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James Madison (1751-1836) was the principal architect of the United States Constitution and the fourth president of the United States. During the Revolution, he helped draft Virginia's state constitution and served in the Continental Congress. In the years immediately following the war, he grew convinced that domestic and international disasters would follow unless the national government was reformed, and therefore joined those calling for a constitutional convention. He teamed with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to publish the Federalist Papers.

With the ratification of the Constitution, he was widely recognized as the document's most brilliant and influential theoretician. When the new government gathered in New York in 1789, he was among Washington's confidants. His advocacy of a bill of rights during Congress's first term was designed largely to defang critics of the Constitution still hoping to secure its alteration. But Hamilton's funding proposals convinced Madison that the new government was steering off course. The expanded national power and Hamilton's vision of an assertive federal government—one that used its powers to mobilize national resources and pursue a broad legislative agenda—conflicted with Madison's vision of a federal government strong enough to check state power, but too divided by internal divisions to be an energetic legislative force.

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