James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817) and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and the author of the United States Bill of Rights.
His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced the Federalist Papers (1788), which became the most influential explanation and defense of the Constitution after its publication. Madison’s most distinctive belief as a political theorist was the principle of divided power. Madison believed that “parchment barriers” were not sufficient to protect the rights of citizens. Power must be divided, both between federal and state governments (federalism), and within the federal government (checks and balances) to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.
Madison in 1789 became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. In one of his most famous roles, he drafted the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights“. Madison worked closely with the President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.
As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size. As president, after the failure of diplomatic protests and an embargo, he led the nation into the War of 1812, in response to British encroachments on American rights. The war started badly but ended well, allowing Americans to celebrate a second war for independence. Madison was persuaded by his observations of the war to support a stronger national government and he called for a national bank of the sort he had long opposed.
Short URL: http://thepresidency.us/?p=64