Today, my wife and I visited James Madison’s Montpelier, where his and Dolly Madison’s home is being restored back to the original design when the Madison’s lived there. Portions of the house (which was owned by others after it was sold by Dolly Madion, including the Duponts, are being removed to restore the home to re-create it as the true Madison home. Montpelier is located in the beautiful foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia’s Piedmont.
During the tour, which brings you into the thick of the restoration, we went to the second floor to Madison’s library, which when he lived there contained more than 4,000 books (most of which did not fit into his library). The tour guide pointed out that in this room Madison did much of his preparation for the Constitutional Convention, and actually wrote detailed notes in a small, pocket-sized book, which he brought with him to Philadelphia.
When Madison was a younger man, he made his first contribution to American constitutional law by his defense of the free exercise of religion as a right and not a privilege. Perhaps his library was where he wrote his paper; perhaps this was where he put his ideas together to argue against a state religion (in Virginia).
Later in the aftermath of the Constitutional Convention, Madison, Hamilton and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers, some of which were used to write the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. In particular, Madison was responsible for the First Amendment, which not only insured free speech, but also, two clauses in the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of religion. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another. It enforces the “separation of church and state. The free exercise clause prohibits the government, in most instances, from interfering with a persons practice of their religion.
Later in the day, I thought about how significant Madison’s ideas, and his thinking are in the current debate on the religious idea of Intelligent Design, and evolution as discussed in this blog over several months. Even the conservative Utah legislature voted against an anti-Darwin bill with many legislators insisting on the separation of church and state.