You know him as the Father of the Constitution,  the Father of the Bill of Rights, the fourth president of the United States (and the first U. S. president to wear trousers instead of knee breeches). Here’s something you probably didn’t know about James Madison — he was a Geek.

 

Yeppers. A wee little geek-boy (he was about 5’4″). Like most Americans of the time, he was educated at home by his mother and tutors. Because of his poor health, he did not attend college at William and Mary as most well-to-do Virginia scions would have done, instead he went to The College of New Jersey, as Princeton was formerly named (*snicker*). He became involved in Politics at a fairly young age, and was an avid supporter of the Revolution. Poor health prevented him from military service during the war for independence, and I don’t mean the “ouchies, I have a hangnail” variety of poor health. He was very frail and it was suggested that he suffered from epilepsy. He also claimed to suffer from a voice impairment in his youth, which he seemed to overcome with stubborn determination as he grew older.

 

In fact, he was so quiet and unimpressive that a fellow delegate to the Constitutional james madisonConvention, Edmund Randolph, agreed to present the Virginia Plan to the group, even though it was largely Madison’s work. There had been a lot of talk at the time concerning the tendency of democracies to descend into mob rule and squabbling.  Madison believed that the central government of the states had to be stronger in order to protect the rights of individuals from local majorities. Because, as he put it, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”

 

Of course, he did not come up with these ideas out of nowhere. Like any self-respecting geek, he studied. He studied the strengths and weaknesses of  various forms of government both as they existed at the time and in ancient Rome and Greece, and took copious notes. Of course, the American Revolution and everything that came from it owed a tremendous debt to the ideas of John Locke. But that’s what geeks do — we study, we learn, we adapt what we learn to suit our circumstances.

 

My point is, the blueprint for our government was largely conceived and constructed by a small, frail young man who had done his homework. Our infant nation, saved from the chaos that was already beginning, by some kid who weighed 100 lbs soaking wet. To any person of the geeky persuasion, that’s just sweet.

 

So, on this 222nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, I raise my glass in a salute to one of the geeks who made this country what it is today. 

 

To James Madison, trouser-wearing geek boy and Father of the U. S. Constitution!