Taking Back Our Stolen History
Madison, James
Madison, James

Madison, James

(1751 – 1836) was a founding father of the United States who is famous for his contribution towards the U.S. Constitution. He drafted the Virginia Plan, an outline for a new constitution; directed the Philadelphia Convention towards forming a new constitution; and contributed to the Federalist Papers, which promoted the ratification of the constitution. Apart from being the Father of the Constitution, Madison is also regarded as the Father of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. He served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson before becoming the fourth President of the United States in 1809. The foreign affairs during his presidency were dominated by the War of 1812 with Great Britain while his domestic policy focused on an effective taxation system and a well-funded standing professional military. Incredibly, there is no monument to him in Washington, D.C., even though if anyone deserves one, it is him.

However, Madison was also a man — and a frail one with serious health issues, at that. And sometimes, even on very important matters with consequences that are still manifested to this day, he was wrong. Wolverton’s book shows this, too.

The Real James Madison: The True Story of America’s Greatest Political Mind, by Joe Wolverton II debunks some of the more dishonest smears of Madison used by his contemporary critics, including on the issue of slavery.

Among the most interesting elements of the book — at least to this education-minded writer — was the in-depth focus on Madison’s education, and the value he placed on education. Indeed, as Wolverton pointed out, Madison was fond of reminding his fellow Americans that “knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Madison also warned, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” Madison’s life and American history are both testaments to the truth of those statements.

Wolverton calls Madison “one of the most learned men of this time.” And indeed, the description of the education Madison received is extraordinary — especially to modern Americans accustomed to a regimen of 12 to 15 years of dumbed-down government indoctrination masquerading as “schooling.” Madison’s incredible education began, like most young Americans in those days, at home with his parents. Madison’s mother, Nelly Conway Madison, taught him how to read, write, and do arithmetic. She also taught young James and his siblings morals and proper behavior using the Bible as her textbook. Clearly it worked, as the book reveals a gentle man dedicated to God, his family, public service, and liberty.

After learning all the “basics” at home by age 11, Madison spent five years studying under a Scottish teacher named Donald Robertson, where he learned history, grammar, Latin, literature, and more. Before he left school, he could read and write in Latin, as with most boys his age. He also learned Greek. Readers of Wolverton’s biography will also learn what books the young Madison purchased and borrowed during his studies, based on rec­ords maintained by Robertson. Anyone familiar with what passes for “education” in today’s America may well have to pick up his jaw off the floor after reading the titles on the list. By 17, Madison enrolled in the university today known as Princeton.

Obviously, Madison’s world-class education played a key role in shaping the man who would play a predominant role in shaping the American Republic and even world history. His understanding of Roman and Greek history, Wolverton shows, was fundamental in Madison’s understanding of how to create institutions that he felt could preserve freedom and self-government. His thorough familiarity with the great political treatises of Europe helped him understand the dangers of “democracy” and unchecked power.

Throughout the book, Wolverton quotes directly from Madison himself — his speeches, his letters, his writings, and more. For instance, Wolverton quotes a report by Madison on the “Necessary and Proper” clause that explains the absurdity of some of the arguments used today by globalists and statists to undermine the limitations on federal power enshrined in the Constitution. Bogus arguments on the commerce clause, the supremacy clause, and the general welfare clause are also totally smashed using Madison’s own words.

The reader is treated to Madison’s own accounts of what transpired at key historical moments in U.S. history, including his records of the constitutional convention. Madison’s view on the role of state governments in protecting liberty comes through loud and clear, too — and represents a truth bomb of massive proportions that, if widely known, could and would give Americans the necessary tools to rein in the feds. The book also includes excerpts from some of Madison’s little-known but brilliant essays published mostly anonymously and mostly in the National Gazette. They cover topics including migration, the consolidation of power, public opinion, the dangers of political parties, the spirit of government, and so much more. And as Wolverton explains, many of them are very relevant today.

Indeed, one of the most fascinating elements of The Real James Madison is how Wolverton seamlessly weaves in Madison’s relationships with, and letters to, other Founding Fathers. His friendship with Thomas Jefferson, for instance, is explored extensively throughout the book, even receiving a full chapter on what is dubbed “The Great Collaboration” between the two Founders.

