October 12 is officially Columbus Day. I hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even thought a little bit about Christopher Columbus! Columbus was a gifted sailor, mapmaker, navigator, and astronomer. One of his foremost characteristics was being persistent. He was decided that he could find a way across the oceans to sail East by going West.
He devised a plan and prepared a presentation to obtain funding. He first presented this plan to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. It was rejected. With dogged determination he went to Portugal and laid out his plans to the King. It was rejected. He moved on to France and showed the possibilities to their Monarch. It was rejected. He traveled to England and made another attempt to convince someone to support his ideas. It was rejected.
He returned to Spain, no dice. Then back again to Portugal. Again the answer was no. To Spain again. No. Then back to France, where he was turned down once again. He determined to try the Spanish royalty once again. After his fourth presentation to Queen Isabella, the Queens Confessor and advisor told her there might be something to Christoper’s idea. It wouldn’t hurt anything to try it. The war with the Moors was finally over and their treasury could now afford taking a chance with Christopher. He didn’t want too much after all. He did want to be known, if successful, as the Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
Well, you know the rest of the story. He found a new world. He became a hero. His vision was complete.
James Madison had some of the same characteristics. He was also persistent. He knew the American Articles of Confederation weren’t working for the fledgling Nation. He studied nation building, governments, and past history. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, sent James two trunks of “literary cargo” from France at his request for books relating to governments and history.
He studied these materials and everything else he could get his hands on. He became a brilliant scholar and knew more about the laws of nations than anyone else of his time. He called for a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of amending the Articles of Confederation to overcome the difficult problems that were then facing the young nation.
Madison was able to convince the most prominent leaders of the various states to attend their new Convention in Philadelphia. George Washington was the most admired leader of his time, but he didn’t want to attend this Convention. Madison stayed after him, pleading with George to come, until Washington decided he couldn’t let his friend and neighbor down in this request.
Madison prepared what was called the “Virginia Plan” for redesigning the government. He made many speeches on behalf of his plan at the Convention. Madison chose a spot near the front of Independence Hall, where the meetings were taking place, and appointed himself to be the secretary of the Convention. His records give us the best description of the debates and the ultimate decision to adopt the new U.S. Constitution. It was eventually adopted unanimously at the behest of Benjamin Franklin.
Now it was up to each of the 13 States to ratify the new form of government. Madison, together with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, wrote commentaries and editorials in support of the new Constitution. When Patrick Henry was beginning to win his arguments that the new Constitution didn’t protect the average citizen well enough, Madison promised to go back to Congress when the Constitution was approved and fight for an addition of a “Bill of Rights” to more fully declare the rights of the nations citizenry. He did. Twelve new amendments were approved by Congress and sent to the States for ratification. Ten were ratified. This became our “Bill of Rights,” the first ten amendments to the Constitution.
So you see that the dogged determination of our Founding Father, James Madison, led to the inspired document which became the blueprint for the government of these United States of America. And the dogged determination of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, Christopher Columbus, led to the discovery of this land of freedom. Shouldn’t we take some time to reflect on the lives of these two great decisive heroes, and their passion for their inspired plans, and their relentless determination? Without them things would certainly be different for all of us.
Thank you Christopher and James for being so persistent.