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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

James Madison

James Madison was the oldest of twelve children. He was born at Belle Grove Plantation near Port Conway, Virginia on March 16, 1751, where his mother had returned to her parents' home to give birth.

His father James Madison Sr. was a tobacco planter who became the largest landowner and a leading citizen of Orange County, in the Piedmont. James Jr.'s mother, Nelly Conway Madison was the daughter of a prominent planter and tobacco merchant and his wife.

James Madison was an undergraduate at Princeton University and earned his degree in a mere two years. He remained at the institution for an extra year to further his education and became the Ivy League school's first graduate student.

Madison's education under three Scottish Calvinists—one at a boarding school, a second as a tutor, and the third, John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) was influential on his beliefs and intellectual life. Madison's long public service to his nation were directed by his Christian faith and principles. These included belief in God's sovereignty, humanity's innate sinfulness, pride, and selfishness and the need for redemption through Christ.

Congressman Madison, age 32 by Charles Willson Peale.
Madison was 43 when he married 26-year-old Dolley Todd (née Payne) on September 15, 1794. Once Madison had tied the knot with Dolley, she was disowned by the Society of Friends as her husband was not a Quaker.

Dolley Madison was one of the most well-loved first ladies and known as a terrific hostess. When Thomas Jefferson's wife had died while he was serving as president, she helped him at official state functions.

Dolley Madison, 1804, by Gilbert Stuart.

During the American Revolutionary War, Madison served in the Virginia state legislature (1776–1779), and became a protege of fellow delegate Thomas Jefferson.

Between 1791-93, James Madison founded the Democratic-Republican Party with his friend Thomas Jefferson. It was organized by the pair to oppose the Federalist Party run by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. The Democratic-Republican Party came to power in 1800, and dominated national and state affairs until the 1820s, when it faded away.

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were once arrested together for taking a carriage ride in the countryside of Vermont on a Sunday, which violated the laws of that state.

Madison is called the "Father of the Constitution" because he helped write a large part of it.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. He is noted for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is known also as the "Father of the Bill of Rights.”

As Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801–09), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation's size.

Madison was selected by his political party to be the Democratic-Republican candidate for president in 1808. He won that election and presided over renewed prosperity for several years. He won the next election four years later.

James Madison was only 5'4" and never weighed more than 100 pounds, making him the smallest U.S. president in history.

James Madison By James Sharples (1751/52-1811) 

James Madison raised sheep. In fact, he was sworn in wearing a coat spun from his sheep’s wool.

The War of 1812 began on June 18, 1812 when the US Congress declared war against Britain, Canada and Ireland over trade restrictions. Madison had hoped for peace, but Congress wanted to fight so he gave in and approved a declaration of war.

U.S. Declaration of War

In 1814 Washington, DC, was invaded by British forces that set fire to the White House and Capitol forcing President James Madison to flee the burning building.

When Madison left office in 1817, he retired to Montpelier, his tobacco plantation in Orange County, Virginia, not far from Jefferson's Monticello. As with both Washington and Jefferson, Madison left the presidency a poorer man than when he entered, due to the steady financial collapse of his plantation, aided by the continued low price of tobacco and his stepson's mismanagement.

Montpelier, Madison's tobacco plantation in Virginia. By Aigrette - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons

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


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