If George Washington was “the father of his country,” then, according to one of his contemporaries, James Madison was the “father of the Constitution.” Madison drafted the Constitution, set forth its philosophical foundations, maneuvered it through to ratification, and then wrote the Bill of Rights as a series of amendments to the document. Later he helped to set the system into motion as a Congressman, party leader, Secretary of State, and, finally, as President of the United States. No other member of the founding generation could lay claim to such an impressive list of accomplishments.

Strangely enough, Madison’s achievements were little appreciated through much of our history. Through the nineteenth and well into the twentieth centuries, he was brush ...