James Madison was born in 1751 and died in 1836. He was the fourth president of the United States (1809-1817). Madison worked for American independence, helped to establish the government of the new nation, and went on to participate in that government as congressman, secretary of state, and president. Madison's work on the Constitution of the United States gave him his best opportunity to exercise his great talents and is generally considered his most valuable contribution. More than any other person, Madison can be considered responsible for making the Bill of Rights part of the Constitution. His intense concern for religious and intellectual freedom led him to seek the strongest possible safeguards of individual liberty.
In 1776, Madison was elected a delegate to the Virginia constitutional convention. Madison wrote the article of the declaration of rights that asserted the right of all "to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience." In December 1779, Madison was elected to the Continental Congress. He took his seat with the Virginia delegation in March 1780 and after the first few months, he assumed a leading role in Congress. In the spring of 1784 Madison again ran for election to the Virginia assembly and won. He served nearly three years there, advocating the strengthening of the federal government.
Madison was one of the first delegates to arrive in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. Madison proposed a government with strong central powers, including a national judiciary and an elected national executive, and with authority to veto legislation of individual states. Primarily, Madison sought to provide the central government "with positive and complete authority in all cases which require uniformity" and to prevent abuse of this authority by making the government responsible to the people. He favored a two-chamber legislature and a system of representation that would give the larger states an influence in proportion to their size. The compromise reached was that the states would be represented according to size in the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, but would have equal voting power in the upper chamber, the Senate. Madison feared government by a minority and foresaw that the small states would be able to wield disproportionate power. After the convention adjourned, the Virginia assembly returned Madison to Congress, then in its final session under the Articles of Confederation. However, largely through the efforts of Patrick Henry, Madison failed to win a seat in the new U.S. Senate.
Madison ran for election to the House of Representatives and was elected in February 1789. In the first term of the new Congress, he introduced a measure to set up executive departments of the government. The second, introduced on June 8, 1789, presented a series of nine amendments to strengthen the Constitution. These were largely designed to guarantee personal liberty,...