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Homeschooler with a Quill Pen: The Story of James Madison

June 22–26, 2015   |   Vol. 123, Week 11

Did you know that James Madison, the fourth president of our country, was home-educated? How did his childhood education prepare him for the tasks ahead? On this week’s Home School Heartbeat with host Mike Smith, catch a glimpse of the impact that James Madison’s life had on the founding of our country.

“Madison’s writings helped the New World shake the grip of tyranny and develop a new form of government, which guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”—Mike Smith

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Can a home-educated child really rise to become the leader of a nation? James Madison did! On today’s Home School Heartbeat with host Mike Smith, catch a glimpse of the impact that Madison’s life had on the founding of our country.

Mike Smith: James Madison, who was born in Virginia on March 16, 1751, is known as the chief architect of the United States Constitution.

After the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay asked Madison to help them persuade the state of New York to ratify the Constitution. Without New York’s support, the new nation would be fatally divided.

Madison authored 29 of the 85 Federalist Papers with Hamilton and Jay.

The Federalist Papers were published as newspaper editorials. These articles were crucial in convincing the populace and leaders of the state of New York to ratify the Constitution.

Thankfully, New York ratified the Constitution by one vote.

Without Madison’s intellectual skills, it is doubtful the Constitution would have become the supreme law of the land. Instead, the new nation would have floundered under the Articles of Confederation.

Madison went on to become America’s 4th president, serving from 1809 to 1817. He led the country through its most perilous time since the Revolutionary War—the War of 1812. British troops seized Washington, D.C., and burned the White House and Capitol Building.

But America survived and James Madison can be credited with guiding the nation through this dark hour.

Mike: The colonies were not wealthy during the centuries leading up to America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776. The new land was still struggling economically, partly because of British colonial policy.

Public education as we know it today did not exist. Homeschooling was the primary method of education.

Homeschooling produced a generation of men and women who had the courage to fight for freedom.

Similar to many other founding fathers, James Madison was taught a biblically based homeschool curriculum.

He was mainly taught by tutors, but his family was also closely involved with his education.

Madison continued his studies under the Reverend John Witherspoon at Princeton University.

The Christian principles imparted to Madison gave him the foundation to articulate his defense of the Constitution. He helped launch an era of responsible self-government. Madison’s writings helped the new world shake the grip of tyranny and develop a new form of government, which guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As the results have shown, homeschooling prepared him well.

Mike: James Madison was taught a Christian worldview, that the nature of man is susceptible to passion over reason. In his writings, Madison explored how to restrain these human passions within the framework of a representative government.

His Federalist Paper 10 is perhaps the most widely known of his writings. Here he discusses the previous problems of democratic or representative government.

He described how small republics in Europe had failed because a majority of the population denied a minority of the people their rights. This led to tyranny, which was unacceptable to America’s founding fathers.

How could this fledgling nation develop the democratic ideal of majority rule but protect minority rights?

Madison’s answer was to separate the powers of government at the federal level and to reserve the powers not delegated to the federal government to the states. This division of power would keep one group from easily controlling the whole government.

Madison also believed that the physical size of the new country would weaken factions. Trying to organize such a diverse country in a tyrannical conspiracy would be almost impossible.

Despite some serious bumps along the way, America has remained free.

Madison’s homeschool education served him and his country well.

Mike: James Madison was well prepared for the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention.

In 1786, he had attended the Annapolis convention, which was the precursor to the federal convention.

And before the next federal convention, Madison combed through ancient and modern texts for wisdom and insight concerning the problems that had plagued popular governments over the ages.

Madison developed the “Virginia Plan,” which called for a stronger central government and a bicameral legislature. This plan essentially became the federal government structure we know today.

Madison was the leading figure at the constitutional convention. He spoke over 161 times—more than any other attendee except New York’s Gouverneur Morris.

Madison also kept an accurate and detailed record of the debates. Scholars use his notes to gain insight into the ebb and flow of the debate during this crucial time in America’s history.

Reflecting on his work, Madison wrote these words on the future of America:

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of . . . our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Mike: The Constitution went into effect on June 21, 1788, with the ratification of New Hampshire. It has endured for 215 years. America is the only country that has maintained its republican form of government for this length of time. 

History has taught us that many countries that have experimented with self-government have often failed to maintain their original framework. For example, France has completely changed its constitution over 30 times since the French Revolution.

The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times, with the most dramatic improvements occurring after the Civil War. Yet despite the terrible episode of the Civil War, the country and the Constitution survived.

President James Madison had the wisdom and foresight to provide a mechanism to amend the Constitution. The Constitution needed to be flexible to adapt to changing circumstances, but its underlying principles should not be changed.

Madison cemented his legacy as the architect of a document that demonstrated that self-government was both possible and highly beneficial.

Thanks to Madison, generation upon generation of both Americans and those in other lands know that a republican or democratic form of government is the best solution to order the affairs of man.

Though not perfect, America has led the way.

We pray that more people around the world will also experience the benefits of Madison’s labors of over 215 years ago.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike SmithMike Smith

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vickie, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. The Smith family’s lives changed dramatically when Mike heard a radio program in 1981 that introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. He and Elizabeth started homeschooling—taking it just one year at a time—to meet the academic and social needs of their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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