Bio: (1751-1836) 4th President of the United States. Although he served eight years each as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as secretary of state, and as president, Madison's principal contribution to the founding of the United States was as "Father of the Constitution." He played the leading role in formulating the U.S. Constitution, and he was its leading defender and interpreter for 50 years. To a preeminent degree he combined scholarship, a keen intelligence, commitment to republican government, and a realistic understanding of politics in a way that allowed him again and again to move from an idea or a conception to a plan or a policy or a law.
Madison's place among the Founding Fathers reveals the essential qualities of his public career. Not gifted with Washington's imposing presence or instinctive judiciousness, he was more articulate and more creative than the first president. He lacked Franklin's breadth of interest, infectious wit, and unique diplomatic style, but he more profoundly understood the problems of government. John Adams was more learned and more cognizant of the intractable, tragic dilemmas of human life, but Madison was more skilled at fashioning institutions likely to cope in some way with those dilemmas. Jefferson had a superior vision of the potential for life under republican government, a greater capacity for leadership, and a special gift for the memorable phrase, but Madison had a more subtle and incisive political sense. Finally, though Hamilton was more brilliant in argument and more adept at offering comprehensive plans, Madison was more faithful to republican principles and more aware of the constraints that human need and diversity should place on the designs of the nation's leaders.