Current Characters: N/A
Character: James Madison
Canon: Hamilton: An American Musical
Canon Point: The Room Where it Happens, when Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton negotiate a deal that works for both parties.
Background: On the one hand, the rough outlines of his background match James Madison's historical original. He is living post-revolutionary United States, is one of the prominent leaders of the (Southern motherfucking) Democratic-Republicans (the party), works very closely with Thomas Jefferson. He has poor health that does not stop him from taking an active role in politics.
There are differences, however. The political scene that he's coming from is vastly simplified from actual history. Some of the dating doesn't work the same way (for example, Philip Hamilton's duel, and Hamilton's subsequent withdrawal from active political life, happens before the elections of 1800, as opposed to the historically accurate 1801; for another, they do call themselves Democratic-Republicans, as opposed to the period-accurate Republicans) and the language they use is very much not dated.
Madison's role in his canon is largely supportive of one of the main antagonists (Thomas Jefferson). He's been an ally of the protagonist (Alexander Hamilton), writing with him the Federalist Papers, but between Act 1 closing and the opening of Act 2, that changes to Alexander claiming that "James Madison won't talk to me" and Jefferson commenting to Madison about Hamilton "I know you hate the guy" - we don't have details of why the radical change of sentiment, but it's rarely alleviated. (Both statements are somewhat belied, both by Madison being the one pointing directly to Hamilton that he doesn't have the votes for his proposal of a financial plan to get Congressional Approval, and him being the one to suggest a quid pro quo settlement about the same proposal. Even so, the two are hardly friendly anymore.)
For all that Jefferson is the one visibly leading the duo (or trio, when Burr is part of the 'team'), the hints are rather strong that the drive and direction of what they do often come from Madison. He clearly sets up Jefferson to dislike Hamilton, and later directs the 'digging up dirt' on Hamilton that leads to the discovery of the Reynolds affair and consequently the writing of the Reynolds Pamphlet (though, in all honesty, he does not try to push Hamilton after the nature of issue is revealed, that is set up to be Burr's doing). At the same time, Madison is the one who delivers the news of Jefferson's elections victory, reaffirming the close way the two work together.
A good summary of the personality of James Madison, as presented in the musical, is his introduction in the opening number of Act 2. From the B-Roll, it can be seen that Madison comes on stage coughing, sick, but holding on and pressing with what he means to do anyway - and that is to set up that Thomas will dislike Hamilton when he finally gets to meet him.
Of poor health, thoughtful, manipulative, subtle, and determined are some of his key characteristics, and they are set up during the very introduction of the character. (The poor health is also later confirmed in the lyrics of "Cabinet Battle #1".) To these, one can add efficient, and also loyal - for all the ways he plays Jefferson, he really does work for him, and does rejoice when Jefferson wins the election of 1800 (past the chosen canon point, but relevant). Additionally, there are hints that he is not necessarily content if his accomplishments are overlooked, but he's likely to even only hint at that in private alone.
James Madison is very driven. When he picks a cause (or a person), he will make sure they get through. (He is considered the Father of the Constitution not in the least because he negotiated and mediated until it was created and, in as many places as he could reach, ratified. Part of that negotiation was the promise for the Bill of Rights, and he delivered on it, which also involved getting the States to ratify the amendments.) Borrowing from history, he legitimately completed a four-year course of study at Princeton in two years (which probably destroyed his already fragile health) and he kept going. And there are also the Federalist Papers, of which he writes more than were originally planned in all (even though less than Hamilton's 51).
For all his determination, skill at getting things done, and political genius, there are glaring faults to his personality. Most glaringly obvious, his stance on slavery. He was a slave owner. He was relatively fair as those went, but that doesn't make the facts any better. Furthermore, there is his stance eventually, which is that slavery might not be right, but black people are inherently inferior and an equal coexistence between whites and blacks is impossible and should not be attempted.
Another flaw was that, despite his brilliance, his grasp on the way economics works on the federal scale (and also on a personal scale - when he died, he left his widow deep in debt, even if a major reason for that was Dolley's son from her previous marriage... who Madison loved and indulged) is not very firm. That gets partially demonstrated in the musical, because he really does not have a plan to oppose Hamilton's; it gets majorly demonstrated in the War of 1812, after which he reinstates some of what Hamilton, by that point long dead, put in place himself. He is capable of learning, but he's not good at finance at all.
And yet another flaw is how willing he is to set the still young nation up to war. He is in support of aiding France against England in the 1790s, even before starting the war of 1812. He is courageous, and he does act in agreement with his words, going off to fight instead of letting others bear the brunt of the consequences of his decisions, but that does not mean his estimation of the situation, in either case, any more realistic or mature.
All in all, James Madison is not a nice person, nor a good person, but he has some positive sides, and doesn't tend to be actively malicious without provocation.
In another plan, Madison tends to seem very calm, even cold and unpleasant, in public. It's only in private that most of his qualities unfold - in private, or in his writings. There is evidence that he was playful in private, for example, even if none of that leaks out in his public persona. There are people who valued his friendship and his good opinion, and even Hamilton's 'James Madison won't even speak to me, so that's a non-starter' is frustrated, but maybe also a little regretful.
He tends to have a rather firm hold on his emotions, les suppressing them as controlling them, using them to work towards his goals, instead of impeding him or distracting him.
Another vital aspect about Madison is that he is fully capable of changing his mind. (Something that few of his contemporaries show with such clarity.) During the Constitutional Convention, and, later, the work towards defending and clarifying the Constitution, Madison's bias was clearly Federalist. Later, his preference changed to defending states' rights instead. He defended both causes with all he had. He is capable of processing new information and adjusting his behavior accordingly without regrets. Of learning, and applying the new information and conclusions swiftly and firmly. That does not go into conflict with his loyalty, somehow. He makes it work.
Abilities: Vanilla human of genius persuasion with an emphatic bias towards politics.
In more detail, Madison is good at appraising quickly the current situation, with his interests in mind, and reacting - affecting his environment, subtly - on almost no notice. Quick-thinking, he's a very good negotiator, and follows through on his commitments. In the dynamic between him and Jefferson, he's the one that organizes things and makes sure that their intentions get done, whatever it takes.
Alignment: Piphron. James Madison is not somebody given to many emotions, and rarely to extremes, but trust and distrust are something he can't quite help. (Spoiler: he's not a very nice person, and, as such, distrusts most people, to one degree or another. On the other hand, it would be really interesting to see him get to trust more people, and/or reestablish trust where it's disappeared.)
Other: Random headcanon because historical Madison is tiny and Okieriete Onoadowan isn't, but his body language as the character hints on it - the actor talked about doing that on purpose: Madison was small and skinny throughout his childhood and teens, then shot up when he was almost eighteen, and his health took a turn for the worse (taking four college years in two didn't help) - so he tried to strengthen his body in the hopes that he'd get sick less. It didn't work, so now he's taller and bulkier than he's used to, taking up so much more space and wat do?
Sample: Test drive thread with Thomas.
Questions: None at this time.