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Mr. Ulmschneider's Forums > AP Government: Madison, Paine, and Politics

James Madison...

posted Dec 18, 2012 00:51:32 by AnoushehBakhti-Suroosh
According to Wood's final argument, James Madison did not differ in his policies substantially but still remains one of the less credited founding fathers. I would argue, however, that there is an alteration in James Madison's ideals and policies throughout his political career and this does not cause or even have a correlation with his lack of equal reputation as Thomas Jefferson. The basis of my argument comes from both the belief that changing one's views overtime is not the mark of a illegitimate politician and that Thomas Jefferson was accused and is still accused of the same kind of waivering, but is stil one of the most memorable founding fathers. James Madison's role as a co-author of the Federalist Papers, most importantly Federalist #10, and the Virginia Plan that at least established some of the Constitutional principles and then later his role as a prominent Democratic-Republican with Thomas Jefferson is a change in thinking. It could be argued that this change is only seen in retrospect of our current political ideologies, but even Alexander Hamilton and John Adams noticed these changes in Madison. Similarly, I do not consider this change a negative thing necessarily--the times in which James Madison lived required constant changes in political thoughts to maintain stability in the new nation. As mentioned earlier, Thomas Jefferson has been accused of changing his political ideology as well, for he claimed to be a strict constitutionalist, but then exercised rights not explicitly granted during his presidency. Therefore, changing one's political ideals is not necessarily a bad thing and does not reflect any negative component of James Madison. I would contribute Madison's lesser known status instead to his persona of manipulating politics behind the scenes, as portrayed in Jospeh Ellis' "Founding Brothers."
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3 replies
Merci Best said Dec 18, 2012 02:21:43
I found Wood's final argument interesting as well. Many do not realize the impact that James Madison has has on our political realm today. He practically organized the writing of the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention and without his strides our Constitution would not be the same as it is this day. I too do not believe that the changing of Madison's ideas is the reason that his reputation is not equal to that of the Thomas Jefferson who is regarded at a higher level. I also felt that Madison change from the 1780s nationalist to the 1790s constructionist was not a negative one, but necessary with the changing times and needs of Americans at the time.
clairepanak said Dec 18, 2012 03:21:16
Both Jefferson and Madison changed their views, and this sort of political evolution was not so unusual before the extreme partisanship of today. Winston Churchill once said "If you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no head." A lot of their popularity has to do with what the authored; traditional, patriotic American documents that are fairly straightforward with good soundbites can easily be used in history lessons, where more complex pieces such as the Virginia Plan and the Federalist Papers are more often studied in upper level history and political science. I don't see Madison's obscurity as a product of his or any of his contemporaries' actions, rather as a reflection of how history has been taught through the ages.
senormichaelchen said Dec 18, 2012 03:36:12
While I agree with your argument that shifting views do not denigrate a politician's role in history, I would contend that Madison only appeared to change his opinions on government. It seems to me that he neither belonged in the federalist camp nor the states' rights camp to the extent of either's full fledged philosophies go. Sure, he advocated for a stronger Union and for the central government to be able to override the states' governments but that was only in response to the failure of the Articles of Confederation and the contemptible effects of the "people" on Virginia's legislature. Sure, he reverted to what seemed to be a weak vision of federal government, especially during times of war, but only because he was deeply concerned about reverting into the European system of government America had just fought a war to free themselves from. I believe Madison to be a pragmatist, a student of history that carefully and deliberately crafted early United States to the vision he had.
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