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Virginia, which followed, he sustained the new constitution in all its parts, bearing off the palm against the logic of George Mason and the fervid declamation of Mr. Henry. With these consummate powers was united a pure and spotless virtue, which no calumny has ever attempted to sully.”
At the election in April, 1777, Mr. Madison was defeated, and thus, for a time, his connection with the Legislature ceased. It is claimed stoutly that Mr. Madison owed his defeat at this early day of the country's political history to the unrepublican and unmanly practice, imported from England, of acquiring or buying men's votes by whisky. Under the new order of things, among other English usages, Mr. Madison believed that this vile practice, to which Washington even had been obliged to submit at his first election to the House of Burgesses, should be discountenanced, and, declining to follow the disgusting old custom, was unsuccessful. This result being unsatisfactory to many of his sup-. porters, the election was contested on the grounds of fraud at the polls, but this effort terminated as almost all others of the kind have from the day of this early failure of James Madison down to the present time. In the fall of 1777, however, the Legislature placed Mr. Madison in the Governor's Council, where he remained for several months after Mr. Jefferson's election as Patrick Henry's successor in the spring of 1779. He was by far the most scholarly individual connected with the executive office, and became a kind of secretary of state to Mr. Henry, a man to whose character and principles he was never greatly attached. Under the instructions of his two early teachers, Robertson and Martin, Mr. Madison had acquired a practical knowledge of the French language, although he never
considered himself very good authority in its pronunciation. This acquisition now early came to his advantage. He translated the numerous French letters and other papers which were addressed to the State Executive; and thus, by his unusual qualification, Mr. Madison had an opportunity to be of very considerable importance in a position otherwise of little consequence.
During his last session in the Legislature he had the pleasure of serving on the committee with Mr. Jefferson to prepare a bill on religious freedom, a theme dear to both of them; and, at various times, for years afterwards, he was greatly instrumental in the work which finally resulted in entire denominational equality in the State.
At this time the committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Edmund Pendleton, George Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas Ludwell Lee, was appointed to revise the laws of the State. While a great part of this task fell to Mr. Jefferson directly, it was left to Mr. Madison two or three years after the peace, to press through the Legislature most of the bills provided by the revising committee.
From the outset he had found himself in complete accord with Mr. Jefferson ; and the close friendship which they maintained, enabled Jefferson, during his long absence in Europe, to intrust many of his own views and designs as to State Jaws and general political affairs to the execution of Madison.
As a member of Mr. Henry's Council it is not to be supposed that Mr. Madison was without influence in giving shape to the administration. During this period Virginia took a prominent and patriotic position in the prosecution of the war, and in maintaining the strength and character of the great contest.
When the French treaty was effected in the spring of 1778, Virginia was not behind in expressing her gratification. And there was an apology for her unusual and unnecessary step in ratifying that treaty, in the fact that enemies to the cause held that the treaty was not binding upon the States, because their Legislatures had not, in this very formal way, signified their acceptance of it.
On the 14th of December, 1779, Mr. Madison was chosen by the Legislature as one of the representatives to the Congress. He was now, undoubtedly, well read in the great questions then before the States, and his experience was not inconsiderable. His scholarly attainments, fine judgment, and other qualities also designated him for this advancement, while, as will be seen, in one important particular, he was not in the highest degree available at that period.
MR. MADISON IN THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS.
N the 20th of March, 1780, Mr. Madison took
his seat in the Congress, at a gloomy period in the affairs of the country. Especially was the condition of the army rendered deplorable by the worthlessness of the paper currency issued by the States and the Congress, and from the inefficient methods of recruiting and keeping intact an organized and discliplined force. The Articles of Confederation gave the Congress authority to declare and maintain war; to enter into foreign treaties; to appoint its agents at home and abroad for peace or war; to make levies for the army upon the States; to make requisitions on the States for the support of the army, and to defray other public expenses.
But, notwithstanding this array of authority, the Congress really had not power to raise a dollar or recruit a single soldier ; and, in fact, could do little in any way further than to pass resolutions, notify the State Executives, and await their pleasure in the matter. After the first years of excitement, and the powerlessness of the Congress began to be felt more seriously, the really trustworthy and able men began to withdraw from it and turn their attention to affairs in their own States, which seemed to promise better outcomes. Hence, at the time Mr. Madison entered that body it was numerically small, and by no means strong in the character of its members.
Although this presented another good school for him, it was little matter of pride or pleasure to be a member of the old Continental Congress at that date.
Mr. Madison's letters at this time to his father, to Ed mund Pendleton, and others, were tame enough, contai ning little else than rumors and news from the friends and foes of the cause.
But, the arrival of French troops, and the great exertions of General Washington, inspired the Congress with temporary energy, and efforts were put forth to meet the demands for a vigorous prosecution of the war, for organizing the army in accordance with the oft-repeated plans of the Commander-in-chief, and for obtaining a loan from France, which would put some real, hard money in the hands of the needy soldiers. For the latter purpose the Congress made a direct appeal to Louis of France, and Colonel John Laurens was sent to that country to represent the claims of the American Confederation.
Although the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Congress in November, 1777, and at once placed before the States for their acceptance, it was not till after Mr. Madison entered that body that the ratification was made by all the States, and the compact completed. Even against this feeble confederation, in times demanding the best action of a united people, Maryland held out against the ratification until February, 1781. And even this tardy compliance with the general sentiment was not brought about without repeated and urgent appeals from the Congress, the open and liberal conduct of Virginia and other States,