History is seldom simple and straightforward. It usually requires some nuance. Such is the case with solely crediting James Madison as “Father of the Constitution.”
Madison’s contributions included researching, collaborating and drafting the Virginia or Large State Plan, along with his fellow Virginia delegates. However, the draft copy of the Constitution was the work of the Committee of Detail.
South Carolinian John Rutledge chaired this five-man committee, and Madison was not a member. The committee wrote its draft by taking into consideration the Virginia Plan, New Jersey or Small State Plan, the Connecticut Compromise, the Pinckney Plan, the Articles of Confederation, decisions made by the Constitutional Convention and a number of contributions arising from its own ranks.
Although Madison did serve on the Committee of Style, Gouverneur Morris was chair, and no major changes were made to the previous committee’s work.
Much of Madison’s fame came much later, when his notes of the secret convention proceedings were published. Madison himself eschewed the title of “Father of the Constitution,” attributing the end results as the work of “many heads and many hands.”
Madison’s major impact on the Constitution came on June 8, 1789, when he presented Congress with 39 amendments to it. Ten were finally ratified, making James Madison indisputably the “Father of the Bill of Rights.”
John R. Young
The Powder Magazine