FOUR

James Madison
(1809-17)

James Madison ( 1751-1836) was not a great President, but he was one of America's greatest statesmen. Even in his own day he was known as the "Sage of his time," "the great little Madison," and as the "Father of the Constitution." With his customary modesty, Madison disclaimed the last title. "You give me credit to which I have no claim, in calling me 'the writer of the Constitution of the U.S.,' " he protested to a correspondent in his old age. "This was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads & many hands." 1

But Madison's was the busiest of all the heads and hands when it came to Constitution-making. He made an exhaustive study of confederacies, ancient and modern, went to the Constitutional Convention full of ideas on government, and played a leading role in the great debate there, speaking on seventy-one out of eighty-six days. He got so excited at times that he finally asked a friend to tug at his coattails if he became too wrought up. Once, after talking himself to the point of exhaustion, he reproved his friend: "Why didn't you pull me when you heard me going on like that?" Said the friend: "I would rather have laid a finger on the lightening." 2 Madison, said Daniel Webster, "had as much to do as any man in framing the Constitution, and as much to do as any man in administering it." 3

-45-

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