James Madison prided himself on his knowledge from books and theories. Madison was born into a class of Virginia planters. His father was the wealthiest landowner in Virginia and it was known that Madison would lead a financially secure life. This factor helped him in his pursuit of education. He gained opportunities to go to elite schools because of his status. Madison was ambitious and he graduated from the College of New Jersey a year early. He stayed to pursue further studies. Madison gained an accumulation of knowledge. He was interested more in books than in farming unlike his father and grandfather. He looked for opportunities to expand his understanding of the world. His attained understanding of politics was routine and he lacked interest in the subject. This shows that our direction in life can definitely change at any moment because Madison became one of the most respected political leaders as well as one of the, if not the most important framer of the constitution.
James Madison believed that book knowledge was the key to understanding everything about politics. Books were the structure on which he built his own empire of organized thoughts. His experience in Congress furthered his development and taught him “the ropes” of politics. His essays and speeches were well respected because they had substance to them. Madison knew what he was talking about. As a member of the Constitutional Convention, Madison was unlike the rest of the members, full of fire and eagerness to make changes centralized towards a strong central government. He firmly stood by his judgments and his appeals. He believed in what he presented because he gained confidence threw his studies. He was deeply unswerving in his proposals and when they were rejected, he merely looked for new agendas to support. He laced together newfangled “proposals that would best accommodate the constitution to his own notions of how government should operate.” (74)
As a member of the House of Representatives, Madison was eager to jump on the tasks at hand and he found no comfort in his colleagues. His aspiration far exceeded the rest of the members and he even went as far to state that he found only “a very scanty proportion who will share in the drudgery of business.” (93)
In the beginning of the 1790’s, after the constitution was ratified and was now in full affect, many tasks were at hand. Hamilton proposed ideas for gaining a strong central government. He wanted to raise revenue, assume all state debts, and build a national bank. Madison’s stance on how the government should run took a detour. He carried a strong opposition for the Hamiltonian system. This stunned Hamilton and his supporters in Congress. Madison claimed “a national assumption of state debts would reward states that had failed to meet their obligations to wartime creditors while penalizing those that had.” (103) Madison felt a sense of responsibility to his fellow countrymen of Virginia, who we the most outraged to hear of the assumption. In exchange for calming their hostility to assumption, the Virginians gained support for their proposition to build the national capital along the Potomac. Madison’s overall reasons for the opposition of the Hamiltonian system came from the outcry of his fellow Virginians. Through his experience in the House, he was beginning to understand the ins and outs of national politics. In 1787, Madison believed that under the Constitution, there would be self-governing legislators debating the true public good in an unprejudiced manner. Madison’s ultimate change of heart was of a direct reflection that “the reality of 1790 defied the optimistic expectations of 1787.” (105)
The Republicans gained power in the 1800’s just as Thomas Jefferson took the presidency. Madison became Jefferson’s Secretary of State. Madison’s views concerning the Constitution and the government changed once again. History is filled with contradiction, and this is no exception. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 caused many to believe that it was unconstitutional because the constitution said nothing about using the power of the federal government to obtain foreign territory. This argument was seemingly similar to be the very fuel that the Republicans used against the Federalists during the presentation of the Hamiltonian system. Madison was quick to the rescue by stating, “the treaty of clause of the Constitution provided all the authority needed to conclude an agreement so obviously in the national interest.” (164) This shows that Madison was swift to change sides when he was in favor of the proposition.
James Madison became President in the election of 1808. Madison immediately faced problems following his inauguration. He had trouble with the formation of his cabinet because of rivals and critics. Madison then dealt with problems involving trade between Great Britain and France. During these troubles, James Madison was forced to ignore his constitutional objections against the National Bank of the United States because Gallatin, the architect of Republican financial policy, “insisted that its lending services would be needed to limit the taxes Congress would otherwise have to levy to prepare for the nation’s armed forces for war.” (184) Not only does Madison go against his strict interpretation of the constitution but also he is being forced into war, which he always tried to avoid. Madison even stated that he “hoped that Britain would back down once it saw Congress acting to prepare for war.”(186)
In 1812, the United States declared war with Britain. Although the war was brutal and took a toll on Madison, America came out on top and did better than expected. In 1817, Madison retired from his Presidency as Monroe took office. Madison’s life was filled with accomplishments. In his eighty-five years of life, he fulfilled all he set forth to carry out. Through perseverance and a genuine regard for the “public good,” Madison created the American Republic. His undying love affair with politics and a desire for intellect brought him to be one of the most prominent revolutionary leaders of his time. His understanding of the two problems of majority power and minority rights helped create the constitutional tradition we still swear by today. Madison also had a clear understanding of the dangerous power of popular and legislative majorities and this helped steer America into social stability. Madison’s commitment to America and the people never ceased.
Before this book, the reader had little knowledge of the life that Madison led. The reader’s view changed dramatically. Not only was Madison one of the framers of the Constitution, but also he presented the bill of rights, and America still lives by some of the rights that he avowed. It is crazy to think that even after all these years that the rights still apply to our everyday lives. Throughout the book, the reader became exhausted for Madison because he was a non-stop worker. He continued to study, learn and write throughout his entire life as well as hold many political positions. Madison had the ability to multi-task and he accomplished more in his life than anyone ever hopes to.