In March 1987, Montpelier, the home of James Madison, was first opened to the public by the National Trust for Historical Preservation. It was on this momentous occasion that John Douglas Hall was asked to portray James Madison. Although he had participated as James Madison in a representation of the Mount Vernon Conference of March 1785 in March 1985, it was this event at Montpelier that was to mark the beginning of a very successful and unique contribution of the public’s understanding of the man called “the Father of the Constitution.”
Due to Mr. Hall’s similarity to Mr. Madison in size, age, appearance, and academic background, and due to his extraordinary grasp of events as they occurred two hundred years ago to the day, he is an ideal candidate to portray James Madison.
The Virginia Commission of the Bicentennial of the Constitution formally engaged Mr. Hall as Mr. Madison for several events including the celebrated “ Debate on the Ratification of the Constitution in Virginia between James Madison and Patrick Henry” with over fifty performances all over Virginia, and other parts of the country as well.
Mr. Hall has since ‘presented’ Mr. Madison in numerous forums, debates, and conferences, and profoundly reflects the length and breadth of Madison’s intersts and faculties in the political, academic, diplomatic, agrarian, and natural science disciplines.
Mr. Hall has been the singular person of James Madison at Mr. Madison’s home Montpelier in Orange County, Virginia, since 1987. Mr. Hall is particularly noted for his ability to represent James Madison on constitutional issues for legal and academic venues, as well as at colleges and universities, high schools, and a variety of public forums around the country.
Madison’s personal traits are often overlooked in consequence of his perceived staid disposition in large public gatherings and his serious attention to nation bulding, which Mr. Hall also reflects in his own presentations to large gatherings.
But there was a private side to James Madison, revealed in less public circles, and described by two of his contemporaries who knew him intimately, and which may readily be observed in Mr. Hall as well.
“…He was a man of wit, relished wit in others, and his small bright blue eyes would twinkle most wickedly when lighted up by some whimsical conception or association. …” (J.K. Paulding)
“…Though mild and gentle in his manners and conversation, he had an unfailing good humor and a lively relish for the ludicrous which imprinted everything comic on his memory and thus enabled him to vary and enliven his conversation with an exhaustless fund of anecdote. …” (George Tucker)
One will readily recognize these natural characteristic traits in John Douglas Hall in his portrayal of James Madison.
“…It’s incredible to be in his (John Hall’s) presence and hear him articulate James Madison’s views… (Hall) gives people a realistic idea of who James Madison was and brings him alive. It’s hard to call him anything but Mr. Madison.”
Glenda Rooney, Assoc. VP of University Relations – James Madison University
At the time Mr. Hall began this enterprise in 1985, two hundred years before, in 1785, Madison was in the Confederation Congress. In step with Madison during this period, the Federal Convention, the Federalists’ Papers, the struggle for the ratification of the Constitution, his work in Congress from 1789 to 1797, the writing and ratification of the Bill of Rights, his service in the Virginia Assembly, and his eight years as Secretary of State in President Thomas Jefferson’s administration, Mr. Hall has also taken the time to retreat and acquaint himself with the earlier life and readings that prepared Madison for the extraordinary role he was to play in American politics and government.
With the inauguration on March 4, 1809 (and 2009) as President of the United States, the man from Orange County, and his portrayer, now assume a wider stage and greater obligations.
All those previous years of devoted study and experience have prepared both James Madison and John Douglas Hall for the new demands on their skills, and the public, political, and professional scrutiny to which they will inevitably be subjected during the next eight years.