When one thinks of the war of 1812, little or no significance surface upon the mind. Despite lasting only a brief amount of time, this conflict between the British and the colonial turned Americans proved to be an essential struggle for America. This war proved to the world that America should be a power to be reckoned with and respected in terms of talks of diplomacy. However, one may ask, who led us through this war and helped America gain an astounding victory over the British?
This was of course none other than the “Father of the Constitution”, James Madison. Born in Port Conway, Virginia Madison was the eldest of 12 hildren. Entering Princeton in 1769 he studied an array of topics from history theology and law. During his time in Princeton, Madison was introduced to the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment. These included Frances Hutcheson, David Hume, and Adam Smith. Each of these influential characters had an impact in the way of his thinking, which later on impact his ideas upon the construction of the American Constitution.
Returning home in 1772, at the age of 23 Madison would began his public career as a federalist politician. Beginning in 1776 Madison was elected to the Virginia Convention. Previous to this occurrence, he was only part of the local Committee of Orange County Virginia. This promotion to the Virginia Convention raised his influencing power. The first major contribution that Madison made at the Virginia Convention was over the topic of religion. He believed it to be a fundamental right of practicing any religion they chose as opposed to a granted privilege from the government.
He also was a strong advocate for the true separation between church and state. In the debates that were held over this topic, it became settled that the new Virginia Bill of rights would follow Madison’s advice of separation of church and tate. This eventually became a fundamental right and was incorporated as part of the Virginia Bill of Rights. It is interesting to note that during these debates, Madison gained a life long friend, Thomas Jefferson. This would later come into play as party sides would be picked in a political fight.
Later on in Madison’s career as a politician, he lost the election for the 1777 session of the House of Delegates, purportedly because he refused to provide liquor for the voters, a tradition affectionately referred to as “swilling the planters with bumbo. ” This alone, showed the morals and values that Madison believed in. He thought only through truth and honesty would the true leaders emerge. This proved in essence very true when through the efforts and diligence of Madison’s remarkable work, he was elected as the Virginia representative to the Continental Congress in 1779.
Madison served in Congress from March 1780, when the Revolutionary War had reached its all time lowest point ever, to December 1783, which was when America gained its independence. Known as a “conscientious legislator” , Madison had very centralizing and unifying views for how the Congress should govern the new nation. Madison believed in stronger central authority and that hese powers should be given at the expense of the individual states of America. This would later be known as a very republican type view.
At that time, the Articles of Confederation existed which gave states a stronger advantage in government and the central government very weak and limited powers which Madison believed would withhold America’s true potential as a nation. After the war’s end in 1783 Madison left to rejoin the Virginia delegates and once again fought for the separation of church and state. Finally, after a long awaited triumph, the Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1785 was assed.
After this accomplishment, Madison moved onto becoming a delegate from Virginia to the Constitutional convention and suggested that the Article of Confederation be scrapped and a new Constitution be created. Madison made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, through the Federalist essays. In later years, when he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison protested that the document was not “the off-spring of a single brain,” but “the work of many heads and many hands. Finally after the Constitution being past sudden major split occurred over the issue of a national bank. Madison believed that there shouldn’t exist a national bank because it would be imitating the British would unfairly give all the power and wealth to northern financiers. Hamilton felt the exact opposite where the Bank would allow a reserve set up for crisis and there could be greater loans taken for more momentous projects in the new nation.
Through this rift, a new party known as the Republican or the Jeffersonian party emerged. Later when Jefferson seized Presidency, Madison was promoted to Secretary of State. At that time French nd British ships were attacking American ships and held America without much regard. Madison disagreed to warring either country and the Embargo Act of 1807 was passed. This act didn’t do much anything but cause a financial depression. This eventually became repealed and Madison was still promoted and voted as President in 1808.
However trade and shipping was still a problem with both countries where one was ruled by a dictator and the other still hadn’t forgotten Americans as colonials. Through the push of the “war hawks” such as John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay, Madison asked declared war upon Great Britain. The reasons were because of unfair impressments of American seamen and the seizure of American cargo. Early on in the beginning, the U. S. took many losses one of which included the burning of the White House in Washington D. C.
However, in the end of the midst the U. S. emerged victorious with the help of its legendary war heroes such as John Paul Jones in the seas and “Old Hickory” Andrew Jackson. This war gave such a rise to nationalism that Madison was re-elected as President and the Federalist Party got dissolved as a national party. Afterwards, Madison retired at Montpelier in Orange County, VA where he ived out his life peacefully until his death in 1830. When one closely examines Madison, one cannot oversee the tremendous contributions he made throughout his political career.
Ideas such as religious tolerance freedom for all (except slaves) and the ingenious invention of the 3/5th’s Compromise were just a few of his highlights. Also, being an active advocate and supporter of the Constitution through giving the main contribution to the Federalist papers earned him rights to be known as “father of the constitution. ” Throughout his career, any analyst can see that James Madison was an extremely oralistic career minded and modest character. One that served his country and not serving himself for his pure self interest.
However, one may argue exactly what his major accomplishment was. Was it success in the War of 1812? Or was it fathering our constitution and developing a framework for the American system of laws? If examined closely war of 112 was inevitable sooner or later and the heroes won not the President. So in essence his main contribution remains and an everlasting gift to America being the basis of all our laws: the Constitution. Thus, this concludes a brief look at James Madison and his life.