Founding Fathers Blog

The Constitution: “What? A Half a Bar of Soap?”

September 7th, 2011

Constitution Day is coming up on September 17. The Constitution of the  United States was unanimously (at the request of Benjamin Franklin) adopted by the People of the United States, through their representatives to the Constitutional Convention on that date in 1787.

Fifty-five wise and noble men put their all into the creation of that immortal document. Among these wise men, two were indispensable, or absolutely essential to its adoption. Without George Washington, the Father of Our Country, and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, our U. S. Constitution would never have been created.

As Virginians, these two were neighbors, and very good friends. They were alike in many ways. They both had large land holdings in Virginia. Neither of them had any children of their own. Both married beautiful young widows who each had children by their prior marriage. (Isn’t that ironic that The Father of Our Country, and The Father of the Constitution, never had children of their own?) Both of these men were well respected for their courage, wisdom, industry and integrity. They both became great leaders and U. S. Presidents.

But they were oh so different!

George Washington was tall, strong and very much an outdoorsman. He was about 6’4″ tall and weighed about 215 – 225 most of his adult life. He was a good dancer, a gracious host, and of course, a beloved leader and President. He was an astute businessman, managing fisheries, wineries, carpentry shops, and raising sheep and horses at Mount Vernon. He was a military hero in the French and Indian War, as well as the Revolutionary War. And he set a valuable precedent as our first national President.

On the other hand, James Madison was short, small and weak in stature. At about 5’4″ he was one foot shorter that Washington. James never weighed much more than 100 pounds. Some of his friends said he wasn’t much bigger than “a half a bar of soap.” He left much of his duties of entertaining to his charming wife, Dolley Madison. James was a good marksman and wanted to do his duty as a soldier. However, he was weak and even sickly much of his life. His stint as a military man under the leadership of Patrick Henry in the “Orangemen” convinced him that soldiering wasn’t good for his constitution. He went to college to become a lawyer, although he never practiced law. Through reading and study he became a fountain of knowledge, especially relating to history and government. He became a nation builder.

Without George Washington’s attendance and careful leadership, it is likely that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 would have failed–or perhaps may never have even come together. It was because of his attendance, many of the States made certain that leaders from their State would attend.

And without James Madison’s knowledge, preparation and guidance, the Constitution, as we know it, could not have been designed, and would never have been shepherded through to its adoption. The Virginia Plan, written and presented by Madison, became the basis for our Constitution. And he was instrumental in creating the Great Compromise which insured its approval.

We, as a nation, owe these two Founding Fathers an immense sense of Gratitude. The United States Constitution.

Have you read it lately?

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