Politician & Statesman

James & Dolley Madison

James Madison would merit a place among the Founding Fathers even if he had retired from public office after the 1787 Constitutional Convention.  Yet once Madison helped draft the new government on paper, he actively participated in the grand experiment of making the republic a reality. His career as a politician and statesman spanned the next three decades.

As a member of the first four Congresses, Madison helped create working institutions from the general outlines set out in the Constitution. He emerged as a leader of the evolving Democratic-Republican party. He shared a vision with Thomas Jefferson of a republic of virtuous farmer-citizens whose individual rights were protected by the government.  Briefly retiring during John Adams’ presidency, Madison was called back into service as Secretary of State in the Jefferson administration. Madison then succeeded Jefferson as president, facing circumstances that led him to call for war against Great Britain, the “Second War for Independence” that resolved none of its stated causes, yet secured for the United States a place among other nations.

Even after retiring from the presidency, Madison continued to serve his state and country. He assisted Thomas Jefferson in establishing the University of Virginia. He attended the 1829 Virginia Constitutional Convention. He organized his notes from the Constitutional Convention for posthumous publication, so that his knowledge of the foundation of American government would not die with him.

The period of my retiring from the public service, being at little distance, ... I can indulge the proud reflection, that the American people have reached in safety and success their fortieth year as an independent nation; that for nearly an entire generation, they have had experience of their present constitution, the offspring of their undisturbed deliberations and of their free choice; that they have found it to bear the trials of adverse as well as prosperous circumstances.

-James Madison’s Message to Congress, December 3, 1814 


"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."

-James Madison, Speech in the Constitutional Convention, July 11, 1787