Madison was not only a founding father of the United States, but he also served as our fourth president. He is a crucial figure in our history because of his general achievements, contributions to our country (primarily his advocating for the Bill of Rights), his partnership with another important historical figure, Alexander Hamilton, and finally due to his relation to one of our most beloved first ladies, Dolley Madison. James Madison has accomplished much in his time that has greatly improved our country and helped it flourish into what it is today.
His history is one that leads to confusion for some. Madison inherited a legacy from his father that involved keeping up the plantation run by his family and possessing slaves.
This was conflicting for him because it went against the idea that America itself was built upon: freedom. Yet despite these doubts he held, he did not put much effort into shining light on this because he recognized their economic benefits.
He achieved a great amount in his time: supporting the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as well as the Bill of Rights, acting as Secretary of State under President Jefferson, also forming the first dominant political party with him, writing the Federalist Essays with Hamilton and earning his grandest position as President, serving two terms from 1809-1817. What leads to confusion is his lack of remembrance compared to our other founding fathers and former presidents.
His name is not proclaimed as much as theirs are, and that may simply be due to his lack of assertiveness and extremely passionate moments- something the other founding fathers, as well as former presidents, possessed in excess.
In addition to that, while his public persona marks him as a stiff, creepy yet intelligent politician, his friends and wife knew him for more than that. His private persona was more open, he valued the bonds he had with his friends deeply and would enjoy recreational activities with them and a constant exchanging of personal letters. The primary difference is that in public he exuded professionalism, while in private he allowed his walls to fall.
Moving on to Madison’s greatest achievement yet: the Bill of Rights.
Without the Bill of Rights, we would not have the amount of liberty and freedom as we do today. At first, Madison was in opposition to it until he realized that it, “‘will either make [the Constitution] better in itself; or without making it worse, will make it appear better to those who now dislike it’(pg. 95)”.
It’s a very essential accomplishment on Madison’s part because, without the Bill of Rights in today’s world, we would succumb to what we were before gaining independence, our sense of individuality and our idea of respect would plunder, leaving us with people who wish to seek and gain power as well as corrupted government and anarchy.
If the Bill of Rights had not been ratified in history, we would have never shaped our country into what it is now, a place where people can freely say what’s on their mind, not fear for their safety as well as other basic rights we have and exercise every day without recognizing it. We wouldn’t have our strong voices nor our sense of security and freedom. Considering all of the benefits and rights of citizens that have resulted from this, it is reasonable to state that it may be Madison’s greatest accomplishment as a founding father. In an infant country, something that outlines the people’s rights is essential, not only in its grounding effects but also in its provision of hope and encouragement.
Madison would also experience these emotions but with the partnerships he had formed over his lifetime. His partnership with Alexander Hamilton was vital in that it gave Madison not only a friend but a challenge as well. They both supported what seemed preposterous to all others: the ratifying of the Articles of Confederation, forming a constitution, and creating a more central and stable power to support America. Together with Hamilton, he wrote the Federalist Essays, working relentlessly to convey his views about the constitution and have them published in newspapers.
While they shared similar ideas and goals they were very different as people. Hamilton was outgoing, sociable, and admired in contrast to the reserved and quiet Madison.
The challenge that Hamilton gave Madison was despite their very similar views there was a main difference. Hamilton supported a system that mimicked that of the British monarch, where Madison wanted the executive branch to be checked by the other branches so the power is more spread out and equal; therefore less corrupt. Hamilton was strongly against this, though Madison respected his views. The relationship between them kept the other alert and focused, and allowed Madison to have what might be considered a “frenemy” that enabled him to see more than one point of view.
Hamilton was important to Madison, and so was his lovely wife, Dolley. She was nearly opposite to her husband in terms of personality, extremely sociable and appreciative of the spotlight. She was one of the most well-loved first ladies in history because of her kind, interactive traits and the way she brought the Executive Mansion to life for visitors.
One admirer remarked, “‘the more she has round her the happier she appears to be’ (pg. 283)”. In dire and trying times of war, she emerged as a hero for saving Washington’s portrait before a British general arrived to burn down. This served to give the people hope despite their seemingly weak president, Madison. She was entwined in her husband’s political affairs and helped him a lot, truly caring for him and the country.
Madison’s contributions are evident in history but not frequently brought up in our regular everyday life. He was our founding father, our president, a political role model. The five important relationships he had not only aided him but all of America for the outstanding accomplishments it resulted in.
The drafting of the Constitution and the creation of the Bill of Rights wouldn’t have been enacted at all if it weren’t for Madison. Whether he remembered well by the people or not, it doesn’t change that he is one of the most important presidents in our history, and his achievements will live on in the form of our political success.