Historical Highlights

Representative James Madison of Virginia

May 04, 1789
Representative James Madison of Virginia Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Known as the father of the Constitution, James Madison of Virginia served one term in the Continental Congress and four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected President in 1808.
On this date, Representative James Madison of Virginia announced his intention to introduce a resolution to create a bill of rights. Madison declared on the House Floor that he would introduce the legislation for the amendments on May 25, 1789, but when the day arrived Madison decided to postpone consideration for two weeks. Not until June 8, 1789, did Madison begin limited debate on the subject. “It appears to me that this House is bound by every motive of prudence, not to let the first session pass over without proposing to the State Legislatures some things to be incorporated into the constitution, that will render it as acceptable to the whole people of the United States, as it has been found acceptable to a majority of them,” he said. Unsuccessful in his attempt to have the House consider the bill of rights at that time, Madison changed his approach to introduce the amendments as resolutions. Of the 12 amendments passed by Congress in September 1789, the state legislatures approved 10 (now known as the Bill of Rights); ratification by the required three-quarters of the states occurred on December 15, 1791.

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