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Image of James Madison sitting
James Madison. Gilbert Stuart, 1828

Constitution Day: Celebrating the Father of the Constitution

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Annually on September 17, we take a day to celebrate the signing of the United States Constitution. This year, also take a moment to celebrate the man who is considered the “Father of the Constitution,” James Madison.

James Madison standing at a table with a globe
James Madison. Thomas Sully, artist

Madison is near and dear in the hearts of those who treasure the Library of Congress. As a young congressman, he sponsored legislation to create a congressional library. As president, he signed legislation to purchase Thomas Jefferson’s library, the foundation of the current Library of Congress. Madison also signed legislation that expanded the mission of the Library. The largest of the Library’s buildings on Capitol Hill is named in his honor.

Madison served on the committee that created Virginia’s constitution as well as the Continental Congress. Those experiences made him a natural participant in crafting a new governing document for the United States. Madison’s ideas for a federal government favored large states and championed a stronger national government operating for individual citizens rather than states. His plan became known as the Virginia plan.

Madison served on the Committee of Style, which provided final editing and arrangement of the constitution. He kept detailed notes of the proceedings, and those were eventually compiled with other official documents by Max Farrand into The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.

After the Constitution was ratified, Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote articles defending the document. These articles, published under the pseudonym Publius, were compiled and eventually published as the Federalist Papers. It is likely that without Madison the United States Constitution might be very different.

  • Use the lesson plan “The Constitution: Drafting a More Perfect Union” to have students explore the work of the Committee of Style and consider its impact on the Constitution and the federal government.
  • Many people don’t realize that Madison introduced the Bill of Rights. Have students look at the Creating the Bill of Rights Interactive to learn more about this important document. Students can write stories, songs or poetry or create works of arts showing about how life might be different if the Bill of Rights didn’t exist.
  • Have students read Federalist Paper Number 10  written by Madison. Do they agree or disagree with him on the importance of plurality and liberty?
  • For additional teaching materials, see Constitution Day Resources.

How will you recognize Constitution Day in your classroom?

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