Presidents: James Madison

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James Madison was one of our founding fathers and became our fourth President.

James Madison

James Madison, Jr. was born on March 16, 1751 at Belle Grove Plantation, near Port Conway, Virginia. His parents were James and Nelly Conway Madison, Sr. He was the oldest of James and Nelly twelve children.

Madison studied under private tutors, becoming proficient in Latin, before attending the College of New Jersey {today known as Princeton University}.

During the American Revolution, Madison served in the Virginia legislature. He was also a colonel in the Orange County militia, although he never served in a combat role. He collaborated with ministers being persecuted for religious freedom. This helped to fashion the ideals he would later apply to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Madison spoke often during the Philadelphia Convention. Along with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, James Madison wrote The Federalist Papers. These were a series of 85 newspaper articles published in New York to explain how the proposed Constitution would work. Madison wrote 29 of these articles. He addressed many difficult issues including slavery and civil jury trials.

James Madison pressed the issue for the first ten constitutional amendments, which became known as the Bill of Rights. Madison was called “the Father of the

President James Madison

Constitution” by his peers, but protested the title.

In 1789, Madison was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

On September 15, 1794, forty-three year old James Madison married a young widow, Dolley Payne Todd. The couple would have no children, but he did adopt his wife’s son, John Payne Todd.

In 1801, Madison inherited his father’s large plantation, Montpelier.

Under President Thomas Jefferson, Madison served as Secretary of State.

Upon Jefferson’s decision to not run for a third term, Madison became the party choice in 1808. He won the election and became President. The lapse of the first national bank and congress’s reluctance to institute a new one made it easy for the British to attack the United States. This became known as the War of 1812. During this time the British invaded Washington, DC setting fire to the town. Dolley Madison famously escaped, saving a picture of George Washington.

James Madison became our most diminutive president, standing at five feet, four inches. He never weighted more than 100 pounds. He is reported to always maintain a delicate constitution and never enjoyed robust health.

After two terms, Madison left office in1817. He retired to his home at Montpelier, which was not far from Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

His mounting financial troubles weighted on him. He also became concerned with his historical legacy, and began to modify letters and documents.

After the death of Thomas Jefferson in 1826, James Madison became the 2nd President of the University of Virginia. He would hold this position until his own death.

He died on June 28, 1836, the last of the Founding Fathers. He was buried at the Madison Family Cemetery at Montpelier.


Nicknames: “Father of the Constitution”

Born: March 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia
Died: June 28, 1836, at Montpelier, Virginia

Father: James Madison
Mother: Nelly Conway Madison
Married: Dolley Payne Todd (1768-1849), on September 15, 1794
Children: None

Religion: Episcopalian
Education: Graduated from College of New Jersey (now Princeton University; 1771)
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Democratic-Republican

  • Member of Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1776
  • Member of Continental Congress, 1780-83
  • Member of Virginia Legislature, 1784-86
  • Member of Constitutional Convention, 1787
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1789-97
  • Secretary of State, 1801-09

  • 1811
    • Madison allows 20-year charter of Bank of the United States to lapse.
    •  William Henry Harrison fought Indians led by Chief Tecumseh at Tippecanoe, near Indianapolis, November 7.
  • 1812
    • War declared on England on June 18 after England continued to attack U.S. ships headed to France.
    • Madison reelected.
  • 1814
    • City of Washington captured and burned by British, August 24.
    • Francis Scott Key observed flag over Fort McHenry at Baltimore, September 14, inspiring him to write “The Star-Spangled Banner“.
    • Treaty of Ghent ended War of 1812 on December 24, but fighting continued.
  • 1815
    •  Andrew Jackson defeated British at New Orleans January 8, after war ended.
  • 1816
    • Second Bank of the United States chartered, April 10.

1751 Born on March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, King George, Virginia

Educated at Princeton and his career included the roles of Politician and Statesman

1775–83 The American Revolution, the American War of Independence, led by George Washington was fought between Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.

1776 Member of Virginia Constitutional Convention

1780-83 Member of Continental Congress

1784-86 Member of Virginia Legislature

1787 Member of Constitutional Convention

1789-97 Member of U.S. House of Representatives

1794 James Madison married Dolley Payne Todd on September 15, 1794.

1801-09 Secretary of State under Jefferson

1809 – 1813 First term in office 1809 – 1813

1811 Battle of Tippecanoe

1812 The War of 1812 which has also been called the second War for Independence, between the United States and Great Britain
1809 – 1813 Second term in office term in office

1814 Washington was burned

1814 The National Anthem written

1815 The Barbary War

1817 – 1818 The First Seminole War when American slave owners travelled to Spanish Florida in search of runaway African slaves and Seminole Indians who had been trading weapons with the British in the War of 1812.

1835 Second Seminole War begins. President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act

1835 – 1836 The Texas Revolution (October 2, 1835 – April 21, 1836) which included the famous Battle of the Alamo. Texas settlers from the United States to join the Texan Army which defeated the Mexican Army

1836 He died of natural causes on June 28, 1836 in Montpelier, Virginia. His last words said on his death bed were “I always talk better lying down.” James Madison is buried in the Madison Family Cemetery at Montpelier.



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