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Wikipedia Summary for James Madison

James Madison Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher, 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 Constitution of the United States and the United States Bill of Rights. He co-wrote The Federalist Papers, co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, and served as the fifth United States Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.

Born into a prominent Virginia planter family, Madison served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Continental Congress during and after the American Revolutionary War. He became dissatisfied with the weak national government established by the Articles of Confederation and helped organize the Constitutional Convention, which produced a new constitution to supplant the Articles of Confederation. Madison's Virginia Plan served as the basis for the Constitutional Convention's deliberations, and he was one of the most influential individuals at the convention. Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify the Constitution, and he joined with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in writing The Federalist Papers, a series of pro-ratification essays that was one of the most influential works of political science in American history.

After the ratification of the Constitution, Madison emerged as an important leader in the United States House of Representatives and served as a close adviser to President George Washington. He was the main force behind the ratification of the United States Bill of Rights, which enshrines guarantees of personal freedoms and rights within the Constitution. During the early 1790s, Madison opposed the economic program and the accompanying centralization of power favored by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party, which was, alongside Hamilton's Federalist Party, one of the nation's first major political parties. After Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election, Madison served as Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809. In that position, he supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States.

Madison succeeded Jefferson with a victory in the 1808 presidential election. After diplomatic protests and a trade embargo failed to end British seizures of American shipping, he led the United States into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass and ended inconclusively, but many Americans saw it as a successful "second war of independence" against Britain. The war convinced Madison of the necessity of a stronger federal government. He presided over the creation of the Second Bank of the United States and the enactment of the protective Tariff of 1816. By treaty or war, Madison's presidency added 23 million acres of American Indian land to the United States. He retired from public office in 1817 and died in 1836. Madison never privately reconciled his Republican beliefs with his slave ownership. Madison is considered one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States, and historians have generally ranked him as an above-average president.

Philosophy is common sense with big words.

--James Madison

Commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppresive and impolitic.

--James Madison

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.

--James Madison

I have ever regarded the freedom of religious opinions and worship as equally belonging to every sect.

--James Madison

A good government implies two things: fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.

--James Madison

A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.

--James Madison

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause; because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.


To consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.

--James Madison

It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute.

--James Madison

It has been said that all Government is an evil. It would be more proper to say that the necessity of any Government is a misfortune. This necessity however exists; and the problem to be solved is, not what form of Government is perfect, but which of the forms is least imperfect.

--James Madison

It is to the press mankind are indebted for having dispelled the clouds which so long encompassed religion, for disclosing her genuine lustre, and disseminating her salutary doctrines.

--James Madison

As the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments of the United States are co-ordinate, and each equally bound to support the Constitution, it follows that each must in the exercise of its functions be guided by the text of the Constitution according to its own interpretation of it.

--James Madison

Can it be of less consequence that the meaning of a Constitution should be fixed and known, than a meaning of a law should be so?

--James Madison

Reason, on the contrary, assures us, that as in so great a number, a fit representative would be most likely to be found, so the choice would be less likely to be diverted from him, by the intrigues of the ambitious, or the bribes of the rich.

--James Madison

An armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics -- that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe.

--James Madison

Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion. This freedom arises from that multiplicity of sects which pervades America, and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society.

--James Madison

It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated.

--James Madison

It is the reason, alone, of the public, that ought to control and regulate the government. The passions ought to be controlled and regulated by the government.

--James Madison

Who are to be the electors of the Federal Representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor.

--James Madison

The inference to which we are brought is that the causes of faction cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects.

--James Madison

Are not the daily devotions conducted by these legal ecclesiastics already degenerating into a scanty attendance, and a tiresome formality?

--James Madison

It is certain that every class is interested in educational establishments which give to the human mind its highest improvements, and to every Country its truest and most durable celebrity.

--James Madison

The danger of disturbing the public tranquillity by interesting too strongly the public passions, is a still more serious objection against a frequent reference of constitutional questions to the decision of the whole society.

--James Madison

The express authority of the people alone could give validity to the Constitution.

--James Madison

I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic -- it is also a truth, that if industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out.


War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason.

--James Madison

The regulation of commerce, it is true, is a new power; but that seems to be an addition which few oppose and from which no apprehensions are entertained.

--James Madison

Should ardent spirits be everywhere banished from the list of drinks, it will be a revolution not the least remarkable in this revolutionary age, and our country will have its full share in that as in other merits.

--James Madison

Our Constitution represents the work of the finger of Almighty God.

--James Madison

In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by Power. In America ... charters of power are granted by liberty.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

In Europe, charters of liberty have been granted by power. America has set the example ... of charters of power granted by liberty. This revolution in the practice of the world, may, with an honest praise, be pronounced the most triumphant epoch of its history, and the most consoling presage of its happiness.


The citizens of the United States have peculiar motives to support the energy of their constitutional charters.

--James Madison

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.

--James Madison

We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.

--James Madison

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.

--James Madison

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security.

