The Political Thought of James Madison

March 18-20, 2016

This seminar examines the life, character, political thought, and political practice of James Madison.  Emphasis will be placed on Madison’s most active philosophical years, i.e., during the Founding period from 1786 to 1792. More than any other Founder of the United States, Madison is considered primarily responsible for the theory of republicanism that informs American constitutional government. Indeed, he is often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.”  What was his theory of republicanism?  Does Madison’s theory of rival and competing interests translate into the notion that "shrewd institutional arrangements" can serve as a substitute for a virtuous citizenry?  Or did Madison believe that a virtuous citizenry is necessary for the success of republican government?  Was Madison a nationalist or a states’ righter?  In general, was he a consistent thinker throughout his life, or did he change his mind fundamentally from the days he wrote The Federalist with Alexander Hamilton to the years of close association with Thomas Jefferson and the establishment of the Republican party in the 1790s?  What, ultimately, were the driving concerns and deepest aspirations of James Madison?  Is his understanding still relevant today?


Seminar Scholar

Colleen Sheehan, Ph.D. is Professor of Political Science at Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where she is director of the Matthew J. Ryan Project for the Study of Free Institutions. Her special field is the American Founding, and she is the author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government (2009), and co-editor of Friends of the Constitution; Writings of The "Other" Federalists (2006). She is a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.