James Madison
James Madison
Airdate September 6, 2003
Curriculum Social Studies

James Madison is a BrainPOP Social Studies video that launched on September 6, 2003.


In Brooklyn, Tim and Moby take a bus through Midtown Manhattan, passing and stopping at many locations with the name "Madison". At the same time, Tim answers a letter about James Madison.

At the end of the video, the bus stops at Madison Square Garden. Tim and Moby don Colonial-era wigs and attend the 5th Annual Convention of History. Someone approaches them, holding another letter about Elbridge Gerry; Tim says, "Uh, sorry, but we're out of time."

Back on the bus, but only one passenger remains and the others have stepped off at their respective platforms.


Transcript Edit

Quiz Edit

Trivia Edit

  • Judging by the locations Tim and Moby pass by while riding the bus, the story takes place in New York City. Specifically, it begins in Brooklyn, and remains in Midtown Manhattan.
    • The first location they stop at is James Madison High School, in the Madison Neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.
    • Then they turn onto Madison Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan.
    • Their next stop is at Madison Square Park, on Madison Avenue, in the Northern Flatiron District of Midtown Manhattan.
    • Then they stop at the Madison Hotel. This is fictional but may have been based off of Hotel NH New York Jolly Madison Towers, on Madison Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan.
    • Their final stop is at Madison Square Garden, in Midtown Manhattan.

FYI Edit

Way Back When Edit


After fighting in the Revolutionary War, Massachusetts farmhand Daniel Shays returned home to find that he was being sued for nonpayment of debts. Because the Continental Army paid nothing for military service, Shays was unable to pay.

Back in the 1780s, you couldn’t just declare bankruptcy and move on with your life. Instead, your creditors would auction off your possessions. If the auction fetched enough money to pay your debts, you were in the clear. But if it didn’t, you could be thrown in jail!

Shays was furious to learn that many other farmers and former soldiers were in the same predicament, and that the state government refused to listen to them. On the contrary, Massachusetts’ legislature just kept raising taxes. In response, Shays and a number of other veterans led their fellow citizens in armed revolt!

In 1786, Shays marched his group of about 800 farmers to Springfield, MA, with the intention of stopping the Supreme Court from handing down judgments against debtors. A militia (a temporary army composed of local citizens) fired on the rebels, turning them back. After losing several such battles, Shays fled to Vermont in 1787.

Even though the local militias proved themselves capable of maintaining order, Shays’ Rebellion scared the Revolution’s leaders. For years, they had stoked the people’s anger against unfair British taxation. Now that the war was over, the mob’s fury was turned on America’s own government.

To prevent this democratic passion from ripping the new country apart, a stronger national government would need to be formed. Later in 1787, the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to do just that.

Famous Faces Edit


More than any other wife of America’s early Presidents, Dolley Madison came to define the roles and responsibilities of first lady.

Born to a wealthy Virginia family in 1768, Dolley Payne was the fourth of eight children. When her father converted to the Quaker faith, he freed his slaves and moved his family to Philadelphia. There, Dolley met John Todd, a lawyer, whom she married in 1790. Just three years later, he died of yellow fever.

When James Madison asked for her hand in marriage a year later, it may have seemed a strange match. Not only was he was 17 years older, but their personalities couldn’t have been more different: James was soft-spoken and shy, while Dolley was a born extrovert.

When Thomas Jefferson, a widower, became President in 1801, Dolley was asked to fill in as hostess at White House dinners and other official events. In that capacity, she was renowned for her ability to smooth over quarrels among Senators, Congressmen, and visiting dignitaries. These social skills undoubtedly helped her husband get elected in 1808, and reelected in 1812.

But Dolley didn’t only work behind the scenes. In Jefferson’s administration, she worked as a fundraiser to finance the Lewis and Clark expedition. And when her husband was President, Dolley founded a home for orphaned girls in Washington, D.C.

Her most famous act as first lady came during the War of 1812, when British troops invaded the capital. Knowing that the White House itself was in danger, Dolley stayed behind after others had evacuated to make sure a portrait of George Washington was safely carted away.

Dolley died in 1849 at the age of 81. While future Presidents would be measured against George Washington, first ladies would always be compared against Dolley Madison.

Laws And Customs Edit


James Madison was the defendant in one of the Supreme Court’s most important decisions, Marbury v. Madison.It established the Court’s power ofjudicial review, the ability to declare laws unconstitutional.

The election of 1800 was a bitterly fought campaign between Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, and the incumbent, John Adams, a Federalist. After Jefferson won, Adams appointed 58 loyal Federalists as judges and justices of the peace around the country.

Scorned by critics as the midnight judges, these appointments were a clear attempt to spoil the incoming President’s agenda. Unfortunately for Thomas Jefferson, the appointments were perfectly legal.

