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Madison, James: Master Builder of the Constitution

Madison played important role in bringing about the conference between Maryland and Virginia concerning navigation of the Potomac. The meetings at Alexandria and Mt. Vernon in 1785 led to the Annapolis Convention in 1786, and at that conference he endorsed New Jersey's motion to call a Constitutional Convention for May, 1787. With Alexander Hamilton he became the leading spokesman for a thorough reorganization of the existing government, and his influence on the Virginia Plan, which advocated a strong central government and served as a working model for the new U.S. Constitution, is evident.

At the convention his skills in political science and his persuasive logic made him the chief architect of the new governmental structure and earned him the title master builder of the Constitution. His journals of the period are the principal source of later knowledge of the convention, and were published after his death as Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 as Reported by James Madison. ( Madison's Notes, however, were apparently later edited by him in ways that sometimes obscure the positions he took during the convention.) He fought to get the Constitution adopted. He contributed with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to the brilliantly polemical papers of The Federalist , and in Virginia he led the forces for the Constitution against the opposition of Patrick Henry and George Mason .

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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