Architecting History

James Madison

Thomas Jefferson, [Architect Rational,] served two terms as President, and like Washington before him decided that two terms of its “splendid misery” were quite enough for any man. He was eager to return to a life of study and to have his old friend, the gentle and scholarly James Madison, [Architect Rational,] succeed him in the White House. There was little opposition to his choice and “Little Jemmy” Madison, who stood about five feet, five inches tall and weighed in the neighborhood of 100 pounds, won the presidential election of 1808 handily, and was sworn into office in early 1809. Though he was pleased to have become President, Madison intensely disliked the ceremony and celebration that attended his inauguration. He was quick to announce to a friend his reaction to the gala inaugural ball: he would rather be in bed.

Another quiet, privacy-loving Engineer Rational had taken the helm of the ship of state. [Presidential Temperament]

He was the First and Last Architect of United States of America.  When Jefferson was in France, Madison was the main architect as the country was forming into a federated whole. As fourth President, he needed to complete the Architecture of Political History, that he and Jefferson had fabricated, for later generations of the next two centuries.  At the time of his presidency, the British still had delusions of grandeur in ruling the world via the merchantilist British Empire.  The British, the French, the Russians, and eventually the Germans and Japanese tried to dictate who owned big chunks of the world.  James Madison had a different vision.

Architects need not be thought of as only interested in drawing blueprints for buildings or roads or bridges. They are the master designers of all kinds of theoretical systems, including school curricula, corporate strategies, and new technologies. For Architects, the world exists primarily to be analyzed, understood, explained – and re-designed. External reality in itself is unimportant, little more than raw material to be organized into structural models. What is important for Architects is that they grasp fundamental principles and natural laws, and that their designs are elegant, that is, efficient and coherent. [Please Understand II]

Madison in architecting of The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and His Presidency, he went along way to building a conceptual political-economic structure that has been the guiding light for the world for the last two hundred years.

The happy Union of these States is a wonder;
their Constitution a miracle;
their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.
— James Madison

The differences between Madison and his Rational predecessors are interesting. As we have seen, John Adams was an Organizer Rational, a very directive Rational who was also short-tempered and impatient. Like a sharp-edged sword of poorly tempered steel he was hard and cutting, but dangerous to himself as well as to his foes. Jefferson the Engineer Rational had a reporting, nondirective style, and was more scintillating yet delicate in his communications. If the Organizer Adams was a saber, a heavy slashing powerful blade, the Engineer Jefferson was a foil, flexible, slender, graceful, but breakable if bent too far.

The Engineer James Madison was made of the same steel as his Rational predecessors, but he seemed to have been built more sturdily and was far better tempered. Madison’s strength was more reliable, his structure was more durable, and he had a balance and steadiness that both Adams and Jefferson lacked. James Madison seemed to have welded together the wide-ranging thoughtfulness of the informative Engineer with the single-mindedness steadiness of the directive Organizer in a way that neither of his Rational predecessors had been able to. Eventually this remarkably even-tempered and scholarly Engineer became recognized as one of the most far-sighted, conscientious, patient, and fair-minded men ever to be President of the United States. His Rational characteristics were apparent not only during his presidency, but also, and perhaps more importantly, during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Madison was considered a shy man, but he was forceful speaker on the rather infrequent occasions that he chose to be. He was an energetic revolutionary, and of strong opinion about how the new government ought to be shaped, but he usually kept his own counsel during the Convention proceedings. When he did speak, however, he contributed a great deal.

One is likely to notice this trait even among youthful Reporter [Architect] Rationals. They tend, even while young, to use speech only at opportune times; otherwise they simply keep their own counsel. Engineer Rationals carefully sculpt their speech and speak at the precise moment speaking will do the most good. Madison’s scholarship and his precision in speech made it almost inevitable that he would be recognized in this circle of very able men as a sage political consultant. Today he is known as one of the chief architects of the Constitution, and in fact has become known as “The Father of the Constitution.”’ [Presidential Temperament]


But Madison’s tenure as chief executive appeared not to be as successful in his second term.

It was not to be an easy presidency, for the times were very troubled for the United States. The British were struggling on land and at sea with Napoleon and were seeking advantage wherever they could. Their behavior was offensively high-handed, especially on the high seas, and Americans were becoming increasingly angry and vengeful. Spain, allied with Britain, was hardly friendly to the United States, and American relations with France were at best uncertain. The country was isolated politically even more than it was geographically, but the American public built up a warlike fury against the British. In fact the predominant sentiment was in favor of going to war against both Britain and Spain. Perhaps, some thought, the United States could push the British out of Canada and shove Spain out of the American west. Thus the flames of injured patriotism were made to burn even more invitingly by the prospect of adding great tracts of land to the nation’s domain.

But Madison knew that the United States was still militarily weak and resisted the public war cry for some time. But his scholarship was much greater than his ability to maneuver against the immediate political pressures of the time. Here was an architect of government, a strategist, who had to act the part of the tactician, a part he was ill-equipped to play. He could not chart a clear course through the various practical and emotional cross currents surging at that moment, and eventually he gave in: war was declared against Great Britain. The initially popular but unnecessary and tragic conflict which became known as the War of 1812—and which was rather unjustly called “Mr. Madison’s War” by some—became unpopular rather quickly. With only the occasional exception the United States military proved itself to be remarkably inept, and the poorly-prepared Americans managed to get themselves roundly defeated in most of their encounters with the better armed and more experienced British. Indeed the invaders seemed at times to roam the American coast with all the freedom of holiday vacationers. [Presidential Temperament]

The conflict had dragged on for two painful and pointless years when, in 1814, the British landed a force of soldiers in Maryland. The sizeable body of troops soon moved against Washington, now the nation’s capital. The American force charged with defending the city failed miserably (and by now rather predictably) to impede the British force. After absorbing a few casualties in minor skirmishes the Americans turned tail and ran and in the panic which swept over Washington most of the capital’s population that was in a position to do so left town as quickly as possible.

