Long Before There Was a Football Team…

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What Did James Madison Do

Long before all the conversation slamming the NCAA for upholding rule barring the football team from competing for a conference championship or bowl game despite a remarkable start to just their second FBS season, our local university’s namesake was known for being “the Father of the Constitution.” While armed with a similar education to his friend, mentor, and political ally, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison had a very different approach. Not only did he vary in his physical attributes, being quite a bit smaller than most in those circles at only 5 '4 ”, he was also very reserved in his demeanor. Although referred to as “but a withered little apple-John” by Washington Irving at his own Presidential inauguration, Madison was able to garner respect from his most prominent peers through his intellect and his intentional approach to bring opposing parties together.

While he never accepted the title of “Father of the Constitution”, largely because he felt many others had equal stakes in the writing and ratification, Madison’s acute attention to detail as he took notes throughout the Constitutional Convention played a big role in him being dubbed with the unwanted title. Additionally, “Madison, then 36, spent the months leading up to the convention in Montpelier’s library, studying many centuries of political philosophy and histories of past attempts at republican forms of government.” An article The Life of James Madison on the Montpelier.org website went on to share:

His plan proposed a central government with three branches that would check and balance each other, keeping any one branch from wielding too much power. No such government had ever been created before, and Madison had to use all of his diplomatic skill to argue for his position. He also had to accept compromises to ensure that the Convention would produce a Constitution that all the states could accept.

Madison’s academic record at The College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University) - being the first graduate student in the school’s history - coupled with his activity in the Virginia legislature and friendship with Thomas Jefferson may have helped him get involved in the Constitutional Convention but he had some very specific strengths that led to the ratification of the document he helped author as well as successes in leading a young nation. We’ll pick up by looking at those next time!