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Author of Federalist essays, fourth President of the United States
James Madison

James Madison Jr. (16 March 1751 – 28 June 1836) was an American statesman and Founding Father who served as the fourth President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


Madison, James (1750-1836), by Michael Zuckert, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
James Madison is probably best known as the "father of the constitution," but he also had a distinguished career in politics both before and after the Constitutional Convention of 1787. As leader of the House of Representatives in the first years under the new U.S. Constitution, he authored and secured the passage of the Bill of Rights; he went on to become Secretary of State in the Jefferson administration, and he succeeded Jefferson as president in 1809. Nonetheless, his fame and lasting importance rest largely on the political analyses and innovations that he developed at the time of the movement for a new constitution and Bill of Rights.
Related Topics: Government, Rights


16 Mar 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia


28 Jun 1836, in Montpelier, Virginia


Autobiography, by Thomas Jefferson, 29 Jul 1821
Covering the period from 1743 (his childhood, with background on his parents) to 1790 (shortly after his return from Paris and before assuming his office as U.S. Secretary of State); written during 6 Jan-29 July 1821
Mr. Madison came into the House in 1776. a new member and young; which circumstances, concurring with his extreme modesty, prevented his venturing himself in debate before his removal to the Council of State in Nov. 77. From thence he went to Congress, then consisting of few members. Trained in these ... schools, he acquired a habit of self-possession which placed at ready command the rich resources of his luminous and discriminating mind, & of his extensive information, and rendered him the first of every assembly afterwards ... he rose to the eminent station which he held in the great National convention of 1787.
Beware Income-Tax Casuistry, Part 1, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Aug 2006
Discusses the differences between direct and indirect taxes, pointing out that even James Madison and Alexander Hamilton could not agree unambiguously on definitions
In 1794, ... Congress passed a tax on "carriages for the conveyance of persons," whether for hire or for personal use ... No less an authority on the Constitution than Rep. James Madison said it was a direct tax and hence unconstitutional ... His friend ... Rep. Fisher Ames said it was an indirect tax ... If Madison on one hand and Hamilton and Ames on the other couldn't agree on what seemed to be a simple matter, what lay ahead? ... [W]hen during the Constitutional Convention a clarification of the term "direct taxation" was requested, Madison recorded in his notes, "No one answered."
The Bill of Rights: Antipathy to Militarism, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Sep 2004
After quoting the text of the Third Amendment, discusses standing armies in the historical context and in modern times
Consider ... the immortal words of James Madison, who is commonly referred to as "the father of the Constitution": "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other ..." ... "A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence ... have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."
The Bill of Rights: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Aug 2004
Discusses the fallacies in gun-control arguments, comparing possible gun prohibition to the war on drugs, highlighting the behavior of U.S. officials in occupied Iraq and concluding with several quotes by Founding Fathers and Framers
Perhaps a good way to conclude ... would be to restate the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and the Framers: "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." ... "Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition ..." — James Madison
The Bill of Rights: Unenumerated Rights, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Apr 2005
Examines the rationale and history behind the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, citing both James Madison and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Acknowledging the arguments of those who were resisting the Bill of Rights, James Madison argued that the Ninth Amendment was designed to address their concerns: "It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure ... but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against ..."
The Constitution or Liberty, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 7 Dec 2007
Contrasts Article II of the Articles of Confederation with the Tenth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, and discusses the implied powers doctrine (a revised version was published in The Freeman, Jan/Feb 2008)
The most significant difference is that Article II qualifies the word delegated with expressly. The Tenth Amendment does not ... [A] House member ... proposed adding the word expressly ... He was opposed by James Madison. "[I]t was impossible," Madison said, "to confine a government to the exercise of express powers; there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication, unless the constitution descended to recount every minutiae." (Emphasis added.) ... See Federalist 41 by Madison, keeping in mind that the Federalist Papers were essentially ad copy for the Constitution and against the Anti-federalist opposition.
The Constitution Within, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 18 Aug 2006
Questions the validity of constitutions by relating how James Madison behaved during the debates over the U.S. document and later after his introduction in the first Congress of the amendments that would become the Bill of Rights
Madison kept his word and introduced the amendments during the congressional session. Labunski believes that by then Madison had become a sincere champion of a bill of rights. Others are not so sure ... Nevertheless, Madison overcame obstacles and shepherded through the House a series of amendments. These were then modified in the Senate. (Revealingly, the one amendment Madison apparently really wanted — a prohibition on state violation of freedom of speech, press, and religion and the right to a jury trial — was removed by the senators, who were agents of the state legislatures.)
Dangers of No Tax Liability, by Walter E. Williams, 13 Sep 2004
