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Madison Moment

About Madison Moment

In this series, Digital Content & Production Fellow Ryan C. Jones examines key events from the founding period through the experiences of James Madison.  Madison was a central figure in the attempt to create a sustainable government for the union of the states, the push for stronger individual rights and the establishment of slavery as a national political force.  As a student of laws, history and most importantly human nature, James Madison’s observations provided a crucial guiding influence during the challenging, formative years of the American republic.

Madison Moment Episode 1: Introduction

What characteristics made James Madison a leading voice among the founders of the United States?  Why is it important to keep listening to him and understand what he had to say?  In this introduction to the Madison Moment series, Kyle Stetz, Sarah Lee Hall and Patrick Campbell help us understand Madison’s important and complicated legacy.

Madison Moment Episode 2: Articles of Confederation

As a new nation began to take shape under the Articles of Confederation, James Madison recognized that this new government was not going to be able to meet the needs of a nation still in crisis.  What kind of future did he think the new nation could expect?

Madison Moment Episode 3: The Annapolis Convention

The Confederation Congress struggled to govern and quickly reached the limit of what the Articles of Confederation could accomplish.  James Madison was among the delegates who led efforts to improve the Articles from within, but it became clear that only a concerted effort from without was going to lead to change.  But was Madison confident of its success?

Madison Moment Episode 4: Shays’ Rebellion

The Annapolis Convention did not achieve the results James Madison and others hoped it would.  Madison, George Washington and many others pushed for a federal solution to federal problems, but not until the fall of 1786 did they believe they finally had the catalyst that would allow them to achieve their national vision.

Madison Moment Episode 5: Rights of Conscience

Not only did James Madison seek structural change to the general government, he also pursued stronger protections for the rights of individuals.  In Virginia, Madison teamed up with Thomas Jefferson to secure comprehensive, religious freedom.

Madison Moment Episode 6: Vices of the Political System of the United States

James Madison needed more than current events like Shays’ Rebellion to argue his point about the need to reform government.  He needed to use the guiding light of “the lamp of experience,” historical examples of where confederated governments had gone wrong in the past if the American Confederation could hope to avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

Madison Moment Episode 7: The Federalist

The Federal Convention produced more significant changes than anyone could have imagined, but to Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the changes were long overdue.  Although opposition to them was strong, Hamilton and Madison were up to the task of arguing in their favor and ensuring approval of the new constitution.  

Madison Moment Episode 8: Slavery

Coming soon.


Written, Directed and Edited by Ryan C. Jones
Featuring the Voices of Lizzie Prow, Leanna Schafer and Tessa Honeycutt; Ryan C. Jones, Matt Reeves and Patrick Campbell
Images courtesy of Library of Congress; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; New York Public Library; National Park Service; New York States Archives; Digital Commonwealth, Boston Public Library; Yale University Art Gallery; Philadelphia Museum of Art; St. Louis Art Museum; Winterthur Library; United States Congress; White House Historical Society; Wellcome Collection; United States Postal Service; Ryan C. Jones

Special thanks: Katie Crawford-Lackey, Jeni Spencer, Christy Moriarty, Julie Reed and Mike Costello


As the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution and Architect of the Bill of Rights, Montpelier's mission is to communicate Madison's role in creating our modern, democratic government.