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What Turned Madison Around?

March 2023
1min read

For me one of the minor mysteries in United States history, but one that had great importance historically, was why James Madison, who had been categorically resistant to adding a bill of rights to the Constitution in 1787, by 1789 not only favored adding rights to the Constitution but performed one of the greatest feats of legislative leadership in American history in shepherding through Congress what became the Bill of Rights. Why the shift? Some suggest that it was the influence of Thomas Jefferson, others simply that Madison “saw the light,” especially during the period of the state ratification conventions. My own theory is much more political: Madison discovered a great deal of support for the Bill of Rights when he vied with James Monroe for a seat in Congress and made commitments in the election contest that as a person of integrity he honored in the first session of Congress. I should add that the question of Madison’s motivation is still a matter of dispute among historians, as lately as the last convention of the Organization of American Historians.

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