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Library to Commemorate James Madison’s 265th Birthday

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Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755 - 1828 ), James Madison, c. 1821, oil on wood, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
Portrait by Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755 – 1828 ), James Madison, c. 1821, oil on wood, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund. Source: National Gallery of Art, NGA Images.

On Wednesday, March 16, the Law Library of Congress and the Library’s Manuscript Division will host a panel discussion on the fourth president’s early life, political and personal partnerships and his pre-eminent role at the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

The program will feature three distinguished attorneys and historians whose biographies of Madison were published in 2015: Mary Sarah Bilder (Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention); David O. Stewart (Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America); and Michael Signer (Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origin of the Least Likely Founding Father).

Historian James Hutson, chief of the Library’s Manuscript Division, will give opening remarks on the James Madison Papers, 1723-1859, which are held in the Library of Congress. Hutson is the author of To Make All Laws: The Congress of the United States, 1789-1989 and Church and State in America: The First Two Centuries.

Mary Sarah Bilder is professor of law and the Michael and Helen Lee Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School. She teaches property, trusts and estates, and American legal and constitutional history. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Columbia Law Schools. She received her B.A. with Honors (English) and the Dean’s Prize from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, her J.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law School, and her A.M. (History) and Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of American Civilization/American Studies. She is member of the Massachusetts Bar Association and the State Bar of Wisconsin. She is involved in numerous legal and historical associations, including the American Bar Foundation, American Law Institute, American Society for Legal History, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Colonial Society of Massachusetts. She has received the Littleton-Griswold Award from the American Historical Association and the Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award from the American Association of Law Libraries. Her recent work has focused on the history of the Constitution, James Madison and the Founders, the history of judicial review, and colonial and founding era constitutionalism.

David Stewart is an award winning non-fiction author who began writing history after practicing law for many years.  His first book, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitutionwas a Washington Post bestseller and won the Washington Writing Award as Best Book of 2007.  Two years later, Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, was called “by all means the best account of this troubled episode” by Professor David Donald of Harvard.  The Society of the Cincinnati awarded David its 2013 History Prize for American Emperor, Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, an examination of Burr’s Western expedition, which shook the nation’s early foundations.  The Lincoln Deception, an historical mystery about the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy, was released in late August 2013.  In November 2015, David received the William H. Prescott Award for excellence in historical writing from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America.  He also is president of the Washington Independent Review of Books, an online book review.

Michael Signer is lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and the Batten School of Public Policy and Leadership at the University of Virginia, managing principal of Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC, and the Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.C., Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law; and a B.A. in politics from Princeton University.  He was counsel to then-Governor Mark Warner of Virginia, national security director of the 2008 John Edwards for President Campaign, Senior Policy Advisor at the Center for American Progress, and a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2009.  Dr. Signer is the author of Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies.  His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Democracy, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, and USA Today, and he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC, and NPR.

We hope you will join us! The program will be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and tickets are not required.

For those readers who will not be able to attend the program, a member of the In Custodia Legis team will be live-tweeting the event via Twitter @LawLibCongress, using #Madison265.





  1. It was a great program Liah! The speakers were fabulous! I have learned a lot from them. I am ordering both of their books.

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