Jefferson crept away from his second term, leaving a vacuum in executive authority which Congress readily filled with its own power. The James Madison who took office in March of 1809 displayed only slightly more courage in administrative leadership than had his predecessor in his final days. Ineptitude, dullness, spiritless bungling described the quality of leadership which Madison exhibited until the last two years of his second term. This was in dramatic contrast with the inspired, innovative, quietly courageous leadership which James Madison had displayed as an advisor and participant in government from the days of the Revolution to his presidency.
As a legislator in Virginia, he had the insight to observe that the weak administration of the government under the Articles of Confederation had an unfavorable effect on economic growth. He promoted a meeting of neighboring states to discuss the problems with their joint use of the Potomac. This meeting led Madison to schedule a conference in Philadelphia a year later with a far broader agenda. The Constitution which was produced by that convention was not written by Madison, but he was responsible for the preparation of the document, incorporating the important compromises that were achieved. He assisted the compromises and wrote the most detailed account of the proceedings. He was among the greatest scholars and intellects at the convention, with considerable knowledge of constitutional theory and history. He was an intellectual influence on the convention, promoting individual liberty and the balancing of powers. He was a man of persuasion, energy, perseverance, perception, and drive. He observed opposition to the Constitution arising among the state legislators and the population in general and promptly proceeded to promote ratification of the Constitution through his cogent treatises which later became an integral part of the Federalist. Although at first he opposed it, he later became a leader in the ratification of the Bill of Rights, with his particular emphasis on freedom of religion. Madison was a deliberate man who always saw to the completion of a task, even if it required some compromise and modification in his policies. In contrast to Jefferson, he never feared taking a public stand.
This image of a 2D painting of James Madison was acquired through public domain