Today, I would like to tell you about James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, and a very remarkable figure in national history. A multitude of works has been written about this notable person and his contributions. Many authors have tried to understand him, and whether they have succeeded at that is questionable. Judging by his late years, James Madison was a complex personality anxious about what his legacy might avail to the future generations (Brookhiser, 2013). In my speech, I am going to focus on Madison’s younger years, particularly his term of service, his conduct, and his role in building the America we live in.
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It is true that James Madison is most noted for his draft of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the Federalist Papers in support of it. The essays by Madison have become classics of political science due to their in-depth view of politics as a logical projection of human nature (Johnson, 2012). Particularly, Madison’s point that can be regarded as one of the most significant is his essay on the separation of secular and confessional power within a federation. Another important point is the nullification of non-constitutional laws by the federation drafted by Madison and Thomas Jefferson (Kernell 2005).
Also, under Madison’s supervision, the population of the United States was practically doubled after Louisiana was bought off from France in 1803 (Johnson, 2012). Paradoxically, such a prolific course of action was demonstrated by the President before he was even elected one. After his election, his actions were primarily focused on the 1812 war, in which America almost sank.
Despite his greatness as a theorist and statesman, there was a point of failure in Madison’s foreign policy, particularly when Britain and the aftermath of Napoleonic wars were concerned. While George Washington wisely assumed the doubtless advantage that Britain had over the US in terms of trade, James Madison somehow failed to perceive it (Roark, Johnson, Cohen, Stage, & Hartmann, 2014).
Before his election as President, Madison argued against the alliance with France and tried to struggle for what he regarded as American independence from Britain. In 1794, the trade war seemed inescapable when the Jay Treaty was established to secure and enhance the trade, thus leaving Madison behind (Roark et al., 2014). By the time he was elected, the US had established a stable trade flow with Britain, which was disrupted when the war 1812 broke out.
By 1812, the US has been deploying a non-intervention policy and traded with both Britain and France. Madison’s prompt actions in acquiring support in fighting for the national honor, as well as the development of the American fleet, helped the nation survive the war (Toll, 2008). As an aftermath, the feelings of national unity invoked the so-called Era of Good Feelings. This period has not seen much of Madison but for his exceptional internal policy consistent with an economic upturn in his final Presidential years (Dangerfield, 2008).
From what we know about James Madison, he was rather a man of the word than a man of the sword. Apparently, the nation almost succumbed in the battle due to his flawed conception of British economical forces, but he still managed to gain support through the power of words and bring the nation to prosperity. Overall, James Madison was a person of great analytical mind who, unlike many great people, was honored within his lifetime as well as posthumously.
Brookhiser, R. (2013). James Madison. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Dangerfield, G. (2008). The Era of Good Feelings. New York, NY: ACLS Humanities.
Johnson, M. P. (2012). Reading the American past: Selected historical documents: Volume 1: To 1877 (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Kernell, S. (2005). James Madison: The Theory and Practice of Republican Government. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Roark, J. L., Johnson, M. P., Cohen, P. C., Stage, S., & Hartmann, S. M. (2014). The American promise: A concise history, Volume 1: To 1877 (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Toll, I. W. (2008). Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.