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Essentially a Weakling


I’ve been reading James Madison: A Son of Virginia & a Founder of the Nation by our contributor Jeff Broadwater (see his excellent entry on George Mason). Broadwater has the gift of quickly and easily painting thumbnail portraits of historical figures, such as Edmund Randolph of Virginia. Here’s a taste:

And then there was Edmund Randolph. The Virginia governor had reservations about the Constitution; he had refused to sign it in Philadelphia, but he disliked Patrick Henry, its most outspoken Virginia critic, even more. “The Governor is so temperate in his opposition and goes so far with the friends of the Constitution,” Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson, “that he cannot be properly classed with its enemies.” Madison spent the spring of 1788 trying to cultivate Randolph’s active support. He ultimately succeeded. Randolph feared that for Virginia to reject the Constitution after eight states had approved it would be to risk disunion. Robert Rutland described Randolph as “everything that Madison was not—tall, handsome, a glib speaker, and essentially a weakling.” Yet Randolph projected the appearance of substance, and his endorsement would give the Federalists a psychological edge once the convention began.

I love that: “the appearance of substance.” The more things change …
As for Madison himself, he “was a very private man or, more to the point, a man with very little private life.” “Without being a public knave himself,” Arthur Lee observed, Madison “has always been the supporter of public knaves.”
IMAGE: Edmund Randolph, an image collage attached to article in Salon magazine arguing that the protection of financial interests was at the heart of the Constitutional Convention. In his book, Broadwater disagrees, arguing that Madison’s primary motivation was the protection of minority rights.

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