He Directed the Philadelphia Convention Towards Forming a New Constitution

The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States. It established U.S. as an association of sovereign states with a weak central government. Also it gave the Congress effectively no power to enforce its requests to the states. Due to this, Madison, as well as several other founding fathers, feared national bankruptcy and disunion. The Philadelphia Convention was held in 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation. Madison had earlier done extensive scholarly research on various forms of government. He wrote what became known as the Virginia Plan, an outline for a new constitution. At the convention, he convinced other Congressmen that, instead of amending the ineffective Articles, it was time to supersede them with a new constitution. Madison spoke over two hundred times during the convention, which lasted from May 25 to September 17. He is said to be the best informed man at any point during the debate and his performance was rated highly by fellow delegates.

He Drafted the Influential Virginia Plan

The Virginia Plan was drafted by James Madison but presented to the Philadelphia Convention by Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia. It most importantly called for the number of votes each state received in Congress to be based on population. This was countered by the New Jersey Plan, which called for one vote per state regardless of population. Ultimately, the Convention decided to create a House of Representatives apportioned by population and a Senate in which each state is equally represented. Other proposals of the Virginia Plan included a legislative branch consisting of two chambers (bicameral legislature); and a three part government consisting of executive, legislative and judicial branches. Though the Virginia Plan was extensively changed during the debate, it did help shape the way the United States government works. Most disputes during the Philadelphia Convention were on the balance of power between the central and state governments. Madison is credited for shifting the debate toward a compromise of “shared sovereignty”.

He Co-authored the Federalist Papers

After the Philadelphia or Constitutional Convention, each state was asked to hold a convention to determine whether or not to ratify the Constitution. This led to an intense battle between the ones who supported the Constitution, the Federalists; and the ones who opposed it, the Anti-Federalists. Under the pseudonym “Publius”, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay wrote a collection of 85 articles and essays to promote the ratification of the constitution known as The Federalist Papers. Madison contributed 29 of these essays. The Federalist Papers have been called “the most important work in political science that ever has been written, or is likely ever to be written, in the United States.” They have also been frequently cited by the Supreme Court as an authoritative contemporary interpretation of the meaning of the provisions of the United States Constitution. Among the essays written by Madison is Federalist No. 10, which is famous for its advocacy for representative democracy and is among the most highly regarded of all American political writings.

Father of the Constitution

Nine states were required to ratify the Constitution for it to succeed. However, it was believed that if Virginia, the most populous state at the time, did not ratify the constitution, the new government would fail. Also, it would have disqualified Virginian George Washington from being the first president. The powerful orator Patrick Henry was an Anti-Federalist. This led to a battle between Henry and Madison. Although Henry was by far the more powerful and dramatic speaker, Madison successfully countered his emotional appeals with rational arguments. It was a close battle and it was after much negotiation by Madison that the convention in Virginia approved the Constitution on June 28, 1789 by a vote of 89 to 79. Nine states had ratified the Constitution by June 21, 1788 and it came into effect on March 4, 1789. United States Constitution has had an international impact and it has been a notable model for governance around the world. For his contribution to it, James Madison is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution”.

He Drafted the US Bill of Rights

Madison was initially opposed to the inclusion of a bill of rights in the Constitution. However, during the ratification debates, he understood its importance. Also, Madison feared that if this was not done, the Anti-Federalists could open the entire Constitution to reconsideration. On June 8, 1789, Madison introduced his bill proposing amendments consisting of Nine Articles comprising up to 20 potential amendments. 17 amendments were sent to the Senate which further reduced it to 12. 3 to 12 were ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, and became Amendments One through Ten of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights added to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rightsclear limitations on the government’s power in judicial and other proceedings; and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress are reserved for the states or the people. James Madison is considered the Father of the Bill of Rights.

