James Madison , our fourth president of the United States,
he was known as the Father of our Constitution. Madison was
born in Westmoreland County, Virginia on March sixteenth,
Madison was the son of James Madison Sr. and his Nelly
Madison. James was the eldest of twelve children. The
Madisons were settled nicely in VA. His father was a
wealthy planter. The Madisons had their own plantation,
Montpelier. James was a fragile and sickly child. He had
many private tutors and he attended the Donald Robertson
School in King and Queen County. At the age of 18 he
entered the College of New Jersey (Now Princeton). Madison
had a strong interest in politics and became an early
member of the American Whig Society. He studied very hard
and completed the regular course in two years. Madison
graduated in 1771.
Madison had a deep interest in religious questions. He
spent the next six months learning Hebrew, philosophy and
other subjects. Those other subjects were history and law.
A weak speaking voice of his prevented him from becoming a
minister for his career. Soon after he turned to politics.
In 1774 James Madison entered politics. He was elected to
the Committee of Safety in Orange County, VA. This kind of
committee provided local government in the days when the
British colonial government, was crumbling. 1776 he served
on a committee that drafted a new VA constitution and the
Declaration of Rights. This was the VA Convention. He also
served in VA 's First Legislative assembly in 1776 where he
met Thomas Jefferson. They soon began a lifetime
friendship. From 1777 to 1779 he was a member of the
Governor's Council which was an advisory group. He held
this position until he was elected to the Continental
Congress in December 1779.
Madison had been elected to the Continental Congress for a
three year term. He took his seat in congress in March
1780. In those days, Congress had no power to raise taxes,
and found it difficult to pay national debts. Even though
he was the youngest member, Madison rose quickly to a
position of leadership, working unsuccessfully along with
Alexander Hamilton and others, to strengthen the central
government by giving Congress power to tax and to regulate
trade. He also recommended many other measures to stabilize
and dignify the government.
By 1783 he returned to Virginia. Madison then entered the
Virginia Legislature. An supporter of separation of church
and state, he succeeded in persuading the legislature to
adopt the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom drafted
by Thomas Jefferson. His chief opponent was Patrick Henry,
who favored state support for teachers of the Christian
religion. In 1786 the assembly passed Virginia's Statute of
Religious freedom. Madison then wrote to Jefferson that so
in Virginia, "was extinguished forever the ambitious hope
of making laws for the human mind."
Madison then went on to the Constitutional Convention. With
other people of strong central government, Madison was a
large contributor in influencing Congress to call in a
convention to revise the Articles of Confederation, or
federal constitution. At the convention which met in
Philadelphia in May1787, Madison had a leading role. He
drafted the Virginia Plan also known as the Randolph plan
which became the foundation for the structure of the new
government. In agreement with his views , the Constitution
provided for a break away from powers with a system of
checks and balances. He was responsible for the creation of
a strong executive with a refusal and a court with power to
prevail state laws. His journal of the transactions
established the exclusive record of the debates. With Alex
Hamilton and John Jay he drafted essays in defense of the
constitution to argue those afraid of centralized power. In
the Virginia Constitutional Convention Madison led the
successful fight for authorization against the opposition.
Madison's support of the constitution displeased many
Virginias who supported states' rights. They united in the
Virginia legislature to defeat him in 1788 for a seat in
the first United States Senate. Early next year, Madison
defeated James Monroe in an election for the U.S. House of
Representatives. He then sponsored the first ten amendments
to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights to fulfill
a pledge made during the fight over authorization, when it
was charged that the constitution failed to protect
individual rights. In 1791 he broke with Alex Hamilton and
the Federalists, opposing the financial policy of
Washington administration. He joined Thomas Jefferson and
James Monroe in founding the Democratic-Republican party,
they were the pioneers of today's Democratic party. During
this period of time he met Dolley Payne Todd. She became
his wife in 1794. They had raised on child but it was from
Dolley Payne's first marriage.
By 1797 he became tired of politics and retired from
congress. The following year Congress passed the Alien and
Sedition Acts. Madison became outraged. He drafted the
Virginia resolutions of 1798, proposing joint action by the
states declaring these laws unconstitutional. He was
elected to the Virginia Legislature in 1799 and 1800, and
led the fight against what he considered Federalist effort
to undermine basic human rights.
1801, Thomas Jefferson became president and appointed
Madison to Secretary of State. Subsequently Madison and
Jefferson failed to force Great Britain and France to
respect the rights of Americans on the high seas. The
British and French were fighting each other in Napoleonic
Wars, and each had isolated the other's coast. American
ships that tried to trade with either country were stopped
by warships of the other. Many American seamen were
captured and forced to serve on British or French warships.
The Embargo act of 1807 attempted to protect American ships
but it brought economic distress because it stopped all
commerce with foreign countries. The Embargo act hurt more
then helped. To resolve the problem the Non-Intercourse Act
was passed and opened all trade with other countries but
Great Britain and France. Jefferson chose Madison to
succeed him as president.
Madison was elected president in1809 with 122 electoral
votes to 47 for the Federalists candidate Charles Pinckney.
His Vice president was George Clinton. When he was
reelected as president his running mate was then Eldrige
Gerry of Massachusetts. Madison was married to Dolley Payne
Todd. Dolley Madison had a very active social life. She was
a dazzling hostess of the White House.
As president James Madison had accomplished many things.
Tensions grew between the United States and Great Britain
however Madison's action of foreign policy was criticized
by both Federalists and members in his own party. In 1812
he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Great
Britain. On the day that war was declared, June 18, 1812
the British repealed their trade restrictions. Because they
would not abandon impressment, Madison refused to conclude
a truce pending formal peace negotiations. Many events
happened to Madison and to the world. The war of 1812
started. Napolean invaded Russia in 1812. The White House
was burned by the British in 1814 and Madison and his wife
had to flee to prevent capture. Denmark gave Norway to
Sweden in 1814. Treaty of Ghent, signed by Great Britain
and the United States in 1814, ended the war of 1812.
During the British attack on Baltimore Francis Scott Key in
1814 wrote the Star Spangled Banner. 1815 Belgium united
with the Netherlands to form a single country. In the same
year Napolean was crushed in Waterloo. The First Savings
banks in the country were founded at Philadelphia and
Boston in 1816. In 1817 Madison retired and Monroe took his
place as president. He served for 8 years as president.
Madison retired In Montpelier. He busied himself with
affairs of his estate. June 28, 1836 at Montpelier he died.
His wife died in 1849. Dolley Payne Madison and James
Madison had no children but cherished Dolley's son from her
first marriage. They were buried at a family plot in
Montpelier. He was 85 years old.
James Madison was the father of our constitution. He was
our fourth president. He wrote the Bill of Rights. Without
him we wouldn't have the liberties we have. James Madison
was a great leader, a great man, and very important to this
country's history. James Madison was a true hero.