“A government, deriving its energy from the will of the society, and operating by the reason of its measures, on the understanding and interest of the society. Such is the government for which philosophy has been searching, and humanity been sighing, from the most remote ages. Such are the republican governments which it is the glory of America to have invented, and her unrivalled happiness to possess.”
“Spirit of Governments”
James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, played a central role in the Constitutional Convention and served as the fourth President of the United States. Below are some of his most important writings, including a select number of Federalist Papers. You can read more about his life and political thoughts on the James Madison Discovery Page.
In the Federalist Papers, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison lay out the argument for ratification to the people of the state of New York. In the papers below, Madison explains why a republican government is best suited to a people spread out over a large geographic area.
The republican nature of the government proposed in the Constitution was disputed by the Anti-Federalists. In these papers, Madison argues that the Constitution exemplifies republicanism because it relies on the principles of federalism, separation of powers, and representation.
A proponent of religious liberty, Madison strongly opposed Patrick Henry’s bill proposing a tax to support Christian education in Virginia. He wrote this Memorial and Remonstrance to outline why state-sponsored support of religion was detrimental to individual freedom. Though originally published anonymously, Madison revealed that he was the author of this work in 1826.
Before the Framers met in Philadelphia, Madison knew that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient to support the new nation. Here, he lays out 11 problems with the Articles, many relating to the relationships between states and the central government.
In this short piece, Madison discusses the effects citizens’ occupations can have on the individual’s and a society’s ability to maintain a free government.
The three works below were published in the National Gazette. Madison describes the importance of public opinion in a republican democracy, political parties of his time, and distinguishes between types of government based on their “predominant spirit.”
Speech at the Constitutional Convention
In this speech, Madison warns against the threat of a tyrannical majority and suggests the only way to remedy this in a republican government is to “enlarge the sphere,” which will result in many competing parties so that no one will be able to form a majority and threaten the rights of the minority.