--James Madison

Experience assures us, that the efficacy of the provision has been greatly over-rated; and that some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the more feeble, against the more powerful members of the government.

--James Madison

Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution.

--James Madison

Despotism can only exist in darkness.

--James Madison

The proposed establishment will have a ... tendency to banish our Citizens... To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.

--James Madison

In framing a system, which we wish to last for ages, we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

In framing a system which we wish to last for ages, we shd. not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce. James Madison in the U.S. Constitutional Convention, June 26, 1787. The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), 1:422.


The political truths declared in that solemn manner acquire by degrees the character of fundamental maxims of free Government, and as they become incorporated with national sentiment, counteract the impulses of interest and passion.

--James Madison

A distinction of property results from that very protection which a free Government gives to unequal faculties of acquiring it.

--James Madison

There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable. Sir, in my opinion, it would be hazarding the public faith in a manner contrary to every idea of prudence.



No power over the freedom of religion is delegated to the United States by the Constitution.

--James Madison

I have no doubt but that the misery of the lower classes will be found to abate whenever the Government assumes a freer aspect and the laws favor a subdivision of Property.

--James Madison

These considerations and many others that might be mentioned prove, and experience confirms it, that artisans and manufacturers will commonly be disposed to bestow their votes on merchants.

--James Madison

The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing.

--James Madison

The power to declare war, including the power of judging the causes of war, is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature.

--James Madison

In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not the executive department. ... The trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.

--James Madison

We have seen the mere distinction of color made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.

--James Madison

On the distinctive principles of the Government ... of the U. States, the best guides are to be found in ... The Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental Act of Union of these States.

--James Madison

The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.

--James Madison

The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of Government. But what is Government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?

--James Madison

Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.

--James Madison

Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.

--James Madison

It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.

--James Madison

The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.

--James Madison

Democracy is the most vile form of government.

--James Madison

Respect for character is always diminished in proportion to the number among whom the blame or praise is to be divided. Conscience, the only remaining tie, is known to be inadequate in individuals: In large numbers, little is to be expected from it.

--James Madison

As to the permanent interest of individuals in the aggregated interests of the community, and in the proverbial maxim, that honesty is the best policy, present temptation is often found to be an overmatch for those considerations.

--James Madison

The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessings of liberty itself.

--James Madison

Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves.

--James Madison

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest... The latent causes of faction are sown in the nature of man.

--James Madison

The eyes of the world being thus on our Country, it is put the more on its good behavior, and under the greater obligation also, to do justice to the Tree of Liberty by an exhibition of the fine fruits we gather from it.

--James Madison

Our country, if it does justice to itself, will be the workshop of liberty to the civilized world.

--James Madison

Let the influx of money be ever so great, if there be no confidence, property will sink in value... The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.

--James Madison

Torrents of blood have been spilt in the world in vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish religious discord, by proscribing all differences in religious opinions.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.



Armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.

--James Madison

Temporary deviations from fundamental principles are always more or less dangerous. When the first pretext fails, those who become interested in prolonging the evil will rarely be at a loss for other pretexts.

--James Madison

Conscience is the most sacred of all property.

--James Madison

The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.

--James Madison

We have seen that the tendency of republican governments is to an aggrandizement of the legislative at the expense of the other departments. The appeals to the people, therefore, would usually be made by the executive and judiciary departments.

--James Madison

If we advert to the nature of republican government, we shall find that the censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people.

--James Madison

The ultimate authority resides in the people, and that if the federal government got too powerful and overstepped its authority, then the people would develop plans of resistance and resort to arms.

--James Madison

A people armed and free, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition and is a bulwark for the nation against foreign invasion and domestic oppression.

--James Madison

Resistance to tyranny is service to God.

--James Madison

Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.

--James Madison

Longer Version:

Every new and successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion and Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

Letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822 -- Writings 9:100 -- 103.


Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?

--James Madison

Nothing has yet been offered to invalidate the doctrine that the meaning of the Constitution may as well be ascertained by the Legislative as by the Judicial authority.

--James Madison

The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter,to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens and greater sphere of country over which the latter may be extended.

--James Madison

The Federal Constitution forms a happy combination in this respect; the great and aggregate interests being referred to the national, the local and particular, to the state legislatures.

--James Madison

The free system of government we have established is so congenial with reason, with common sense, and with a universal feeling, that it must produce approbation and a desire of imitation, as avenues may be found for truth to the knowledge of nations.

--James Madison

Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe until a trespass on the Constitution provisions for either, shall be felt with the same keenness that resents and invasion of the dearest rights.

--James Madison

In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.

--James Madison

In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature.

--James Madison

It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.

--James Madison

It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the government have too much power or too little power and that the line which divides these extremes should be so inaccurately defined by experience.

--James Madison

The American people are too well schooled in the duty and practice of submitting to the will of the majority to permit any serious uneasiness on that account.

--James Madison

Large and permanent military establishments are forbidden by the principles of free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.

--James Madison

For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power?

--James Madison

Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any Manner contrary to their conscience.

--James Madison

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