What was Madison’s role in the Philadelphia Convention?
Madison played a key role in the Philadelphia Convention. He arrived early and had prepared well for the convention. A month before the convention opened, Madison published a document called “Vices of the Political Systems of the United States.” He criticized many aspects of the Articles of Confederation.
At the convention he introduced several resolutions to provide for a stronger central government. His most famous contribution in terms of resolutions was the so-called Virginia Plan. Though sometimes referred to as the Randolph Plan because Edmund Randolph formally introduced it, Madison wrote the essence of the measure. Madison’s plan consisted of a bicameral legislature—a U.S. House of Representatives and a Senate. The number of representatives in each house would be determined by the state’s population. Under this plan, the people would elect members to the U.S. House of Representatives, but then members of the House would elect and vote on membership to the Senate. The Virginia Plan also included plans for a national (or federal) judiciary.
He also took a detailed set of notes about the proceedings of the Convention. Historians emphasize that without Madison’s notes, we would know little about the historic meetings in Philadelphia that eventually led to the U.S. Constitution. Madison instructed that his detailed notes of the Convention were not to be released until the last delegate at the Convention died. Ironically, that last delegate was Madison, who died in 1836 at the age of eighty-five.
Madison also played a key role in persuading fellow Virginian George Washington to attend the proceedings. The delegates elected Washington as chairman of the meeting. Washington’s presence was important given his leadership and popularity after the Revolutionary War.