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James Madison appears at Cottage Grove Place

by on March 1, 2011


It’s Presidents Month! Who best to celebrate with than James Madison, 4th President of the United States. Dick McGaughy has portrayed President Madison for the Hoover Presidential Library since the year 1999. In the above photo he is conversing with a local historian before engaging the audience in a discussion about the Constitution.

HistoryAnecdote: In 1787, only four years after the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, we created a new government under a constitution. We already had a government. Why did we need a new one?

The Articles of Confederation had created a weak central government binding the states into a league of friendship with each other. The states were separate nations for most purposes. We hoped that this would be the best way to safeguard our liberties. But quickly many difficult problems arose that had not been anticipated. The central government was not able to correct them.

To improve our government, approval was given for a meeting in Philadelphia in 1787. I wrote the Virginia Plan, which was the basis for all of the discussions during the meeting. The constitution was developed from the plan. Because of that, many people call me the Father of the Constitution. However, I would like to emphasize that the proposed constitution we signed on September 17, 1787 was the product of many hands and many heads. There were many changes, and I hope, improvements from my Virginia Plan.

I am sure many of you remember the first words in the constitution. “We the people of the United States…

Thanks Dick! Oh, I mean President Madison.


Dick March 1, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Franklin’s speech had been written, and was read for him by Wilson. As you know, several people had serious doubts about the constitution, and there was discussion of whether or how they would sign. The full version, as read, was quite impressive to most of those present. Franklin wrote [shortened version].

Mr. President, I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve… But I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise… [He was reminded of] a certain French lady, who in dispute with her sister said, ‘I don’t know how it happens, Sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that’s always in the right.” In these sentiments, I agree to this Constitution with all is faults, if they are such.

I doubt if another convention could do any better… Indeed, I am astonished to find the Constitution approaching so near to perfection as it does. I consent to this Constitution, because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.

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