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James Madison
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Fourth U.S. President
Author of U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights
Quotes on the Second Amendment
Presidential Speeches
Dolley Madison
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Quotes on the Second Amendment:

"The Constitution preserves "the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (James Madison of Virginia, The Federalist, No. 46)

"The right of the people to keep and bear...arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country...." (James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434 [June 8, 1789])

"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed ― unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (The Federalist, No. 46 at 243- 244)

"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.... Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." (The Federalist, No. 46)

"It is not certain that with this aid alone [possession of arms], they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to posses the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will, and direct the national force; and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned, in spite of the legions which surround it." (The Federalist, No. 46)

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James Madison: A Short Biography [see Dolley Madison]

James Madison proved to be one of the most productive of all the Founding Fathers, and stands tall in the annals of American history. While many may argue what Madison's greatest contribution to history was, few dispute the fact that this was a man who lived his life with a strong sense of duty and honor -- traits that helped mark Madison's career of public service with both tremendous success and longevity.

Madison was born March 16, 1751, the first of ten children born to a farming family in Orange County, Virginia. A sickly child, Madison grew up on the family estate, Montpelier, which happened to be only thirty miles from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate. Despite being regularly infirmed, Madison proved an excellent student and entered the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton) in 1769. Madison graduated in 1771 and then continued with postgraduate study while considering a career in the ministry. Upon return to the family estate, Madison was uncertain about his profession, sickly, and depressed.

Madison soon found his calling in public service and was elected to his first public office, the Orange County Committee of Safety, in December, 1774. Madison was then elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in April, 1776. In October 1776, Madison entered the Virginia House of Delegates established by the new constitution. Despite failing to win re-election to the House, Madison remained a promising young leader. Thus the House elected Madison to serve on the Virginia Council of State. Madison assumed his position in January 1778 and served under governors Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. It was during this time that Jefferson and Madison would form the tight friendship that lasted until Jefferson's death on July 4, 1826.

Madison began his rise to national prominence in December 1779 when he was elected to represent Virginia in the Continental Congress for a three-year term. When Madison began his term in March 1780 he already faced unsettling political realities. The Articles of Confederation had been adopted in 1777 and took effect in 1781, but Madison realized that these articles allowed the states too much freedom in executing plans decided upon by Congress.

It was during his stint in the Continental Congress that Madison first displayed his flair for foreign policy. Madison served as strong supporter of Benjamin Franklin and the French alliance -an alliance that proved critical in winning independence- that Franklin fostered. Madison also drafted the 1780 letter that John Jay presented to Spain justifying American claims regarding free navigation of the Mississippi. This proved a key factor in America's western expansion.

Realizing that America's future lay west of the Allegheny range, Madison was a strong supporter of Virginia's cession of its western claims. Many people forget that early in American history Virginia claimed lands running all the way to the Mississippi which included the Kentucky territory, and the Northwest Territory. Madison, along with George Mason and Joseph ones, formed the plan that allowed for Virginia to cede these lands to the new nation and allow for the orderly sale of land to pioneers.

From 1784 to 1786 Madison once again served in the House of Delegates. Despite serving such a short term, Madison proved to be remarkably productive and progressive. It was during this period that he wrote his famous, Memorial and Remonstrance arguing against Patrick Henry's bill that would have imposed a tax to support teachers of the "Christian Religion." Henry's bill was defeated. While not successful, some of Madison's other proposals during this period were very progressive. For example, Madison sought to amend the Virginia constitution to establish a public school system and to provide for the gradual abolition of slavery.

Madison once again returned to national service by serving as a member of the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention. In fact, Madison played a key role in making Virginia's delegation a powerful political force by successfully lobbying George Washington to become a delegate. With, Washington, the hero of the Revolution, on board Madison rightly believed that the convention would succeed.

The Virginia delegates arrived early to the convention and conferred amongst themselves and formed the Virginia Plan that was to set the agenda for the debates at the Convention. Madison is thought to have been the predominant force in shaping the Virginia Plan. During the convention Madison distinguished himself during debate and earned the reputation as being the best informed of all the delegates. Overall the convention proved to be a success for Madison and his fellow Federalists as the new Constitution contained most of the provisions they had sought.

With the battle for a new constitution only half-won Madison focused his energy on ratification. In the Virginia convention Madison advocated for ratification against the likes of George Mason and Patrick Henry. Besides Virginia, Madison also realized that New York stood a must win state for the Federalists and their push for ratification. Thus Madison gladly contributed to Alexander Hamilton's series of essays known as the Federalist Papers. Today it is Madison's contributions to the Federalists Papers that are the best-known and most quoted.

Madison was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. It was during this time that he served as the primary author of the first twelve proposed amendments to the new Constitution. Of these, ten were adopted rather quickly and are now known as the Bill of Rights. This capped a five-year span of political creativity that cemented Madison's place as an icon of American history. For it was during this time that Madison contributed heavily to the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the Bill of Rights.

Besides authoring the Bill of Rights in the House, Madison served as President Washington's floor leader. It was during this time that Madison found himself opposed to his friend and fellow Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, over Hamilton's economic plans, especially Hamilton's call to form the Bank of the United States. When Washington sided with Hamilton, Madison left the Federalists and allied himself with Thomas Jefferson and formed the Democratic-Republican party.

In 1797, Madison retired from the House and returned to Montpelier with his wife Dolley. However, this retirement was not to last too long. In 1801, Madison accepted an offer from Thomas Jefferson to serve as Secretary of State. As Secretary of State, Madison is best remembered for two things. First, he was sued by William Marbury when Madison refused to deliver Marbury a judicial commission that had been awarded to him. Thus, Marbury v. Madison became the first time the Supreme Court exercised judicial review over another branch of the federal government. Madison also helped arrange for the Louisiana Purchase, which nearly doubled the size of the U.S. and gave Madison his long sought-after goal of free passage of the Mississippi.

In 1809, Madison became the fourth president of the United States. As president, Madison oversaw an important transition of the American psyche. When Madison became president most Americans were divided into two camps; those who supported the Constitution and a strong union, and those who wanted to return to a looser confederation of states. The War of 1812 changed all of this. After the British torched the White House and America once again won her independence Americans became committed to a strong union. Thus, Madison's commitment to winning the war, a war he was initially loathe to engage, formed a national sense of patriotism that would not be seriously tested again until the Civil War.

After serving two terms as President, Madison entered into a long retirement. He became America's elder statesman and his advice on matters both domestic and foreign was sought by the leaders of the day. Despite his sickly nature he managed to outlive many of his peers and was the last-living signer of the Constitution. Madison's commitment to western expansion and a free Mississippi led to a surge of western emigration to the more fertile lands of the Northwest Territories. Ironically, this decreased the value of Madison's lands and crops and Madison saw his wealth erode towards the end of his life. Madison was eighty-five years old when he died on June 28, 1836. After his death his famous Advice to My Country was opened. It read,

The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is, THAT THE UNION OF THE STATES BE CHERISHED AND PERPETUATED."

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Image Information:
Chester Harding (1792-1866), oil on canvas, 1829-1830
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