James Madison

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James Madison (March 16, 1751 - June 28, 1836) was the 4th president of the United States[1] and is nicknamed "Father of the Constitution" because his "Virginia Plan" became the U.S. Constitution's blueprint.[2][3] He furthermore played a major role in two landmark pieces of legislation relating to religious freedom, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments.

Biography

James Madison was born March 16, 1751 in Port Conway Virginia.[2]

Danbury Baptists

Madison's career in politics actually began because he found out Baptists were being persecuted for their religious beliefs by the state Anglican church. It also led to his partnership with another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, as they sought to protect freedom of worship for all.

"In 1773, it came to the notice of a weedy, bookish, young Virginian that some Baptists were languishing in a nearby jail. For many years before, as he well knew, magistrates had meted out fines and prison sentences to religious dissenters from the colony’s Anglican establishment. But this episode struck a nerve, prompting the young gentleman to condemn what he called the 'diabolical, hell-conceived principle of persecution.' Perhaps that was because it occurred close to his family’s plantation, or perhaps, because the young man had recently graduated from Princeton, where he had been steeped in enlightened learning, including the ideas of John Locke. Whatever the reason, the imprisonment of local Baptists marked a turning point in the life of James Madison. It steered him toward a career in politics as well as a lifelong partnership with his fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson."[4]

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

In 1785, James Madison like Jefferson before him, authored his own Virginia legislation pertaining to religious freedom and separation of church and state, the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. The bill was designed to criticize another bill that would have instituted a statewide tax to support Christian clergymen of various denominations. Madison's 1st reason for arguing against the bill began, "Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence" and continued in point 12 with "because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity." Madison, like his friend Jefferson, argued constantly from the standpoint of a Creator giving rights to man, but took it even one step further, arguing that a Christian government religious freedom.

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Main Article: Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Like Thomas Jefferson, Madison considered the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom one of his crowning achievements.[5]

References

  1. Beschloss, Michael & Sidey, Hugh (2009). "James Madison." WhiteHouse.gov. About the White House: Presidents.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. "American President: James Madison (1751-18326)." Miller Center, University of Virginia.
  3. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. "American President: A Reference Resource." Miller Center, University of Virginia.
  4. Heyrman, C.L. "The Separation of Church and State from the American Revolution to the Early Republic." Divining America, TeacherServe©. National Humanities Center. Accessed September 3, 2012.
  5. Thomas Jefferson Foundation (2007). "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom." Learning Resources.