Using the Tools He Had…Nov 07, 2023
While some of James Madison’s physical attributes likely far more in the weakness column than the strengths column we’ll be looking at here, he overcame his small stature by effectively utilizing his strengths! An article called James Madison: Impact and Legacy from the Miller Center at the University of Virginia shared this:
He is said to have been a master of the small arena. Studious, keenly political, and a perceptive judge of men and issues, Madison could shape constitutions and influence legislation with few peers… Behind the scenes, in small intimate groups, few men, however, could resist his sharp mind or his persuasive reasoning.
Unlike one of his closest friends and political allies, the Father of the Constitution chose a more amicable approach to reaching a consensus rather than some of the more shifty things that Thomas Jefferson was accused of to sway opinions. In detailing his prowess in the art of persuasion, Montpelier.org refers to him as a “Natural Diplomat” in saying that “Madison next served in the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1783, gaining a reputation for thoroughly considered arguments and for bringing multiple interests together in coalitions.” This, coupled with his intensive study of how governments were structured throughout history, played a significant part in him being given that moniker he was never very willing to accept, saying that “the document was not ‘the off-spring of a single brain,’ but ‘the work of many heads and many hands’,” as noted in his bio on the WhiteHouse.gov website.
And while his outward appearance didn’t command attention like Washington of Jefferson, his wife Dolly helped make up for it through her warm and inviting approach with their political allies and adversaries alike, “turning the White House into a place of hospitality, where politicians and their spouses could come together to have civil and even pleasant conversations, despite being on opposite sides of an issue.”
As an interesting side note, I referenced previously that Jefferson and Madison were vehemently opposed to Alexander Hamilton on several issues. You may have heard the story of how Hamilton died from wounds sustained in a duel resulting from his differences with one Aaron Burr. That same Aaron Burr was who first introduced James Madison to the then Dolly Payne Todd.
As with our looks at Franklin and Jefferson, this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of all James Madison’s strengths but these did have a significant impact on why we remember him today as one of the Founding Fathers of our great nation. Before we tie all this together with how the leadership traits of these founders can serve each of us in our respective roles today, we’ll take a quick look at some of the weaknesses Madison had to overcome to accomplish all he did. Stay tuned!