James Madison and "the Business of May Next" (a)

10 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2009

See all articles by Tom Cross

Tom Cross

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Terry Newell

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Peter Rice

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

On April 8, 1787, James Madison wrote to Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia: “My Dear Friend, I am glad to find that you are turning your thoughts towards the business of May next.” Madison was referring to the Federal Convention scheduled to begin the next month in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. Madison's project was for an entirely new form of government—although the upcoming gathering had made clear its aim of merely improving the existing government under the Articles of Confederation. This case explores the extraordinary leadership of James Madison who had few stereotypical qualities of a leader.

Excerpt

UVA-OB-0968

February 3, 2009

James MADISON AND “the business of May next” (A)

On April 8, 1787, James Madison wrote to Governor Edmund Randolph of Virginia: “My Dear Friend, I am glad to find that you are turning your thoughts towards the business of May next.” Madison was referring to the Federal Convention scheduled to begin the next month in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. At the time, the United States of America was just 11 years old.

“I am afraid you will think this project, if not extravagant, absolutely unattainable and unworthy of being attempted,” Madison wrote in the concluding paragraph in his letter to Randolph. Madison's project was for an entirely new form of government—although the upcoming gathering had made clear its aim of merely improving the existing government under the articles. The states had last gathered for such an auspicious task at the same place in July 1776.

Madison was intensely focused on the “business of May next”—and how he could persuade the Federal Convention to draft what seemed unattainable. At the time, Madison was 36 years old; only 14 of the 55 delegates who would ultimately gather were younger. Slight in stature, just 5' 4” tall and weighing about 130 pounds, Madison was not a commanding presence. He lacked the oratorical skills of Governor Randolph and the prestige and stature of George Washington, who would be selected president of the convention at its first session. He was not a negotiator like Benjamin Franklin—the oldest delegate (at 81). And he sorely lacked the eloquence and flair of Thomas Jefferson, who was now in Paris serving as minister to France. It was Jefferson's Declaration of Independence that had served as the vision statement for this new nation that Madison thought now should have a better form of government.

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Keywords: Leadership, organizational behavior

Suggested Citation

Cross, Tom and Newell, Terry and Rice, Peter, James Madison and "the Business of May Next" (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0968. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1421630

Tom Cross (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Terry Newell

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Peter Rice

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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