The Power of Rigor: James Madison as a Persuasive Writer
Thomas C. Berg
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law
Julie A. Oseid
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Joseph A. Orrino
September, 23 2011
Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 8, 2011
This article is the third in a planned series of articles about the writing qualities and habits of our most eloquent American Presidents. The focus of all the articles is on the lessons modern legal writers can learn from the Presidents. James Madison's rigor, in both his approach to problems and in his resulting written work, was famous; it was this rigor that contributed to the persuasiveness of his writing.
Even though he was not a lawyer, Madison had all the best writing habits that lawyers should emulate - attention to audience, careful preparation, and attention to consequences. "The great little Madison" may have lacked physical presence and personal charisma, but he overcame those limitations to become one of the most influential public figures in American history by cultivating his particular strengths. He had an analytical mind that he developed to see and clearly express arguments, counterarguments, and distinctions. He had, despite poor health, an appetite for work that he used to out-prepare others. And he had a sensitivity to surrounding circumstances that he cultivated to address his audience's concerns and to envision the practical consequences of various actions.
The article considers why rigor is an essential writing quality, reviews Madison's life and writing habits, and analyzes three examples of Madison's writings (The Memorial and Remonstrance, Federalist No. 10, and a letter from Madison to Thomas Jefferson).
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Date posted: September 26, 2011