He Co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party

Prior to the Constitutional Convention, James Madison had served from March 1, 1781 to November 1, 1783 as the youngest member of the Confederation Congress, the governing body of the U.S. at the time. He had also served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1784 to 1786. Madison was elected to the new United States House of Representatives from Virginia. He served as a Representative for eight years from March 4, 1789 to March 41797. Initially he worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. President Washington looked to him as the person who best understood the constitution. In the early 1790sFederalist Party, the first American political party, came into being. It advocated on centralizing policies and a strong national government. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposed concentration of power and in opposition to the Federalist Party, they found the Democratic-Republican Party in 1791–1793. From 1801 to 1825, their new party controlled the presidency and Congress as well as most states.

He Served as US Secretary of State

Thomas Jefferson was a mentor to Madison. The two had played an important role in the passage of the landmark Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786. The Act disestablished the Church of England in Virginia and guaranteed freedom of religion to people of all religious faiths. Thomas Jefferson became the third President of U.S in 1801 and he chose Madison for the position of Secretary of State. Along with Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, Madison became one of the two major influences in Jefferson’s cabinet. He also supervised the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 which doubled the size of the United States and was by far the largest territorial gain in U.S. history. James Madison served as the 5th United States Secretary of State from May 2, 1801 to March 3, 1809.

He Was the Fourth President of the United States

In the nominations for the 1808 presidential election, Madison faced stiff competition from former Ambassador James Monroe and Vice President George Clinton. Ultimately the Democratic-Republican Party chose Madison as its candidate for president and Clinton as its candidate for vice president. In the United States presidential election of 1808, James Madison easily defeated the Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. He won 122 electoral votes to Pinckney’s 47; and 64.7% of the popular vote. In the 1812 presidential elections, Madison defeated his own party’s DeWitt Clinton. He was re-elected with 128 electoral votes to Clinton’s 89; and 50.4 percent of the popular vote to his opponent’s 47.6%. James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from March 4, 1809 to March 4, 1817.

In the beginning of the 19th century Great Britain was involved in a conflict with France. America’s policy was to trade with both the nations. However, in 1807, Britain passed the Orders in Council which required neutral countries to obtain a license from its authorities before trading with France or French colonies. Also, the British seized several U.S. ships and forced captured crewmen to serve in the British navy. These factors led to tension between U.K. and America. On June 18, 1812, President Madison signed the declaration of war upon the United Kingdom, beginning the War of 1812. Madison faced many challenges during the war including a superior enemy, divided cabinet, obstructionist governors, incompetent generals, and militia who refused to fight outside their states. U.S. suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American forces. These included the burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. However, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. The War of 1812 ended with the Treaty of Ghent in December 1814 restoring the status to “the state existing before the war”. The War of 1812 increased national pride in America and led to a prosperous age known as the Era of Good Feelings.

After the war of 1812, the Madison administration focused on domestic affairs. The government budget was brought back into surplus; an effective taxation system based on tariffs was implemented; a well-funded standing professional military was established; pensions were extended to orphans and widows of the War of 1812 for a period of 5 years at the rate of half pay; and the Tariff of 1816 was passed to protect U.S. manufactured items from overseas competition. The Tariff of 1816 was the first actual protectionist measure in U.S. and it greatly helped the American industries compete with foreign goods in the domestic market. Though Madison had long opposed a national bank, in 1816, he chartered the Second Bank of the United States with a twenty-year term. Legislation was introduced 5 times for a ‘central bank’ and 5 times defeated with 2 President Madison vetoes, but on the 6th attempt it was passed after much influencing from Rothschild agents. On April 10, 1816, President Madison signed the bill into law. The final years of the presidency of Madison years began an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, which was called the Era of Good Feelings. James Madison is usually ranked among the top ten U.S. presidents by scholars.

Religious Views

James Madison had a passion for religious freedom and opposed government interference in matters of religion. Madison’s religious views and activities are numerous, as are his writings on religion. They are at times self-contradictory, and his statements about religion are such that opposing positions can each invoke Madison as its authority. An understanding of Madison’s religious views is complicated by the fact that his early actions were at direct variance with his later opinions. Consider six examples of his early actions.

First, Madison was publicly outspoken about his personal Christian beliefs and convictions. For example, he encouraged his friend, William Bradford (who served as Attorney General under President Washington), to make sure of his own spiritual salvation:

[A] watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.

Madison even desired that all public officials – including Bradford – would declare openly and publicly their Christian beliefs and testimony:

I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.

