Today the Library of Congress is commemorating the 265th anniversary of James Madison’s birth. Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was born on March 16, 1751 in the Colony of Virginia.
The Library’s James Madison Memorial Building serves as the national memorial to James Madison. The building was approved by an act of Congress on October 19, 1965 and contains Madison Memorial Hall, which the James Madison Memorial Commission recommended to Congress to honor Madison’s achievements as a historian, political scientist and statesman. The centerpiece of the memorial is a statue of young Madison holding in his right hand volume 83 of the Encyclopédie Méthodique, which was published in Paris between 1782 and 1832. Ten quotations by Madison adorn the outside walls of the James Madison Memorial Building including;
KNOWLEDGE WILL FOREVER GOVERN IGNORANCE: AND A PEOPLE WHO MEAN TO BE THEIR OWN GOVERNOURS, MUST ARM THEMSELVES WITH THE POWER WHICH KNOWLEDGE GIVES.
Madison to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822
Madison is known as the “father” of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights for his contribution to these documents. As the primary drafter of the Virginia Plan, which was introduced at the Constitutional Convention, Madison proposed a government based on a balance between the executive, legislative and judicial branches with the legislative branch separated into two chambers. Madison also served as a recorder at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Later he co-authored the Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to urge New Yorkers to ratify the constitution.
Many are aware of Madison’s contribution to the United States Constitution, but may not know that Madison was also a man of books. In fact, he was one of the first people who recommended the establishment of a library for Congress as a member of the Continental Congress in 1783. Then in 1815 while president, he supported his friend Thomas Jefferson’s offer to sell his personal collection of books to rebuild the Library after British troops destroyed the original Library in August 1814. Like Jefferson, Madison was an avid reader and he had his own extensive personal collection of books.
We encourage our readers to learn more about James Madison. The Library of Congress holds the James Madison’s Papers from 1723-1859. The collection contains correspondence, personal notes, draft letters and legislation, an autobiography, legal and financial documents, and his notes on the 1787 Constitutional Convention. The Library also offers a resource guide of the Madison Papers for teachers.