By the time Jefferson took office, most of the judges had already taken their posts. Jefferson ordered his Secretary of State, James Madison, to prevent the remaining appointees from assuming their posts by refusing to deliver the necessary paperwork.

One of these appointees, William Marbury, filed suit in the Supreme Court. He asked the Court to recognize his right to the post, and, under the authority granted to it in the Judiciary Act of 1789, that the Court order Madison to deliver the paperwork.

Writing the Court’s unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Marshall noted that Marbury did in fact have a legal right to his post. However, the Court also found that the Judiciary Act of 1789 violated the Constitution, and therefore must be struck down. In other words, while the Court agreed with Marbury in principle, it found itself unable to do anything about it.

Marbury never assumed his post as justice of the peace.

Did You Know Edit

  • In the months leading up to the Constitutional Convention, Madison is said to have pulled an epic cram session, poring over more than 100 books on history and political philosophy. Fellow delegate Major William Pierce (representing Georgia) noted that Madison was “the best informed Man of any point in debate.”
  • Madison’s collaboration with Thomas Jefferson began in the 1770s, when both men served in Virginia’s state legislature. There, Madison was a vocal supporter of Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It declared that Virginians were free to pick any religion they wanted, and barred the state from choosing an official church. Madison echoed this principle of separation of church and state in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Madison was a key player in the passage of the Articles of Confederation, America’s first constitution. Some small states were refusing to ratify that document until larger states gave up their territories in the West. They were concerned that these holdings would make the larger states too rich and powerful. Madison convinced Virginia’s legislature to give up its claims in the West and put them under national control. Along with the claims of several other states, these holdings became the Northwest Territory.
  • As President, Madison led America in not one, but two wars: the War of 1812, and the Second Barbary War. This was a months-long struggle against the pirate-controlled state of Algiers, whose ships routinely attacked American vessels in the Mediterranean. After defeating Algiers, the U.S. no longer had to pay “tribute” (basically bribes) for safe passage in the Mediterranean.

In Depth Edit


Having studied the history of different political systems, James Madison concluded that democracies in the past had often failed due to the bad influence of factions — groups of people with specific goals that run counter to the interests of the population as a whole. He explored the dangers of factions in two of his most famous contributions to the Federalist Papers.

Federalist no. 10: In this essay, Madison points out that factions form a special danger for direct democracies, governments where citizens vote directly on laws (such as Athens in the 5th century B.C.E.). Once a faction gains a majority in a direct democracy, it runs over the rights of the minority.

Madison’s solution was a representative democracy, or republic, in which citizens vote for government representatives (senators, legislators, etc.), who then vote on laws. In Madison’s view, such representatives would be more likely than individual citizens to vote for the common good. He further points out that the larger a republic is, the more difficult it will be for a faction to gain a majority.

Federalist no. 51: “If men were angels,” Madison succinctly notes in this essay, “no government would be necessary.” To prevent our very human leaders from grabbing too much power, Madison argues for a government divided into coequal branches. Each of these branches would be designed to check, or impede, the power of the other branches.

When the Supreme Court declares a law unconstitutional, for example, that is a check on the power of Congress. On the other hand, Congress can check the Supreme Court by passing an amendment to the Constitution, which the Court cannot override.

Madison argues that such a system of checks and balances reduces the likelihood of a single faction gaining control of the entire government.

Etc. Edit


James Madison’s Virginia Plan bore a striking resemblance to the finished Constitution. But before it was adopted by the Constitutional Convention, it went through some important changes.

In the Virginia Plan, the legislature would be divided up into two houses. The number of a state’s representatives would be based on its population or wealth. This plan appealed to states like Virginia and New York; with large populations, they would dominate the legislatures.

An alternate proposal, the New Jersey Plan, proposed a legislature made up of one house, with one representative for each state. Larger states felt that this was undemocratic, since a state with a tiny population would have just as much legislative power as a state with a huge population.

Although the New Jersey Plan was rejected, many delegates still favored something closer to its legislature. A middle ground had to be found.

Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, both of Connecticut, drafted what became known as the Great Compromise: States would get equal representation in the Senate, and population-based representation in the House of Representatives.

The Great Compromise created friction between Northern and Southern states. Since the South had far more slaves, it wanted slaves to count for representation in the House, but not in calculating federal taxes owed by states. Naturally, Northern states wanted the exact opposite arrangement.

Disagreement over this issue threatened to derail the whole Convention until the introduction of the Three-Fifths Compromise. Under it, three-fifths of each state’s slave population would count toward representation and taxation.

Many Northerners were opposed to slavery altogether, but they dared not insist on outlawing it in the Constitution. To do so would have meant the breakup of the United States.

FYI Comic Edit

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