Comments on a study estimating that 44% of income earners will have no federal income tax liability, suggests a politically incorrect solution and reflects on Madison's concerns about class warfare between the rich and the poor
James Madison's concern about class warfare between the rich and the poor led him to favor the House of Representatives being elected by the people at large and the Senate elected by property owners. He said, "It is nevertheless certain, that there are various ways in which the rich may oppress the poor; in which property may oppress liberty; and that the world is filled with examples. It is necessary that the poor should have a defense against the danger. On the other hand, the danger to the holders of property cannot be disguised, if they be undefended against a majority without property."
Related Topics: Taxation, Voting
Empire or Liberty: The Antifederalists and Foreign Policy, 1787-1788 [PDF], by Jonathan Marshall, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1980
Describes the arguments regarding foreign policy made during the period of ratification of the United States Constitution by the Federalists and the counterarguments, "largely ignored" by historians, from the Antifederalists
James Madison, whose penetrating insights into political philosophy won him the title of "'father of the Constitution," became convinced at least as early as 1785 that Congress alone should have the power to control trade ... [He] similarly believed that "the subject of direct taxation is perhaps one of the most important that can possibly engage our attention" because of its bearing on national defense ... Madison extended his portrayal of these hypothetical dangers by describing, with ironic prescience, the series of events that indeed did lead to war in 1812.
The Failed Attempt to Leash the Dogs of War, by Bart Frazier, Freedom Daily, Dec 2006
Discusses provisions of the Constitution that were meant to prevent the United States from having a large, permanent military and becoming involved in warfare at the will of a single person
[The Framers of the Constitution] were ... educated in the history of government. James Madison ... was a scholar of past governments and the effects that warfare had had upon them. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Madison lamented the problems in creating a government that protected the country from invasion yet maintained a proper respect for individual liberty ... A devotee of Montesquieu, [Madison] knew that unchecked government power had been the undoing of most societies in the annals of human history, and he himself had witnessed first-hand the oppressive reign of King George III.
Imperium in Imperio, by Frank Chodorov, analysis, Jun 1950
Examines the theory of government espoused by James Madison, how property rights have regressed since then, and arguing that a States' Rights movement (meaning decentralization and local autonomy) should be focused on protecting property rights
In [Federalist] number forty-five Madison writes: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which last part the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people ..."
James Madison: Father of the Implied-Powers Doctrine, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 26 Jul 2013
Examines whether James Madison intended the U.S. federal government to have "expressly delegated" powers vs. "powers by implication"
James Madison famously wrote in Federalist 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined." ... Some people will be surprised to learn that the author of the Constitution was also the author of the implied-powers doctrine, which would seem to run counter to the few-and-defined-powers doctrine ... As his biographer, Ralph Ketcham, wrote, "Madison sought as well to make the mode of enforcement explicit: Congress was authorized 'to employ the force of the United States as well by sea as by land' to compel obedience to its resolves."
James Madison - Hero of the Day, by Timothy Sandefur, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist
James Madison ... is not the sort of man one would expect to be an American hero. But this 'Father of the Constitution,' the first elder statesman in America, was a champion of individualism and limited government until the end of his long life. ... Madison headed the movement to revise the Articles of Confederation. Before the 1787 convention began, he locked himself away with a library of books on political theory and history in order to be fully prepared for his task. At the convention he became not only the most active member but also its most thorough secretary, recording every speech given by every delegate.
Related Topic: Thomas Jefferson
Locke Mess, by Loren E. Lomasky, Reason, Jan 1996
Review of the book Passions and Constraint: On the Theory of Liberal Democracy by Stephen Holmes
Who, though, is this self-binder and self-ruler? It is, says Holmes, the citizenry. But that is not what Madison is saying here; indeed, it is diametrically opposed to Madison's point. In the cited passage he is intent to distinguish sharply between the people who establish through their consent the constitutional constraints under which they will be ruled and the government that subsequently exercises that rule. ... For Madison as for Plato before him, the question 'Who will guard the guardians?' is central to the craft of political construction.
Related Topic: John Locke
Machiavelli and U.S. Politics, Part 4: War, by Lawrence M. Ludlow, 22 Aug 2005
Part of a six-segment series examining The Prince vis-à-vis contemporary U.S. politics; this article covers Machiavelli's simple advice on war and contrasts it with that of James Madison and Robert Higgs in Crisis and Leviathan
James Madison, fourth president of the United States and author of the U.S. Constitution, enumerated the many evils caused by war ... In taking this stance, Madison echoed the sentiments of John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and George Washington. Moreover, at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Madison warned us against the dangers of a standing army:
A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home ...
Paper Money and the Constitution, by Rick Lynch, Freedom Daily, Jan 2009
Examines the historical period of the Articles of Confederation and how it led to controls on the issuance of paper money in the U.S. Constitution