Second, Madison was a member of the committee that authored the 1776 Virginia Bill of Rights and approved of its clause declaring that:

It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other. (emphasis added)

Third, Madison’s proposed wording for the First Amendment demonstrates that he opposed only the establishment of a federal denomination, not public religious activities. His proposal declared:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established. (emphasis added)

(Madison reemphasized that position throughout the debates.)

Fourth, in 1789, Madison served on the Congressional committee which authorized, approved, and selected paid Congressional chaplains.

Fifth, in 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided a Bible Society in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible.

Sixth, throughout his Presidency (1809-1816), Madison endorsed public and official religious expressions by issuing several proclamations for national days of prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving.

These were the early actions of Madison. In later life Madison retreated from many of these positions, even declaring in his “Detached Memoranda” his belief that having paid chaplains and issuing presidential prayer proclamations were unconstitutional. Recent Courts have made a point of citing Madison’s “Detached Memoranda” in arguing against public religious expressions.

Significantly, the “Detached Memoranda” was “discovered” in 1946 in the papers of Madison biographer William Cabell Rives and was first published more than a century after Madison’s death by Elizabeth Fleet in the October 1946 William & Mary Quarterly. In that work, Madison expressed his opposition to many of his own earlier beliefs and practices and set forth a new set of beliefs formerly unknown even to his closest friends. Since Madison never made public or shared with his peers his sentiments found in the “Detached Memoranda,” and since his own public actions were at direct variance with this later writing, it is difficult to argue that it reflects the Founders’ intent toward religion.

There were fifty-five individuals directly involved in framing the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention, and an additional ninety in the first federal Congress that framed the First Amendment and Bill of Rights. Allowing for the overlap of nineteen individuals who were both at the Constitutional Convention and a part of the first Congress, [10] there were one hundred and twenty-six individual participants in the framing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The records of the Constitutional Convention demonstrate that James Madison was often out of step with these Founders. The other delegates rejected Madison’s Virginia plan in preference for Roger Sherman’s Connecticut plan and voted down 40 of Madison’s 71 proposals (60 percent). [11] Nevertheless, today Madison is cited as if he is the only authority among the Founding Fathers and the only expert on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.

Was Madison responsible for the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights? Definitely not. In fact, during the Constitutional Convention, it was Virginian George Mason that advocated that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution, [12] but the other Virginians at the Convention – including James Madison – opposed any Bill of Rights and their position prevailed. [13] Consequently, George Mason, Elbridge Gerry, Edmund Randolph, and others at the Convention refused to sign the new Constitution because of their fear of insufficiently bridled federal power. [14]

Mason and the others returned to their home States to lobby against the ratification of the Constitution until a Bill of Rights was added. As a result of their voices (and numerous others who agreed with them), the ratification of the Constitution almost failed in Virginia, [15] Massachusetts, [16] New Hampshire, [17] and New York. [18] Rhode Island flatly refused to ratify it, [19] and North Carolina refused to do so until limitations were placed upon the federal government. [20] Although the Constitution was eventually ratified, a clear message had been delivered: there was strong sentiment demanding the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

When the Constitution was considered for ratification, the reports from June 2 through June 25, 1788, make clear that in Virginia, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and Edmund Randolph led the fight for the Bill of Rights, again over James Madison’s opposition. [21] Henry’s passionate speeches of June 5 and June 7 resulted in Virginia’s motion that a Bill of Rights be added to the federal Constitution; and on June 25, the Virginia Convention selected George Mason to chair a committee to prepare a proposed Bill of Rights, [22] with Patrick Henry and John Randolph as members. [23] Mason incorporated Henry’s arguments as the basis of Virginia’s proposal on religious liberty. [24]

Although Madison had opposed a Bill of Rights, he understood the grim political reality that without one, it was unlikely the new Constitution would receive widespread public acceptance. [25] Consequently, he withdrew his opposition, and in the federal House of Representatives he introduced his own versions of the amendments offered by his State.

