastly underrated: As a framer and defender of the Constitution he had no peer…. The finest part of Madison’s performance as president was his concern for the preserving of the Constitution…. No man could do everything for the country – not even Washington. Madison did more than most, and did some things better than any. That was quite enough.”
Fellow historian Gordon Wood cannot believe we know so little of him: ”It is lamentable that Americans do not remember Madison as well as they should, especially when we reflect on who he was and what he achieved.”
Author and critic George Will thinks we may have the story wrong: “If we really believed the pen was 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 who was ablest with a pen. It would be Madison, D.C. Yet until recently there was not even a government building named after him.”