In their book Decision in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787, Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier state,
What concerned Madison most in "Vices" was not only that the states were flouting national regulations, but that they were treating unjustly certain minorities within their own borders.... Madison was especially troubled by the stay laws and tender laws and the paper money that so many of the plain people of the country were clamoring for. These laws, Madison believed, were "oppressing" the creditor minority. [Emphasis added.]
Remembering James Madison, by John Samples, 16 Mar 2016
Written on the 265th anniversary of Madison's birth, discusses some of his ideas about republican government, as expressed in the Federalist no. 10, and contrasts them with the current political scene
James Madison was born 265 years ago today. His greatest essay was Federalist no. 10, a defense of the design of the government created by the new Constitution. ... Madison favored republican government - government by the people - but he also saw its problems. ... Madison thought some of the flaws of popular government could be mitigated by indirect rule of the people through representatives 'whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country.' ... Madison thought the Constitution set out a kind of republican government that would stand the test of time.
That Mercantilist Commerce Clause, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 11 May 2007
Reviews law professor Calvin H. Johnson's "The Panda's Thumb: The Modest and Mercantilist Original Meaning of the Commerce Clause", William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Vol 13, Issue 1, October 2004
James Madison asked, "[W]as it not an acknowledged object of the Convention, and the universal expectation of the people, that the regulation of trade should be submitted ... in such a form as would render it an immediate source of general revenue?" ... Johnson comments: "Indeed, given that Madison had condemned those who advocated free trade and had traced most of our political and moral errors to the imports that drained us of our precious metals, the insincere part of Madison's 1789 address to the House was the opening claim that he was 'the friend to a very free system of commerce.'"
The Troops Don't Defend Our Freedoms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, 21 Oct 2005
Examines whether foreign invasion, terrorists taking over the government and the federal government, through the President and its orders to a "loyal and obedient" standing army, are plausible threats to the freedom and well-being of Americans
That is in fact why many of our Founding Fathers opposed a standing, professional military force in America ... Consider the words of James Madison: "A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."
War Is Peace and Other Things the Government Wants You to Believe [PDF], by Sheldon Richman, 8 Jun 2008
Transcript of speech given at The Future of Freedom Foundation's 2008 conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties”, including audience questions
Madison, ... at least understood the danger of war and the power to make war. And famously he said, "In time of actual war great discretionary powers are constantly given to the executive magistrate. Constant apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty." He goes on and on about this ... He also called [war] the one offense that contains the germ of all the other offenses: taxation, debt, all this other stuff, growth of government generally.
The War of 1812 Was the Health of the State, Part 2, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 6 Mar 2015
Discusses how James Madison's conduct of the War of 1812 led to changes in American attitudes, including mercantilism, militarism, imperialism and centralization
As the War of 1812 with Great Britain approached during the Republican administration of James Madison, the War Hawks saw silver linings everywhere ... Madison himself famously said that war contained the "germ" of "all the enemies to public liberty." ... However, imperial chickens eventually come home to roost, and Madison indisputably reinforced the imperial course of his predecessors ... Moreover, Jeffrey Rogers Hummel writes, Madison proposed conscription—only the war's end prevented this from happening—and later a peacetime standing army to the Congress.
Was the Constitution Really Meant to Constrain the Government?, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 8 Aug 2008
Explains how attempting to revert to the "original meaning" of the Constitution or appealing to the writings of the framers is not a shortcut leading to a free society
Madison rejected this interpretation, which had been voiced by the Antifederalists. In Federalist 41 he writes,
It has been urged and echoed, that the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction ...
What This Country Needs Is A Good, Old-Fashioned Constitutional Crisis, by Gary North, 7 Dec 2000
Discusses the attempts by Al Gore to annul Florida's Electoral College votes in the 2000 U.S. presidential election and the benefits of the resulting crisis if the Florida legislature were to act to name the electors (as provided for in the Constitution)
Almost four decades ago, I heard a speech by the conservative political philosopher, Wilmoore Kendall. He said in that speech that Madison had wanted a provision in the Constitution that a three-quarters vote by both houses of Congress, plus the President's signature, would overturn a ruling by the Supreme Court. I have never found evidence that Madison wanted this, or even worried about it, but it sure sounds to me like a reasonable provision. It would keep final civil sovereignty from being lodged in any single earthly assembly — a provision against tyranny if there ever was one.


The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 20 Apr 1795
From a longer essay titled "Political Observations", the selected passage reflects on the nature of war and the provisions in the U. S. Constitution about declaring war, conducting war and raising armies; excerpted in Freedom Daily, Aug 1993
Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few ... The separation of the power of creating offices from that of filling them, is an essential guard against the temptation to create offices for the sake of gratifying favourites or multiplying dependents.

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "James Madison" as of 20 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.