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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics
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Madison: The Often Forgotten Father

posted Dec 16, 2012 19:44:54 by KeykoRegalado
Among all the Fathers of the Constitution/Nation, James Madison is perhaps one of the most mysterious. APUS barely skimmed over his achievements and society as a whole seems to prefer idolizing the accomplishments of better known Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Yet despite this, Madison did leave behind a legacy that still stands today. For starters, his work on the Virginia Plan created a template for what became the Constitution. Furthermore, similarly to Jefferson, Madison was adaptable. Although he initially supported more power to a centralized government, he also understood that a government is made up, at least in theory, by representatives of the will of the masses. This, in Madison’s eyes, made each state greedy and their representatives only willing to work in the Union for the benefit of their state. It created a paradox: the representatives, as part of a strong central government, should be wise judges over the nation’s policies but the representatives are so directly connected to the will of the people back home that their judgment may be biased. Thus a shift in Madison's ideology ocurred between the 1780's and 1790's. In the 1790's, he advocated for more power to the judiciary and executive branches over Congress. Furthermore Madison passionately advocated for the Bill of Rights during a time when the Congress feared more power to the masses; because although he wanted a strong centralized government at first, he also feared that such a concentration of power could morph the American government into something similar to Great Britain’s government. Though he is often forgotten by the mention of the other more prominent Founding Fathers, Madison left behind legacy of individual rights, and a central government ruled by checks and balances.
[Last edited Dec 16, 2012 23:59:48]
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6 replies
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AidanParker said Dec 16, 2012 23:29:03
I definitely agree with you that we think very little about Madison's influence on the early politics compared to more prominent figures, particularly his presidency. However, I would have to disagree that Madison wanted both a strong central government and greater power for the American people, at least simultaneously. He was motivated to support an very strong federal government at the Constitutional Convention by his observations of the failings of the Articles of Confederation government and the state legislatures. Later in his career he came to believe that too strong a central government could lead to a monarchical system, and that the remedy was to give more power to the people and states. Paradoxically, his positions at both times came to influence the political system and both became part of his legacy.
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LizWolfe said Dec 16, 2012 23:34:23
I agree with Aidan. Wood's article discusses Madison's skepticism of the people and his concern that elected officials would represent the will of the majority too well. Jefferson seemed to care more about how accurately and the extent to which the people were represented by elected officials, a natural sentiment when considering his idealistic nature in comparison with Madison's less trusting views. I agree, though, that Madison created some of the most fundamental pieces of our government and is woefully forgotten in collective memory.
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LinhQuan said Dec 16, 2012 23:47:54
It's true that Madison left behind a legacy since we can see people exercising their individual rights on a daily basis. We can also see the effects of the checks and balances still. Madison's advocacy for more power in the judiciary and executive was partially achieved by Marbury v. Madison in 1789 that gave the Supreme Court the power of judicial review. We can see that they are still actively using this power since, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, the Supreme Court has declared around 163 Acts of Congress by 2010. This also enables the Supreme Court to declare acts of the President to be unconstitutional, furthering the concept of checks and balances in our government.
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KeykoRegalado said Dec 16, 2012 23:51:31
First of all, thank you for commenting Aidan. :) I see your point. I agree with you and believe that my input was a bit ambiguous because I forgot to specifically point out Madison’s shift in ideology between the 1780’s and the 1790’s. Obviously he couldn’t have had both a strong centralized government and more power to the people at the same time because that would be a paradox in and of itself. And thanks to his shift in ideology we have the Bill of Rights.
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KeykoRegalado said Dec 17, 2012 00:10:38
Thanks for commenting Liz. :) Like I said to Aidan, I was a bit unclear at first but yes, I definitely agree that there was a shift in Madison's ideology. I also agree with your perception of Jefferson and how trusted the will of the people far more than Madison did. Furthermore, as a president Madison did enforce the more fundamental aspects of the executive branch of government- such as increased involvement with the military (since Madison had to fight of pirates in the high seas during his the time).
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KeykoRegalado said Dec 17, 2012 00:27:41
Thank you for replying Linh. :) I agree that the Madison left behind a legacy of individual rights and was an indirect cause that provided judicial review to the Supreme Court. Interestingly, he also indirectly supported a closer relationship to England (then Great Britain) by lifting the embargo against it during the Napoleon Wars. After Madison, there have not been any great sanctions or hostilities between both nations (ignoring the cotton issue with the Confederacy during the Civil War). Though there were obvious instances of obvious tension between both nations, the American-British/English relations have stayed stable since Madison, who reportedly spent much of his presidency focused on foreign policy.
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