Sunday, March 16, 2014
MARCH 16 = James Madison is Born
"At five feet six and less than 140 pounds 'little Jimmy Madison' (left) had the frail and discernibly fragile appearance of a career librarian or schoolmaster, forever lingering on the edge of some fatal ailment , overmatched by the daily demands of ordinary life.... Not only did he look like the epitome of insignificance -- diminutive, colorless, and sickly -- he was also paralyzingly shy, the kind of guest at a party who instinctively searched out the corners of the room."
- Joseph J. Ellis
James Madison, born on today's date, March 16 in 1751, was a giant. No, he didn't look like one; he was obviously a small-sized man, and painfully shy, by all accounts. But he had an intelligence so discerning, and a sense of reason so acute that he produced the framework for our national Constitution and our Bill of Rights, and guided both to passage. And for all of his shyness, he landed one of the brightest ladies of his day for his wife - Dolley. And his spirit was active enough to serve two terms as Secretary of State, and two terms as President of the United States. No, this was no small man.
Father of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights
James Madison had been a delegate to the Continental Congress and along with many he was seriously worried that the "Articles of Confederation" under which the country had first formed their government were too weak. So he and others such as Ben Franklin, James Monroe, and George Washington pressed for the convening of a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia (May to September of 1787) to form a stronger national government to govern our new nation. But he and many of our founders were worried about making a central
Madison may have been painfully shy, but he when he saw an opportunity he went for it. In the 1790's he saw a beautiful widow at Washington social functions named Dolley Payne Todd, who was said to have a "regal" bearing, but a charming personality. So in May of 1794, Madison asked Aaron Burr, a mutual friend to arrange a meeting
Secretary of State and President
James Madison followed up this already full and rich public career with two full terms in the office of Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, as well as two full terms as President of the United States. His terms in both offices were marked by frequent difficulties and armed conflict with he European powers of France and England. There was a world conflict going on between those two nations at that time, and the United States could not avoid getting caught up in it. During Jefferson's term as President (1801 - 1809) France went over from the Revolutionary governments to the government of Emperor (Dictator) Napoleon. There were constant difficulties with U.S. Shipping being stopped by both powers, and with British impressment of American sailors into British service. Jefferson dealt with this by the Embargo Act which cut off trade between America and these two belligerent powers. This kept America out of war with these two powers, but
"Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis, Vintage Books, New York, 2002.