Mr. Madison’s Mind

Historians are often baffled by James Madison… In 1787, there was no stronger voice for nationalism and strengthening the federal government; yet, by 1790 he was battling one-time ally, Alexander Hamilton over the very powers they helped create.  Madison had become an advocate of limited government in less than a Presidential term.  What happened?

With friends like these...

With friends like these…

Madison was the “Father of the Constitution”… and creator of the Bill of Rights-  the commonly held description of our most overlooked Founder.  We view this change in his political outlook as inconsistency, or even a problem.  This opinion hangs on the assumption that Madison was responsible for the final draft of the Constitution.  He authored the Virginia Plan, the radical framework that altered the course of the 1787 Convention.  Of the document produced in September, Madison said,  “It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands.”  Most historians assumed Madison was being modest- in fact, he was expressing his displeasure with the process.  Madison wanted a Federal government that could control the wildly inconsistent passions of state governments, but he did not advocate a massive consolidation of power.

Author of the Virginia Plan

Author of the Virginia Plan

Federalist #10 is Madison’s warning aboutthe dangerous passions that consumed state governments.  From 1784 to 1787 he toiled in the Virginia legislature, witnessing the worst governance(or lack thereof) he could imagine.  The Federal government he envisioned would temper these passions(and blunders)  and provide the regulation to help the Union move forward. Madison opposed Hamilton’s financial programs because he feared they brought the same economic passions driving policy in the states  into Congress. The very threat Madison looked to alleviate caused his split Hamilton.  Madison remained consistent to the end. 




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6 responses to “Mr. Madison’s Mind

  1. interesting insight into the mind of Madison. perhaps this could be a good reason/argument in having a two party system, to maintain balance with one group opting for more fed and the other less; however, as it seems, the image of the system is too volatile for most people to stomach both perspectives. unfortunate, but not unexpectedly, especially if we consider the historic evidence of Hamilton’s and Madison’s split.

    • Right, it all goes back to the enlightened ideal of “disinterested” gentleman running the government. Supposedly, they are above the mere money making concerns…Hamilton was in many ways, the first modern politician.

  2. Ken

    Couldn’t disagree more. Madison was uninformed in Economic Theory of the time and was vulnerable to the artifice and manipulation of his senior Virginia politician, Thomas Jefferson. It was Madison’s personality weakness (he was an extremely diminuitive and insecure man) that allowed him to be so deeply influenced that he ultimately tried to undermine (via the commerce clause) the Constitution he and Hamilton created. Madison turned 180 degrees against the Federalism he had so perfectly argued for in the Federalist papers. A sad day it was with the repercussions continuing into the current day.

  3. Ken

    Oh, and also a great admirer of Madison. Without a doubt he was the most brilliant Constitutionalist of the era. The quality of the arguments in 10 are superior to 9, as with most of the related papers in which topics were covered by both H & M. I am however cognizant of both of their personality weaknesses. I consider Mr. Jefferson’s unfortunate influence on Mr. Madison to be one of the saddest events in the young nations history.

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