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Academics
September 15, 2011

James Madison: Power Broker, Father of the Constitution

Political Science Professor Frank Sorrentino Speaks for Constitution Day Observance

St. Francis College Constitution Law Professor Frank Sorrentino marked the 224th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution at St. Francis College on Thursday, September 15 with a Constitution Day talk devoted to the man often referred to as the Father of the Constitution, James Madison. (Watch the lecture)

“James Madison is the central figure in this drama,” said Professor Sorrentino. He credits Madison as initiating the constitutional convention that laid the framework for the document and staging his first coup by bringing important individuals to that convention, including George Washington. “Washington’s mere presence gave authority to the Constitutional Convention.”

Sorrentino delved in to what made the U.S. Constitution a huge departure from other governing doctrines; the idea that the power of government comes from the people, rights do not sit with ruler. Sorrentino contrasts the constitution with the Magna Carta where barons and lords petitioned the king to give them rights.

Selling the Constitution to the people is another place where Madison excelled, says Sorrentino. He quoted another author who said The Federalist Papers, penned by Madison, were the greatest Political Science documents ever written. Those papers were spread across the colonies to gather support, with an emphasis on New York. Sorrentino said, that only with support of New York State, the rest of New England would follow and a huge block of support would be gathered together to push for the ratification.

Tracing the political divisive of the present back to the writing of the Constitution, Sorrentino points out that Madison wanted to create a system that took time to make decisions, one that spread power out broadly to prevent a majority from overwhelming a minority. He said that what we now call gridlock, was actually Madison’s plan to safeguard personal liberties.

Dr. Sorrentino is the author of four books including American Government: Power and Politics in America, Ideological Warfare: The FBI's Path Towards Power, Soviet Politics and Education and The Review of Italian American Studies. He also served as Contributing Editor to The Italian-American Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of the American Presidency to which he has written twenty-one articles.

He has two more projects in different stages, including the soon to be released book Presidential Leadership and the Bureaucratic State and a second work slated for publication in 2012 called, Leadership in America.

Constitution Day is federally mandated by the U.S. Congress which deemed that any educational institution that receives federal money must hold an educational program related to the Constitution to commemorate the signing on September 17, 1787.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.

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