John's son, named also John, was father of Ambrose Madison, who married, 24 August, 1721, Frances, daughter of James Taylor, of Orange county, Virginia Frances had four brothers, one of whom, Zachary, was grandfather of Zachary Taylor, twelfth president of the United States.
The eldest child of Ambrose
and Frances was James Madison, born 27 March, 1723, who married, 15 September, 1749, Nelly Conway, of Port Conway.
...Along with these admirable qualities, his lofty integrity and his warm interest in public affairs were well known to the people of Orange, so that when, in the autumn of 1774, it was thought necessary to appoint a committee of safety, Madison was its youngest member.
Early in 1776 he
was chosen a delegate to the State convention, which met at Williamsburg in May.The first business of the convention was to instruct the Virginia delegation in the Continental Congress
with regard to an immediate declaration of independence.Next came the work of making a constitution for the state, and Madison
was one of the special committee appointed to deal with this problem.Here one of his
first acts was highly characteristic.Religious liberty was a matter that strongly enlisted his
feelings.When it was proposed that, under the new constitution, "all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience," Madison
pointed out that this provision did not go to the root of the matter.The free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience, is something which every man may demand as a right, not something for which he
must ask as a privilege.To grant to the state the power of tolerating is implicitly to grant it to the power of prohibiting, whereas Madison
would deny to it any jurisdiction whatever in the matter of religion.The clause in the bill of rights, as finally adopted at his
suggestion, accordingly declares that "all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience."The incident illustrates not only Madison's
liberality of spirit, but also his
precision and forethought in so drawing up an instrument as to make it mean all that it was intended to mean.
later career these qualities were especially brilliant and useful.Madison was elected a member of the first legislature under the new state constitution, but he failed of re-election because he refused to solicit votes or to furnish whiskey for thirsty voters.
The new legislature then elected him a member of the governor's council, and in 1780 he
was sent as delegate to the Continental congress
.The high consideration in which he
was held showed itself in the number of important committees to which he
The offer of a permanent and invaluable right in exchange for a temporary and questionable advantage seemed to Mr. Madison
very unwise; but as it was then generally held that in such matters representatives must be bound by the wishes of their constituents, he
yielded, though under protest.
The foresight and sound judgment shown by Mr. Madison
in this discussion added much to his
next prominent action related to the impost law proposed in 1783.
The question was settled by a compromise that was proposed by Mr. Madison; according to this arrangement the slaves were rated as population, but in such wise that five of them were counted as three persons. In 1784 Mr. Madison was again elected to the Virginia legislature, an office then scarcely inferior in dignity, and superior in influence, to that of delegate to the Continental congress.His
efforts were steadfastly devoted to the preparation and advocacy of measures that were calculated to increase the strength of the Federal government.He
supported the proposed amendment to the articles of confederation, giving to congress control over the foreign trade of the states: and, pending the adoption of such a measure, he
secured in that body the passage of a port bill restricting the entry of foreign ships to certain specified ports.The purpose of this was to facilitate the collection of revenue, but it was partially defeated in its operation by successive amendments increasing the number of ports.While the weakness of the general government and the need for strengthening it were daily growing more apparent, the question of religious liberty was the subject of earnest discussion in the Virginia legislature.An attempt was made to lay a tax upon all the people of that state "for the support of teachers of the Christian religion."At first Madison was almost the only one to see clearly the serious danger lurking in such a tax; that it would be likely to erect a state church and curtail men's freedom of belief and worship.Mr. Madison's
position here well illustrated the remark that intelligent persistence is capable of making one person a majority.His
energetic opposition resulted at first in postponing the measure.Then he
wrote a "Memorial and Remonstrance," setting forth its dangerous character with wonderful clearness and cogency.He
sent this paper all over the state for signatures, and in the course of a twelve month had so educated the people that, in the election of 1785, the question of religious freedom was made a test question, and in the ensuing session the dangerous bill was defeated, and in place thereof it was enacted "that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his
body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his
religious opinions or belief ; but that all men shall be free to profess and, by argument, maintain their opinions m matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."
"Religious Freedom Act."was translated into French and Italian, and was widely read and commented upon in Europe.In our own history it set a most valuable precedent for other states to follow.
The attitude of Mr. Madison
with regard to paper money was also very important.The several states had then the power of issuing promissory notes and making them a legal tender, and many of them shamefully abused this power.The year 1786 witnessed perhaps the most virulent craze for paper money that has ever attacked the American people.In Virginia the masterly reasoning and the resolute attitude of a few great political leaders saved the state from yielding to the delusion, and among these leaders Mr. Madison
This resolution Mr. Madison
left to be offered to the assembly by some one less conspicuously identified with federalist opinions than himself; and it was accordingly presented by Mr. Tyler, father of the future president of that name.
...Mr. Madison was one of the commissioners at Annapolis, and was very soon appointed a delegate to the new convention, along with Washington, Randolph, Mason, and others.
In February, 1787, just as Mr. Madison
, who had been chosen a delegate to congress, arrived in New York, the legislature of that state refused its assent to the amendment, which was thus defeated.Thus, only three months before the time designated for the meeting of the Philadelphia convention, congress was decisively informed that it would not be allowed to take any effectual measures for raising a revenue.This accumulation of difficulties made congress more ready to listen to the arguments of Mr. Madison
, and presently congress itself proposed a convention at Philadelphia identical with the one recommended by the Annapolis commissioners, and thus in its own way sanctioned their action.
The assembling of the convention at Philadelphia was an event to which Mr. Madison
, by persistent energy and skill, had contributed more than any other man in the country, with the possible exception of Alexander Hamilton.For the noble political structure reared by the convention, it was Madison
that furnished the basis.Before the convention met he
laid before his
colleagues of the Virginia delegation the outlines of the scheme that was presented to the convention as the "Virginia plan."
It was one of the longest reaches of constructive statesmanship ever known in the world, and the credit of it is due to Madison
more than to any other one man.To him we chiefly owe the luminous conception of the two coexisting and harmonious spheres of government, although the constitution, as actually framed, was the result of skilful compromises by which the Virginia plan was modified and improved in many important points.In its original shape that plan went further toward national consolidation than the constitution as adopted.It contemplated a national legislature to be composed of two houses, but both the upper and the lower house were to represent population instead of states.
Here it encountered fierce opposition from the smaller states, under the lead of New Jersey, until the matter was settled by the famous Connecticut compromise, according to which the upper house was to represent states, while the lower house represented population.Madison's
original scheme, moreover, would have allowed the national legislature to set aside at discretion such state laws as it might deem unconstitutional.It