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Portraits: James Madison   2 comments

James Madison (1751 – 1836)James Madison

The 4th President of the United States, 1809 – 1817

AKA: Little Jemmy, His Little Majesty

From: Virginia

College: Princeton University, class of 1771

Married to: Dolley Todd

Children: John (stepson)

Party: Democratic-Republican

Previous Jobs: Virginia state legislator, plantation owner, US Representative, Secretary of State,

In His Words:  “In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

“The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.”

“Religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

Not true: On page 120 of David Barton’s book The Myth of Separation, Barton quotes James Madison as saying:

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments.”

In 1994 this quote was cited by Rush Limbaugh, which of course prompted cries that Limbaugh was wrong.  And he was … but only because he was quoting Barton’s book, that was wrong.  Responding to the controversy, the editors of The Papers of James Madison, John Stagg and David Mattern, cited their previous research on the quote: “We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison’s views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private.”

True: At only 5′ 4″, he is the shortest person to serve as president.

Best known as “The Father of the Constitution,” Madison is considered the most influential contributor to the US Constitution.  He worked vigorously to see it ratified in his own Virginia and throughout the US.

Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay collaborated to write the Federalist Papers, which were 85 newspaper articles published in New York that explained how the proposed Constitution would work.  These articles were also published in book form and became the road map for the supporters of the Constitution at each state’s ratifying convention.  Clinton Rossiter called the Federalist Papers “the most important work in political science that ever has been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States.”

In 1776, he was elected to the Virginia convention that resolved for independence.  He specifically worked to strengthen the clause on religious freedom to proclaim “liberty of conscience for all,” which is a very liberal view.  It certainly does not advocate for a view that is centered on the Ten Commandments.

The Official Portrait: John Vanderlyn was commissioned many famous Americans, including George Washington (for the US House), Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, John C Calhoun and others.  He painted battles and city panoramas, but his commissions barely supported him, as he worked very slowly.  His 1842 commission by Congress to paint The Landing of Columbus produced one of his most famous works, which was later used on five-dollar banknotes and a 2 cent stamp in 1893.

“The portrait of James Madison was commissioned by James Monroe. The face is set above a high-collared black coat between a freely painted cravat and the simple powdered hairstyle favored by Madison.” (extracted from Kloss, William, et al. Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride. Washington, D.C.: The White House Historical Association, 2008.)

James Madison, Presidential Portrait

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