Sunday, September 21, 2008

James Madison, Laff Riot

Face it, James Madison was usually not not a party guy. The black clothes, the soft voice, the shy demeanor. In fact, I realized today that I'm aware of only one time that James Madison is described as having laughed out loud. Ironically, it was toward the end of the War of 1812. James Madison was president, his capital was a smoking ruin, New Englanders had been meeting in secret session in Hartford, muttering about secession.

No matter. When the grievances and demands of the Hartford Convention were presented to him, James Madison couldn't control himself:
The proposed amendments to the Constitution [of the Hartford Convention] descended to such pettiness as one aimed at [the Swiss-born Albert] Gallatin (denying any federal office to the foreign born) and another aimed at [James] Madison (prohibiting successive presidents from the same state), Madison laughed out loud when he read them -- partly, no doubt. in relief that the volcanic mountain had produced such a mouse.

Gary Wills, James Madison, at 146.

The picture, by the way, is not of James Madison, the president; it's of his father, James Madison, Sr., who also appears to have been a fairly serious sort.

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