Like his close friend Thomas Jefferson, James Madison came from a prosperous family of Virginia planters, received an excellent education, and studied law though only informally and quickly found himself drawn into the debates over independence. In 1776, he became a delegate to the revolutionary Virginia Convention, where he worked closely with Thomas Jefferson to push through religious freedom statutes, among other liberal measures. The youngest member of the Continental Congress, Madison was of smaller than average height for a Virginian of the period; reports have him standing either five feet four or five feet six inches tall. His soft-spoken, shy demeanor was a foil for his brilliant persistence in advocating his political agenda. Madison emerged as a respected leader of the Congress, known for his hard work and careful preparation.
Believing that the Articles of Confederation rendered the new Republic subject to foreign attack and domestic turmoil, James Madison helped set the wheels in motion for a national convention to draft the young nation's constitution. Madison led the Virginia delegation to the Philadelphia meeting, which began on May 14, 1787, and supported the cry for General Washington to chair the meeting. Madison's Virginia Plan became the blueprint for the Constitution that finally emerged, later earning him the revered title "Father of the Constitution." Having fathered the document, Madison worked hard to ensure its ratification. Along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, he published the Federalist Papers, a series of articles arguing for a strong central government subject to an extensive system of checks and balances.
Elected to the House of Representatives in 1789, Madison served as Washington's chief supporter. In this capacity, he introduced the Bill of Rights, a constitutional guarantee of civil liberties, thereby fulfilling a promise to the Virginia Ratifying Convention of 1788. As Washington continued to move...
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