Celebrating a Life of Service THANK YOU, JAMES MADISON
As a full-grown man, James Madison stood just 5 feet, 4 inches tall. He had a health condition that, while never diagnosed, bore a resemblance to epilepsy, and he weighed only 100 pounds. He was so soft-spoken that his speeches were often difficult to hear, and he was frequently described as shy and quiet. Despite those qualities, Madison, whose birthday we celebrate on March 16, went on to become the fourth president of the United States. He held office for two terms, and, during that time, he helped establish America as a force to be reckoned with. For example, he led us through the War of 1812, which was our first war as an independent nation. Today, Madison is most well-known for co-writing the U.S. Constitution. In fact, so many of Madison’s ideas made it into the document that he is widely credited with being the father of the Constitution. If it were not for Madison, the Constitution might have never been ratified. To garner widespread support for the Constitution, Madison co-wrote 85 letters to the public with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay that explained the political philosophy underpinning the Constitution and defended its contents. Known as “The Federalist Papers,” these letters are still celebrated as some of the most groundbreaking political philosophy ever published, and it is broadly accepted that without them, the Constitution would not have been sworn into law.
Maryland, and South Carolina under the assurance that amendments would soon be proposed that would provide additional protections. Tireless in his efforts, Madison went to work on the Bill of Rights, which he promptly wrote and passed into law. Madison was an abolitionist, and although he did not free his own slaves or write the end of slavery into the Constitution, he helped lay the groundwork for ending slavery. In a historically groundbreaking move, Madison referred to slaves as people rather than belongings, which was remarkable since not many people were speaking, let alone thinking, in that way at the time. On his birthday this year, Madison should be remembered not only as a man of great intellect and accomplishment but also as a man whose life was characterized by hard work and humility. With that in mind, he would not want his birthday
to come and go without a nod to his wife, Dolley, born Dolley Payne Todd.
While Madison was described as shy and quiet, Dolley, who was 17 years his junior, was famous for being vivacious, loud, and well-loved by everyone. During Madison’s presidency, she hosted and entertained countless guests at the White House, where politicians from many different backgrounds and viewpoints gathered and socialized. Many political alliances and bridges were built under Dolley’s watch, and, for this reason, she is often credited with defining the role of the first lady. Many of the good aspects of America today can be traced back to the efforts of James Madison. On his birthday this year, let’s celebrate him by remembering the contributions he made to our government, our freedom, our justice, and the very fabric of our nation.
Even with “The Federalist Papers” circulating, the Constitution was only ratified in Massachusetts,
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