Moreover, the British armed American Indians in the Northwest, most notably several tribes allied with the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. However after losing control of Lake Erie at the naval Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, the British were forced to retreat. General William Henry Harrison caught up with them at the Battle of the Thames, where he destroyed the British and Indian armies, killed Tecumseh, and permanently destroyed Indian power in the Great Lakes region. 

By 1814, Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison had destroyed the main Indian threats in the South and West, respectively. As part of the war effort, an American naval shipyard was built up. American frigates and other vessels, such as the USS ConstitutionUSS United StatesUSS ChesapeakeUSS HornetUSS Wasp and USS Essex, won some significant naval battles on the Great Lakes. In a famous three-hour battle with the HMS Java, the USS Constitution earned her nickname, “Old Ironsides.” The U.S. fleet on Lake Erie went up against a superior British force there and destroyed or captured the entire British Fleet on the lake. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry reported his victory with the simple statement, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”  Madison authorized many of these ships to become privateers in the war. Armed, they captured 1,800 British ships.

The unfinished United States Capitol was set ablaze by the British on August 24, 1814.

The courageous, successful defense of Ft. McHenry led Francis Scott Key to write the poem that was set to music as the U.S. national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.” In New Orleans, Gen. Andrew Jackson put together a force including regular Army troops, militia, frontiersmen, Creoles, Native American allies and Jean Lafitte’s pirates. The Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks after peace treaty was drafted (but before it was ratified, so the war was not over). The Americans smashed the British invasion army in the greatest victory of the war. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war in February 1815, with no territorial gains on either side. The Americans felt that their national honor had been restored in what has been called “the Second War of American Independence.” On March 3, 1815, the U.S. Congress authorized deployment of naval power against Algiers, and two squadrons were assembled and readied for war; the Second Barbary War would mark the beginning of the end for piracy in that region.

To most Americans, the quick succession of events at the end of the war (the burning of the capital, the Battle of New Orleans, and the Treaty of Ghent) appeared as though American valor at New Orleans had forced the British to surrender after almost winning. This view, while inaccurate, strongly contributed to the post-war euphoria that persisted for a decade. It also helps explain the significance of the war, even if it was strategically inconclusive. Napoleon was defeated for the last time at the Battle of Waterloo near the end of Madison’s presidency, and as the Napoleonic Wars ended, so did the War of 1812. Madison’s final years began an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, which was called the Era of Good Feelings. Madison’s reputation as President improved and Americans finally believed the United States had established itself as a world power.

The rest is history.

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.   — James Madison

Other Architect Rationals include:  Srinivasa RamanujanEmmy NoetherPaul DiracRobert RosenDavid KeirseyAlbert EinsteinLonnie AthensDavid Bohm

6 thoughts on “Architecting History

  1. Bernie Brightman July 13, 2014 / 7:06 pm

    Madison supported war in 1812 because otherwise he would have lost the presidency. I think you need better sources. On the whole I consider his a failed presidency because he was too provincial. A president ought to have at least traveled to another country once in his life.


  2. jason taylor July 15, 2014 / 9:41 am

    The War of 1812 needs also to be analyzed in the context of Europe. At that time, while the Napoleonic wars were winding down and indeed ended, the Russians were making overbearing demands at the peace conference. It was widely feared that there would be a new war. England needed to free military resources for Europe, if not for war then for brinkmanship. Furthermore America was unconquerable because of the logistics involved. There was no good reason for Britain to fight and plenty of reasons to be happy with a draw.


  3. jason taylor July 15, 2014 / 10:55 am

    While we’re on that you might consider doing a study of the Congress of Vienna which happened about the same time and had a number of interesting personalities. Castlereigh for instance is another example of an Architect and probably a more successful one then Madison.


  4. S Goodman August 2, 2014 / 9:48 am

    I’m not from the U.S.; I’m not from the U.K. Still, I found this article too politicized, and that ‘rah rah America’ theme distracts from the topic: the temperament of James Madison. Mercantilism, arrogance, and colonialism are vices that the U.S. is decidedly not above.

    Let nationalism not taint Keirsey’s legacy, okay?


    • David Keirsey August 3, 2014 / 8:07 am

      I had no intention of saying rah, rah America in all things, of course, America was flawed in many ways (and still is), but Madison’s architecting of balancing of powers was important, and that was one of the keys in his Temperament. I did not want to imply Nationalism, sorry about that. (Us Rationals, *try* to limit our inferences to the task at hand — often forget that others do not).

      I like to put pointers for those interested in further study of subjects mentioned, everything is complicated, and in a very brief blog, there numerous simplifications and sweeping generalizations. “History is baroque.” — Will Durant


  5. jason taylor August 6, 2014 / 10:42 am

    S Goodman, why not do a little, “Rule Britannia” from time to time instead of worrying about whether I or the author for that matter, am doing, “rah, rah America.” I never thought my patriotism precluded others being patriotic about their countries and I am not clear why you seem to object.

    And no one claimed in the article that America is sinless and it is hard to your point.

    As to the article being, “overpoliticized”, do recall that it is about politicians.


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