Madison County's Namesake – Commentary by Frank Gillispie 3/21/11
I was discussing the bi-centennial of Madison County with a teen-age acquaintance the
other day. "What famous person was our county named for?" I asked.
"Ummm. Dolly Madison?" she guessed.
"Close" I answered. "It was her husband."
So, what did James Madison do that made him famous enough to have a county named for him? Oh, nothing that important. He just wrote the United States
Constitution and served as our fourth president.
James Madison was born on
March 16, 1751 in Virginia on a tobacco farm. He completed his degree at Princeton University in two years and then became
an apprentice to Thomas Jefferson. When the Continental Congress finished their work on the Constitution, they turned to him to write out the final
draft of the document.
Now, writing the constitution was a very important thing at one time. It was the foundation for our federal republic. It created the rules of
government, the structure of our legislature and administration, created our federal courts system and guaranteed our God given rights as American
citizens. In the early part of our national history, it worked quite well.
Then he helped write the Federalist Papers along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, a major factor in winning ratification for the new constitution.
But then we had some politicians, starting with Abraham Lincoln, who saw the Constitution as an inconvenience and they began to ignore it. Today, they swear
allegiance to the Constitution, then proceed to do whatever they wish without regard to its rules and restrictions.
James Madison was not an imposing figure. He was quite short and a bit of a dandy. He was, perhaps, the most intelligent of our founding fathers. In
today’s culture he would be described as a policy wonk or a nerd.
Dolly Madison holds an equal place in the history of our nation. She was the official hostess for two presidents, James Madison and his predecessor,
the widowed Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps her greatest claim to fame was when she rescued our founding documents and the famous portrait of George
Washington just before the invading British sacked Washington D.C. and burned the Whitehouse during the war of 1812.
Dolly Madison was a prolific letter writer and a large selection of her letters are still in existence. They paint a vivid picture of life in the
early years of America ranging from family matters to politics to history. Much of our knowledge of her husband and his presidency are found in
Madison County was created by the Georgia legislature in 1811, while James Madison was president. It was completely natural for the state to name
the new county for the sitting president. And that is how Madison County got its name.
Copyright © 2011 by Frank Gillispie
email@example.com, Hull, GA
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"With respect to the words 'general welfare,' I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in
a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by
its creators. " -- James Madison, April 20, 1831
"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from
abroad. ." --James Madison, to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1798
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments
are numerous and indefinite." --James Madison, from Federalist #45
"The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers
are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."
--Rep. James Madison (F,Va.) from House speech, Jan. 10, 1794
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