America’s fourth president, James Madison (1751-1836), could be said to have been the real father of his country. He more or less wrote the Constitution. His “Virginia Plan,” submitted to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, envisioned the three branches of government that we know today, as well as a bicameral, proportionally based legislature that was a novelty for a country that eschewed a hereditary nobility and a national judiciary headed by a “Supreme Court.” With some modifications, the Virginia Plan became the United States’s founding charter.
James Madison: America’s First Politician, by Jay Cost. Basic Books, 399 pp., $35.
Later that year, and throughout much of 1788,