About James Madison
As an undergraduate I attended James Madison University. My partner was a graduate student there. It is hardly possible to spend so long at a school without learning a few things about the namesake:
James Madison, so a factsheet about James Madison says, was America’s first graduate student, having spent a post-baccalaureate year at Princeton, at that time known as the College of New Jersey. And, considering the matter further, James Madison is an eternal and ur-graduate student: short and weak, girlfriendless, earnest, with a high forehead. One can picture him in his post-baccalaureate year, saying, “My work is concerned with problems of ethics and the Hebrew language.” Later he spent a great deal of time in company talking about his advisor, Jefferson.
At the Constitutional Convention he was a prolific note-taker, and was never prepared to lose an argument. He wrote the Federalist Papers according to the soundest academic principle: do not waste a good idea by publishing it only once. His Presidency is best remembered as a scrupulous effort to justify a text.
Madison is buried at his home, Montpelier, which later belonged to the DuPonts of chemical fame. The hundred-some additional rooms, private train station, and horse-racing facility, so we are told, do not date from the period when Madison lived there, but the enormous Cedar of Lebanon is original.
Madison favored austere burials. His own epitaph reads:
BORN MARCH 16TH 1751
DIED JUNE 28TH 1836
When one of his slaves died he was content to chuck the body, unmarked, into a glade behind the mansion. But probably he did not chuck the dead body there personally—he was a small man.