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An introduction to James Madison by historian Joe Ellis

In this video, historian Joe Ellis and Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson discuss James Madison and his involvement in the founding of the United States of America. Created by Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson i'm here with Professor Joseph Ellis we've been talking about the founding of our country and the people who made it tell us about James Madison little Jemmy Madison went to Princeton was father on the plantation in Virginia reasonably strong economic background small sickly predicted by his classmates at princeton class of 70 1772 that he'd probably be a librarian he won't live very long but he becomes an intellectual that helps frame the concepts of the constancy not only that he outlives all his classmates at the end he says I might have believed that i have outlived myself and he is the most politically agile thinker among the group he thinks like a lawyer even though he's not trained like a lawyer it's like before the convention the Constitutional Convention he starts preparing his case he also starts counting votes he does he in most Virginia aristocrats don't like to do that you know that's under them and you know but he likes it and he's really good at it you know and I still don't know how he knows how certain people are going to vote because they haven't have emails and they you know and all those kind of stuff but he has sources that allow him to accurately see the delegation in Virginia will be divided X number of votes the delegation in New York why number of and it's almost always right on target but prior to the convention in Philadelphia and summer 1787 he spent several months preparing the case for a fully empowered national government so he's both the great theorist and a great sort of vote counter practical politician is a real practical politician and he's in some ways he's originally partnering with Hamilton in the Federalist Papers but all his light his 50-year project of coupling is with Jefferson you know you have three Virginia land owning planters Jefferson Madison and Washington how do they relate to each other initially they're all hunky-dory and now remember Jefferson is going to go abroad and he's going to be gone on for most of the Confederation period and for the time of the Constitutional Convention but Washington thinks so well of them that he names him his first secretary of state he actually offers the post Jay first to jay says he wants to be Jon Jay we are today he wants to be chief justice mmm so Jefferson doesn't know his second choice Madison and gent Washington get along famously give you a you know like Madison coaches Washington before the convention and political theory why isn't it knew what he wanted to conclude but he wasn't sure how you're supposed to get there some political thinking way and when Washington is named president and he travels to go up to the capital city which is New York he asked Madison to draft his letter to the to the Congress and then he the Congress has madison to write their response to Washington so the Madison is writing to Madison there's going to be a split in the 1790s and Madison's going to come out against Washington and Madison jeffers are going to form a Republican Party but for a while they're all pretty pretty much in this together eventually I think that Madison and Jefferson this is a bit of a and I'm a Virginia I was born and raised in Virginia I went to a college of william mary the same place that Jefferson did they take Virginia towards a states rights position that will lead to a defense of slavery and will lead to the Confederacy in 1861 is that because they believe in the rights of states or is because they're driven by slavery is an issue for it that's a toughy it's certainly the former but probably both thank you very much