James Madison and the American Founders

James Ceaser, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, spoke at the Straus Center on the concept of “founding” in the thought of James Madison. In a wide-ranging and provocative discussion, Ceaser traced the idea of founding through Western history and the history of political philosophy, stressing how political philosophers dealt with the difficulty of founding a new regime. Turning to America, Ceaser claimed that Madison, a father of the Constitution and one of the principal authors of the Federalist Papers, reflected deeply on the notion of founding and sought to connect future generations back to the American founding. He did this, in large measure, by encouraging reverence for the American Constitution—which would turn future generations back to their founding moment.

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