The city of Madison was not so named because its future inhabitants were expected to reflect the life, career and spirit of James Madison, primary author of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and fourth president of the United States.
Instead, frontier promoter James Duane Doty was purely after the promotional value of a president's death. Madison had died at age 85 in June 1836, four months before the territorial convention met in Belmont to pick the Wisconsin capital. And Doty knew a patriotic homage would go well with the buffalo robes and choice corner lots he was making available to the delegates.
Maybe if Doty had done like Luke Stoughton and William McFarland, and named his settlement after himself, we'd have turned out differently. Maybe we've always recognized the import of Madison's name and been inspired by his legacy, which is being celebrated this month by a commemorative dollar coin issued by the U.S. Mint.
Or maybe not. Most likely, our intellectual and political twin turbines - the university and the Capitol - would have produced the same history, even if we lived in Dotyville.
Still, modern Madison is pretty much in tune with its historical namesake.
A city so engaged in government and protective of American civil liberties is certainly in the image of the person so responsible for both. A city that prides itself on being willing to "Question Authority" certainly has much in common with a man - a president, at that - who declared, "The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted."
Most Madisonians are proud that Wisconsin hasn't had the death penalty since 1850, and would endorse Madison's call for "the entire abolition of capital punishment." Most would share Madison's passion for public schools, and his belief that "whenever a youth is ascertained to possess talents meriting an education which his parents cannot afford, he should be carried forward at the public expense."
James Madison's legislative record opposing internal security measures is directly replicated by some of Madison's favorite national politicians.
Madison led the fight against the Alien and Sedition Acts, saying: "The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home." Similar arguments were sounded when Sen. Robert M. La Follette fought the Espionage Act, Rep. Robert W. Kastenmeier fought HUAC and the Nixon Justice Department, and Sen. Russ Feingold cast the only vote against the PATRIOT Act.
And it's only natural that Madison is home to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the country's leading organization to keep government secular. Madison was second only to Jefferson as the great champion of the separation of church and state.
It was Jefferson who introduced the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom when he was Governor in 1779, but it was Madison, as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, who finally got it passed in 1786. At about the same time, he also killed Patrick Henry's bills subsidizing parochial schools, setting religious tests for public office, and criminalizing heresy. Madison declared that "religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
But however much we claim affinity with Madison the Founder, most modern Madisonians would likely oppose his most important act as president - asking Congress for a declaration of war shortly before his re-election.
The War of 1812, a.k.a. "Mr. Madison's War," was fought for property and pride: to drive the British from Canada and the French from west Florida, confront Native Americans who were conducting raids throughout the Ohio River Valley, and end British seizure and conscription of American merchant seamen.
At the time, Wisconsin was wilderness in the Indiana Territory, home mainly to Native Americans and some trappers and traders; Madison itself would not have European settlers for another 25 years. But while any Europeans around here then would likely have supported Madison, the anti-military record of the city and its politicians ever since paints a different picture.
City voters did not give a majority of their votes to Abraham Lincoln in either of his elections, and chose a staunchly anti-war Copperhead Democrat as mayor in 1864. Maybe it was those 90,000 soldiers passing through Camp Randall.
Since then, except for the local munitions industry, we've been largely defined by being anti-war - from La Follette and the German population trying to block World War I, though Kastenemeier and the campus fighting to end the war in Vietnam, to Feingold and Rep. Tammy Baldwin opposing the war in Iraq.
There are other ways in which Madison and the capital city named after him would not see eye-to-eye.
Most Madisonians would probably be uncomfortable with Madison's comment that the Constitution "preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms," and interpret it in terms of a "well-regulated militia."
They would undoubtedly abhor Madison's attitude and actions toward Native Americans. Maybe his childhood - growing up in the 1750s during the French and Indian Wars - was to blame. But his hostility is striking; in his second inaugural address in 1813, Madison described them as "savages...eager to glut their savage thirst with the blood of the vanquished."
While Madison is nationally recognized as a healthy and highly active city, James Madison was a sickly mamma's boy subject to stress-induced seizures. Even as president, he was a brittle five-foot-six, about a hundred pounds, with a slight speech impediment.
And although there have been some lovely political wives in Madison history, all pale before the legendary Dolley Madison, a buxom young widow who liked to party. Madisonians would no doubt enjoy Dolley's sparkling soirees, and admire her bravery in saving George Washington's portrait as the British approached in 1814.
But Dolley, 17 years younger than Madison, took snuff, wore too much makeup, and had a son who was a drunk and witless playboy. So she's likely not the Founding First Lady we feel the greatest affinity toward. We like to see ourselves more in the image of presidential wife and mother, proto-feminist Abigail Adams.
Stuart Levitan is a local historian. His book, Madison: The Illustrated Sesquicentennial History, Volume 1, 1856-1931, was published last year by the University of Wisconsin Press.