James Madison

Roger Williams died in 1683, but his ideas of religious freedom lived on. Ninety-four years later a young man of 25 assisted Thomas Jefferson in the drafting and adoption of the Constitution of the New State of Virginia following the Declaration of Independence. He insisted, along with Jefferson, that the right of religious freedom be incorporated in the Virginia Constitution.

This was the first of the Thirteen States to write this important freedom into its Constitution, although Rhode Island had practiced religious freedom since it was founded by Roger Williams.

Now who was this young Virginian that helped bring this liberal doctrine to Virginia? His name was James Madison, and much was to be heard about this talented young Virginian in later years as Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson for 8 years, then for 8 years as the 4th President of the United States. Earlier, James Madison had served as Secretary of the Constitutional Convention, for which he has often been called the Father of the Constitution.

Madison was tiny, hardly 5 feet tall, weighing about 100 pounds. He was frail and in delicate health, but he was a giant in intellect. It was James Madison, as a member of the first Congress under the new Constitution who proposed a resolution that contained twelve amendments to the Constitution. His resolution was approved by the House and Senate, and within two years, two thirds of the States had ratified 10 of the 12 amendments. So Madison’s amendments, called The Bill of Rights, were incorporated in the Constitution of the United States.

One historian said, “Madison was convinced that freedom under the law must include liberty of religion as well as in government.” This idea is clearly indicated in the first sentence of the first Amendment of the Constitution. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In these few words James Madison wrote another brilliant chapter in the history of One Nation Under God.

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