James Ceaser on James Madison as the First American Founder

James Ceaser, "James Madison as the First American Founder," Conversations with Bill Kristol, March 11, 2019.

In this Conversation with Bill Kristol, James Ceaser, one of the leading experts on the American Constitution, explains how in 1787 James Madison deliberately encouraged the drafters of the Constitution in Philadelphia and other Americans to conceive of their project as a “founding.” Madison did so, according to Ceaser, to elevate the project beyond a mere exercise in day-to-day politics or ephemeral lawmaking. He wanted to encourage future generations to venerate—as well as rationally reflect—on the founders and the documents they produced. Ceaser argues that these efforts by Madison, as well as other founders, have had a profound effect on how Americans think about the role of reason, tradition, and law in politics. Kristol and Ceaser also consider the extent to which the Constitution and founders still influence our politics.