James Madison: The Founder of Founding

A Lecture by James W. Ceaser, University of Virginia

Thursday, March 14, 2019   •   4:30 PM 

Americans today speak easily and naturally of our “founding.”  But who in 1787 had this concept in mind, and who thought of those who proposed America’s new form of government as “founders” or “Lawmakers”?  In fact, these terms were used at the time to refer to legendary events and actors of ancient times, to the likes of Lycurgus who founded Sparta or Romulus who founded Rome.  Prevailing theories of politics in the eighteenth century dismissed the relevance of founding to the modern age.  The idea of founding and all that it implied had to be re-discovered and revived. James Madison performed this task. He is the founder of the modern idea of founding.

JAMES W. CEASER has been called “our country’s leading scholar in American politics.”  He is the Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, where he directs the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy.  He is author of ten books on American politics and political thought, including Presidential Selection, Liberal Democracy and Political Science, Reconstructing America, and Nature and History in American Political Development. Professor Ceaser has held visiting professorships at the University of Florence, the University of Basel, Oxford University, the University of Bordeaux, and the University of Rennes.  A frequent contributor to popular press, he often comments on American politics for Voice of America.  In 2008, President Bush appointed him to the National Archives Commission.