Key Terms 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.