James Madison the Father of the United States Constitution, the Father of the Bill of Rights, Fourth President, and Aptly Named Founding Father
James Madison can be considered the father of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Madison drafted the Constitution, drafted and sponsored the Bill of Rights, and co-wrote the Federalist Papers.
Madison drafted the founding documents, but he wasn’t the sole author. You can see the story of how the founding documents were drafted by Madison here. Below we discuss Madison’s character, political leanings, and accomplishments to better understand what it means that he is The Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
James Madison – Mini Biography
FACT: Madison was the youngest member of the congenital congress. Legend has it he stood about 5 foot 4, barely 100 pounds soaking wet.
Where Did Madison Get His Inspiration?
Madison was generally a well-read historian with an understanding of past human rights documents (like the Magna Carta and the English Petition of Rights) and the Enlightened philosophers (like Locke and Montesquieu). Thus, Madison knew what natural rights man had sought since before the fall of Rome, and importantly also knew the pitfalls of certain government types.
To create the Constitution and Bill of Rights (and arguments in the Federalist papers, and later laws) Madison drew on this past knowledge, including the works of Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato, the Enlightened Philosophers, Human Right Documents, and importantly state Constitutions and Bills of Rights, especially Virginia’s.
Madison suggested the previously established liberal principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, and natural rights. He warned of special interests and the pitfalls of governments, and he knew of past failed and successful revolutions. Madison favored a strong central government (federalism) but didn’t favor big banks and taxes, or policies he felt unfairly favored the North (positions the Anti-Federalists favored).
Madison also pushed for the freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly, as well as the other legal rights contained in the Bill of Rights.
Civil Rights & Liberties: Crash Course Government #23
So it isn’t only the power structure of the U.S., but the natural human rights it ensures, that we have Madison to thank for. We have him to thank for adopting histories great political philosophies and imbuing them into the structure and philosophical backbone of America.
“Regarded as a small, quiet intellectual, Madison used the depth and breadth of his knowledge to create a new type of government. His ideas and thoughts shaped a nation, and established the rights that Americans still enjoy today.” – Learn more about James Madison from Biography.com.
Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances: Crash Course Government and Politics #3
Madison, Federalist or Anti-Federalist?
Madison was a Federalist, Anti-Federalist, and Democratic-Republican.
Madison was originally a Federalist, helping to ensure the ratification of the Constitution he drafted, but later became an Anti-Federalist, during his time as leader of the House in 1789 (where he supported the Bill of Rights, which he also drafted), and then a Democratic-Republican serving as his close friend Jefferson’s Secretary of State and then as the Fourth President of the U.S. for two terms.
When we consider the Federalists supported the Constitution, but not the Bill of Rights, and the Anti-Federalists supported the Articles of Confederation and the Bill of Rights, we see how vital Madison’s centered perspective was.
James Madison | 60-Second Presidents | PBS
FACT: Madison and Jefferson established the Democratic-Republican party, a party which contains ideas now embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. This means, Madison had a central role in all America’s founding factions.
What Were Madison’s Political Views?
Madison’s philosophical views are noted above, but his political views in practice are complex.
Unlike some founders, who can be placed on the modern left or right easily, Madison favored a balanced view and eluded simple categorization (as noted above by his membership in all America’s original political parties).
Madison was more a Jeffersonian Liberal regarding rights, and a Hamiltonian liberal in terms of other “federalist” principles. He was well read and understood political philosophies from Plato to Paine. As noted above, Madison had a more balanced view than many of the other founders, with ideas spanning the gambit of the Federalist and Anti-Federalist ideologies. Today you know them as Democrat and Republican or North and South or Liberal and Conservative; see the history of the parties.
We owe to Madison more than the language of the founding documents, which he drew from Enlightenment thinkers like Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, etc. and 1689’s English Bill of Rights),. In many ways, we owe the balanced nature of our Government and rights to Madison. He realized the elusive nature of the political compromise, knew many different arguments had merit, and thus ensured a balance of power between factions through the system of checks and balances and separations of power.
Some founders and colonists wanted a more pro-Britain stance (Federalists) and some wanted a farmer-centered French style of classical liberalism (Anti-Federalists). Some wanted global trade (Federalists) and others wanted to be left alone (Anti-Federalists). Ultimately, Madison helped bridge the gap between the American ideologies. He ensured a United States (a federation of states, with a strong central power, with a republican style of government, rooted in strong democratic principles, based on works of the Enlightenment thinkers and the philosophy of liberalism).
Learn more about James Madison, the Father of the Constitution and 4th President of the United States.
James Madison: The Father of the Constitution
FACT: Madison, who is about as American as they get, feared factions would have a corrosive effect on the American government. He emphasized the need for unity in his Federalist #10, in which he warns of factions AKA special interests (which includes political parties, monopolies, and crony capitalists).
TIP: In many ways, the job of the Supreme Court is to decode what James Madison meant in the founding documents. If “Madisonian” had a better ring to it, you’d likely hear it more.
FACT: The often forgotten Gouverneur Morris wrote the Constitution’s final language (Madison Drafted it, Morris wrote the final draft). Gouverneur Morris also played a large role in the Articles of Confederation (the also often forgotten document that proceeded the Constitution. Morris spoke more often (173 times) than any other delegate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. I think history has a problem with his first name, but to be clear, he was an important founding father… not actually “a Governor”.
FACT: To help with the timeline, the American revolution took place from 1765 to 1783. The Articles of Confederation began in June of 1776 and were adopted November 15, 1777. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776. The Constitution was signed in 1787, and the Bill of Rights in 1791.
TIP: People say, “the founders thought…,” but this is almost never correct. There was a 30-year gap between the start of the Revolution and the approval of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights says that says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. It also contains our provision for a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the words that the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed upon. Many assume those rights were long agreed on by the founders, but this is more the work of Madison, Jefferson, and the Anti-Federalists. Hamilton, for instance, didn’t think the Constitution needed to be amended.
Why Is James Madison Known as the Father of the Constitution? The Founding of the U.S. (1992)