James Madison at His Inaugural Term Paper

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The first is an arrogant pre-tension falsified by the contradictory opinions of all Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation" (Boston).

Madison's document was successful in crushing Henry's measure, as opposition flooded the Virginia statehouse from every corner of the commonwealth, and the bill was voted down (Boston). Using this momentum, Madison pushed Jefferson's "Act for Establishing Religious Freedom" through the assembly, while Jefferson was serving in France as the U.S. ambassador (Boston). Writing to Jefferson, Madison noted, "The enacting clauses passed without a single alteration, and I flatter myself have in this Country extinguished for ever the ambitious hope of making laws for the human kind" (Boston). It was not long before Madison had the opportunity to express these views to a national audience.

By 1787, it was obvious that the loose arrangement provided by the Articles of Confederation was insufficient and was not working. Madison urged delegates to meet in Philadelphia for the purpose of drafting a new constitution, placing him in the heart of the action (Boston). Scholar, a.E. Dick Howard, has called Madison "the dominating spirit of the Philadelphia convention" (Boston). Serving as the Convention's unofficial secretary, Madison recorded every speech in a special type of shorthand, and his notes, which were published four years after his death, are the only full record of the Convention's undertakings (Boston). While pushing for ratification, it became apparent that some states would not accept the Constitution without a Bill of Rights, thus by the time the first Congress met, Madison not only helped draft the Bill of Rights, but engineered its passage (Boston).

According to Alley, an emeritus professor of humanities at the University of Richmond and a member of the Americans United Board of Trustees, there would have been no Bill of Rights if not for Madison, because several members of Congress were not enthusiastic and tried to stall its passage, but Madison used his influence to keep talks on target (Boston). Alley writes, "The Madison legacy in the Congress was the passage of the Bill of Rights. It would not have been accomplished were it not for Madison's insistence that they get to the business of the day and do what they promised to do" (Boston).

During August 1789, Congress deliberated on what would become the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Madison's first draft read, "The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed" (Boston). His proposal was sent for consideration to a committee, which eventually settled on language reading, "Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion" (Boston). However, the House of Representatives rejected this version, and so a joint Senate-House committee, which included Madison, met and agreed to the language we know today, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (Boston).

Originally, Madison wanted the First Amendment to apply not only to the federal government, but also to the states, and although the proposal passed the House, it did not pass the Senate. Yet, as Boston notes, the debate illustrates that Madison was "thinking ahead of the curve," for 81 years later, Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed on Madison's 1787 argument, and applied the Bill of Rights to the states (Boston).

After the Bill of Rights was adopted, Madison collaborated with Jefferson to establish political opposition to the Federalist Party, and when Jefferson was elected president in 1800, Madison served as secretary of state for both terms, as Jefferson groomed him as his successor (Boston). In his inaugural speech, Madison promised "to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction" (Boston).

During his presidency, 1809-1817, Madison vetoes two bill he felt would violate the separation of church and state. One was the church incorporation bill mentioned above, and the second was a measure giving portions of federal land to a Baptist church in Mississippi. In his second veto message, he wrote, in reserving a parcel of land of the United States for the use of said Baptist Church comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment'" (Boston).

According to scholars, these messages clearly demonstrate that Madison was a proponent of a strict separation between religion and government, and that he believed the First Amendment was intended to bar the establishment of a national church (Boston).

After serving two terms as president, Madison pursued private interest, including helping Jefferson found the University of Virginia. After Jefferson's death, Madison served as rector for 10 years to ensure the school was fully established (Boston). However, most of his time was spent out of the public eye, entertaining visitors at Montpelier, his estate in Orange County, Virginia, where he died in debt in 1836. As Boston notes, throughout his life, Madison "never wavered in his commitment to church-state separation" (Boston).

Although historians differ over the exact content of Madison's religious views, they agree that he thought more about theology than many statesmen of his day, and that his most significant contributions to American political life was the protection of freedom of conscience and freedom of religion (Loconte). Edwin Gaustad writes, "What captured Madison's energies, abilities, and time was not what truths lay at the end of the religious quest, but the right of all humankind to seek those truths without penalty or burden or any civil disability whatsoever" (Loconte). Biographer Ralph Ketcham writes, "There is no principle in all of Madison's wide range of private opinions and long public career to which he held with greater vigor and tenacity than this one of religious liberty" (Loconte).

Many believe that of all the Framers, Madison was closest to being a political scientist in the contemporary sense of the term (Read). He was unquestionably the clearest thinker among the Founding Fathers, and except for George Washington, none other did more to ensure the survival of self-government than James Madison (Felzenberg). The balance he struck between force and restraint preserved American independence and its unity as a nation (Felzenberg).

Works Cited


Church & State. March 01-2001. Retrieved September 22, 2006 from HighBeam Research Library.

Felzenberg, Alvin S. "James Madison, the clearest thinker." The Christian Science

Monitor. March 16-2001. Retrieved September 22, 2006 from HighBeam Research Library.

James Madison." The White House. Retrieved September 22, 2006 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/jm4.html

Loconte, Joseph. "Faith and the founding: the influence of religion on the politics of James Madison." Journal of Church and State. September 22-2003. Retrieved September 22, 2006 from HighBeam Research Library.

Madison, James." The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth Edition. 2006. Retrieved September 22, 2006 from HighBeam…[continue]

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