Very little of Madison’s proposed religious wording made it into the final version of the First Amendment; and even a cursory examination of the Annals of Congress surrounding the formation of that Amendment quickly reveals the influence of Fisher Ames and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, Samuel Livermore of New Hampshire, John Vining of Delaware, Daniel Carroll and Charles Carroll of Maryland, Benjamin Huntington, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, William Paterson of New Jersey, and others on that Amendment. [26]

The failure to rely on Founders other than Madison seems to imply that no other Founders were qualified to address First Amendment issues or that there exists no pertinent recorded statements from the other Founders. Both implications are wrong: numerous Founders played pivotal roles; and thousands of their writings do exist.

However, if critics of public religious expression believe that only a Virginian may speak for the nation on the issue of religion (they usually cite either Madison or Jefferson), then why not George Mason, the “Father of the Bill of Rights”? Or Richard Henry Lee who not only framed Virginia’s proposals but who also was a Member of the first federal Congress where he helped frame the Bill of Rights? Or why not George Washington? Perhaps the reason that these other Virginians are ignored (as are most of the other Framers) is because both their words and actions unequivocally contradict the image portrayed by the one-sided picture of Madison given by those who cite only his “Detached Memoranda.”

George Washington provides a succinct illustration. During his inauguration, Washington took the oath as prescribed by the Constitution but added several religious components to that official ceremony. Before taking his oath of office, he summoned a Bible on which to take the oath, added the words “So help me God!” to the end of the oath, then leaned over and kissed the Bible. [27] His “Inaugural Address” was filled with numerous religious references, [28] and following that address, he and the Congress “proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Divine service was performed.” [29]

Only weeks later, Washington signed his first major federal bill [30] – the Northwest Ordinance, drafted concurrently with the creation of the First Amendment. [31] That act stipulated that for a territory to become a State, the “schools and the means of education” in that territory must encourage the “religion, morality, and knowledge” that was “necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.” [32] Conforming to this requirement, numerous subsequent State constitutions included that clause, [33] and it still appears in State constitutions today. [34] Furthermore, that law is listed in the current federal code, along with the Constitution, the Declaration, and the Articles of Confederation, as one of America’s four “organic” or foundational laws. [35]

Finally, in his “Farewell Address,” Washington reminded the nation:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness. . . . The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. [36]

Washington – indisputably a constitutional expert – declared that religion and morality were inseparable from government, and that no true patriot, whether politician or clergyman, would attempt to weaken the relationship between government and the influence of religion and morality.

Or why not cite the actions of the entire body of Founding Fathers? For example, in 1800, when Washington, D. C., became the national capital and the President moved into the White House and Congress into the Capitol, Congress approved the use of the Capitol building as a church building for Christian worship services. [37] In fact, Christian worship services on Sunday were also started at the Treasury Building and at the War Office. [38]

John Quincy Adams, a U. S. Senator, made frequent references to these services. Typical of his almost weekly entries are these:

[R]eligious service is usually performed on Sundays at the Treasury office and at the Capitol. I went both forenoon and afternoon to the Treasury. October 23, 1803. [39]

Attended public service at the Capitol, where Mr. Ratoon, an Episcopalian clergyman from Baltimore, preached a sermon. October 30, 1803. [40]

The Rev. Mannasseh Cutler, a U. S. Congressman (as well as a chaplain in the Revolution and a physician and scientist) similarly recorded in 1804:

December 23, Sunday. Attended worship at the Treasury. Mr. [James] Laurie [pastor of the Presbyterian Church] alone [preached]. Sacrament [communion]. Full assembly. Three tables; service very solemn; nearly four hours. Cold day. [41]

By 1867, the church in the Capitol had become the largest church in Washington, and the largest Protestant church in America. [42]

There are numerous other public religious activities by the Founding Fathers that might be cited, and Madison participated and facilitated many of them. Yet Madison later privately renounced his own practices, thus distancing himself from his own beliefs and practices as well as those of the other Founders. Therefore, to use Madison’s “Detached Memoranda” as authoritative is a flagrant abuse of historical records, choosing a long unknown ex post facto document in preference to those concurrent with the framing and implementation of the First Amendment.


Chronological History of Events Involving James Madison

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James Madison: "...a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

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President James Madison’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – March 4, 1815

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President James Madison’s Thanksgiving Proclamation – November 16, 1814

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