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Important Terms, People, and Events


Articles of Confederation -   · Original set of laws for the United States before the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It delineated very few direct powers for the central government, and maintained in principle the sovereignty of the states.
Bill of Rights -   · The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution which define rights–such as free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to bear arms, right to a trial by jury–which state governments and individual citizens can claim before the powers of the federal government. James Madison's was the primary pen behind the drafting of these amendments.
Continental Congress -   · Legislative body formed during the years of the American Revolution which claimed to represent the people of the several states of the union. It governed for a time under the Articles of Confederation and was the power which called to order the Constitutional Convention of 1788.
Democratic-Republicans  -   · One of the original political parties in the United States, which resisted the continued attempts by the Federalists to expand the powers of the federal government. They were often known simply as the Republicans, and they often represented agricultural and state interests against the claims of mercantile, commercial, and federal interests. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were prominent leaders of this party.
doctrine of implied powers -   · The idea that the Constitution allows for the exercise of various powers by the several branches of the government which are not explicitly stated or defined in the text of the document.
Federalism -   · The doctrine that the sovereignty of the United States lies ultimately in the hands of the American people at large–rather than in the individual legislatures of the state governments–and that the will of the people should be represented in a unified, national government whose authority overrides the state governments. Federalism is also associated with the doctrine of the separation of powers in the several branches of the U.S. government.
Federalists -   · One of the two original political parties in the United States; the party advocated a vigorous national government and was often associated with the mercantile and commercial interests as well as those who favored the British over the French in international affairs. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton were prominent Federalist partisans.
The Federalist  -   · Series of papers, written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, which defended the merits of the proposed U.S. Constitution in 1788 and 1789. The papers were published under the pseudonym Publius and were distributed in book form throughout the United States.
anti-Federalists -   · Those who opposed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution because they felt that it made the new government too powerful in its jurisdiction, particularly over state governments.
Montpelier -   · Name of James Madison's estate in Orange County, Virginia. It was a great plantation and was home to Madison from his infancy to his death in 1836.
states' rights -   · Doctrine that the states in the American union maintain a sovereignty before the federal government and that state legislatures can justly resist federal laws and even secede from the Union if they so desire.
strict constructionist  -   · Manner of interpreting the U.S. Constitution whereby its sections and articles are interpreted literally, according to the letter of the law.
Virginia Plan -   · Plan for the U.S. Constitution adopted by the Constitutional Convention on May 29, 1788. It was designed by James Madison and proposed a strong federal system of government characterized by the separation of the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial powers of the government.


John Adams -  Founding father of the United States of America, leader of the Massachusetts delegations to the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. He was a staunch proponent of Federalism, served as President George Washington as Vice President, and served as President himself from 1797 to 1801.
Alexander Hamilton -  Prominent New York Federalist of the Founding era; he worked with James Madison in writing The Federalist, and was Secretary of the Treasury in George Washington's presidential administration. In this office, he spurred along the creation of the First National Bank and courted the opposition of the Democratic-Republicans with his robust nationalism and commercialism.
Patrick Henry -  Best known as a great orator of the revolutionary period; a Virginian among those who led the anti-Federalist cause in his state during the Founding era. He and James Madison crossed swords over the question of the Anglican Church establishment–he supported it while Madison worked for disestablishment.
Thomas Jefferson -  Author of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State under George Washington, and third President of the United States, 1801–1809. He was a Virginian and a leader of the Democratic-Republicans on the national stage. A life-long friend of James Madison, he also made Madison his Secretary of State and supported his friend's 1808 bid for the presidency.
Dolley Madison  -  Wife of James Madison. She was a widow, a mother of a son, and sixteen years Madison's junior when she married him in 1794. She was famous as a great hostess and set a high standard in that capacity for all future First Ladies.
James Madison  -  (1761#ndash;1836) Best known as the "Father of the Constitution," he became politically prominent on the national stage as well as in his native Virginia. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress during the revolutionary period, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1788, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1791 to 1797, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth President of the United States, 1809–1817. His presidency coincided with the War of 1812.
James Monroe -  A Virginian who served James Madison as both Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury, and succeeded him as the fifth President of the United States, 1817–1821.
George Washington -  The leading figure of the revolutionary and Founding eras, Washington was a Virginian who was the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolution, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1788, and the first President of the United States, 1789–1797. His executive support of Federalist policies such as the creation of the First National Bank and the Proclamation of Neutrality during the Anglo-French wars courted the opposition of James Madison and other Democratic-Republicans.


Alien and Sedition Acts -  President John Adams's 1798 policy of censorship and the crackdown on pro-French sentiment which mobilized a great deal of Democratic-Republican opposition to his Administration. James Madison led the Virginia opposition to the policy in 1798 and 1799.
Constitutional Convention -  1788 delegation of political leaders from throughout the thirteen American states which was responsible for the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and refining it to the form which was sent out to be ratified by the governments of the several states. James Madison was the leading figure at this Convention, which adopted his Virginia Plan as its working model for the new American government.
Embargo Act -  1807 act, urged along by Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of State, James Madison, which cut off American foreign commerce in response to repeated British acts of aggression against U.S. trading ships.
French Revolution -  Great revolution against the monarchy and Church in France which began in 1789 and continued in several stages through the following decade, including drawn- out periods of war between the French Republic and Great Britain. It was ideologically radical in a way which distinguished it from its American counterpart of the decade before, and was an encouragement to heated American ideological battles between pro-British Federalists and pro-French Democratic- Republicans such as James Madison.
Louisiana Purchase -  1803 purchase from Napoleon's France of the great tract of land known as Louisiana, which stretched from New Orleans at the Mississippi delta all the way to the Pacific northwest. It virtually doubled the size of the United States, and gave control of the Mississippi River to the Americans. James Madison, then Secretary of State for Thomas Jefferson, directed the purchase from the State Department.
Marbury v. Madison -  Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that established the policy of judicial review of the other branches of the government. James Madison, representing Thomas Jefferson's Executive branch, lost the decision to William Marbury, who had sued the Secretary of State for his right to a judicial commission.
Proclamation of Neutrality -  President George Washington's 1793 policy of neutrality between the warring parties of Great Britain and the revolutionary French Republic. The policy angered pro-French Democratic-Republicans such as James Madison.
Virginia Resolutions -  1798 resolutions drafted by James Madison and passed in the Virginia assembly which denounced President Adams's Alien and Sedition Acts and claimed a right for the several states of the union "to interpose for arresting the progress of evil" in the federal government, asserting a principle of states' rights.
War of 1812 -  War fought between the United States and Great Britain mainly over the issue of British domination and aggression against American commercial vessels and sailors on the high seas. The most memorable event of the war was, perhaps, the invasion and burning of Washington, D.C., by the British Navy. The Americans suffered many defeats early in the war but had turned their effort around by 1814. The Treaty of Ghent, signed Christmas Eve, 1814, marked America's victory in the conflict.

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