The Life and Political Career of James Madison
James Madison is most widely known as the father of the Constitution. It is a title “deeply deserved on many accounts” (Wills 37). Although his many achievements at times are overshadowed by his work on the Constitution, Madison’s life reflects a legislative talent (Wills 3). Through his interest in politics, he was able to shape the forming nation. Education, illness, and religion dominated the beginning of James Madison’s life; the experiences enabled Madison to write the Constitution as well as a number of influential essays in response to his views on the incompetent confederacy. Madison challenged the ideas of the Anti-federalists through his strong arguments and rhetoric, while leaving behind a balance between central government and individual rights, as well as the idea of being an American.
Madison’s education revolved around his bad health, which often dictated where he studied. Madison believed he would “ have a short life due to the illness he believed was epilepsy and actively tried to monitor and control breakdowns” (Wills 7). As a child, Madison was “frequently confined to the sick bed” and he “formed studious habits, developing an early love of scholarly investigation and contemplation” (Sheldon 3). While the young Madison stayed at home, his religious grandmother took on his education by using books from his father’s library and purchasing the British magazine, Spectator (Sheldon 3-4). After learning valuable lessons through her teaching, he moved on to attend school for five years at the King and Queen County Anglican School, later returning home in order to monitor his health (Wills 15). Madison’s desire for knowledge led him to study at Princeton College before turning his eyes on government. Upon returning from college, Madison’s time was spent studying. “Partly because of ill health, but also suiting his bookish nature, Madison spent the years prior to the American Revolution studying” where he “resumed his investigations of government” (Sheldon 25). Through these investigations, “Madison found himself being drawn down into the real turmoil of Virginia politics, inflamed by the impending revolution” (Sheldon 26).
Madison’s high education and religious morals later shaped his political career, while his own ideas center around a religious emphasis. Garrett Sheldon, who specializes in political philosophy, analyzed the religious influences in James Madison’s ideas. “Madison’s naturally studious inclinations meshed nicely with the reformed Christian emphasis on learned faith” (2). His writing often reflected the “thoughtful religious faith, reverence for Scripture, and view of his political career as a divine ‘calling’” (3). Madison used religious ideals in his reasoning. His ideas came from Protestant theology, and Madison, under the teaching of the Presbyterian minister, kept “notebooks on his studies of John Locke, Plato, Fontenelle,...