James Madison, 4th President of the United States

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James Madison, Jr.

Also Known As: "Author of the Bill of Rights", "Father of the Constitution", "U.S. President James Madison"
Birthplace: Belle Grove Plantation, Port Conway, Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, Colonial America
Death: June 28, 1836 (85)
his home, Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, United States
Place of Burial: Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. James Madison, Sr. and Eleanor Rose "Nellie" (Conway) Madison
Husband of Dolly (Payne) Madison, 4th First Lady of the United States
Brother of Mollie Davis; Francis Taylor Madison; Captain Ambrose Madison, Sr.; Robert Cole Madison; Catlett Madison and 16 others

Occupation: Statesman, President
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About James Madison, 4th President of the United States

James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 (O.S. March 5) – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817) and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United States Bill of Rights. He inherited tobacco land and owned slaves although he spent his entire adult life as a career politician.

His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced the Federalist Papers (1788), which became the most influential explanation and defense of the Constitution after its publication. Madison's most distinctive belief as a political theorist was the principle of divided power. Madison believed that "parchment barriers" were not sufficient to protect the rights of citizens. Power must be divided, both between federal and state governments (federalism), and within the federal government (checks and balances) to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority. In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. In one of his most famous roles, he drafted the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". Madison worked closely with the President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts. As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size. As president (1809-17), after the failure of diplomatic protests and an embargo, he led the nation into the War of 1812. The war was in response to British encroachments on American honor and rights as well as to facilitate American settlement in the Midwest which was blocked by Indian allies of the British. The war was an administrative nightmare without a strong army or financial system, leading Madison afterwards to support a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as a national bank of the sort he had long opposed.

Early Life

James Madison, Jr. was born at Belle Grove Plantation near Port Conway, Virginia on March 16, 1751, (March 5, 1751, Old Style, Julian calendar). He grew up as the oldest of twelve children. His father, James Madison, Sr. (1723–1801), was a tobacco planter who grew up on an estate in Orange County, Virginia, which he inherited upon reaching maturity. He later acquired more property and, with 5,000 acres (2,000 ha), became the largest landowner and a leading citizen of Orange County. His mother, Nelly Conway Madison (1731–1829), was born at Port Conway, Virginia, the daughter of a prominent planter and tobacco merchant. Madison's parents were married on September 15, 1749. In addition to James Jr., Nelly and James Sr. had seven more boys and four girls. Three brothers of James Jr. died as infants, including one stillborn, and in the summer of 1775, the lives of his sister, Elizabeth (age 7), and his brother, Reuben (age 3), were cut short by a dysentery epidemic that swept through Orange County.

Marriage and family

James Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, a widow, on September 15, 1794, at Harewood, in what is now Jefferson County, West Virginia. Madison adopted Todd's one surviving son, John Payne Todd after the marriage. Dolley Payne was born May 20, 1768, at the New Garden Quaker settlement in North Carolina, where her parents, John Payne and Mary Coles Payne, lived briefly. Dolley's sister, Lucy Payne, had married George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of President Washington.

As a member of Congress, Madison had doubtless met the widow Todd at social functions in Philadelphia, then the nation's capital. In May 1794, he took formal notice of her by asking their mutual friend Aaron Burr to arrange a meeting. The encounter apparently went smoothly for a brisk courtship followed, and by August, she had accepted his proposal of marriage. For marrying Madison, a non-Quaker, she was expelled from the Society of Friends.

Later life

When Madison left office in 1817, he retired to Montpelier, his tobacco plantation in Virginia; not far from Jefferson's Monticello. Madison was then 65 years old. Dolley, who thought they would finally have a chance to travel to Paris, was 49. 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. Some historians speculate that his mounting debt was one of the chief reasons why he refused to allow his notes on the Constitutional Convention, or its official records which he possessed, to be published in his lifetime. "He knew the value of his notes, and wanted them to bring money to his estate for Dolley's use as his plantation failed—he was hoping for one hundred thousand dollars from the sale of his papers, of which the notes were the gem." Madison's financial troubles and deteriorating mental and physical health would continue to consume him.

In his later years, Madison also became extremely concerned about his legacy. He took to modifying letters and other documents in his possessions: changing days and dates, adding and deleting words and sentences, and shifting characters. By the time he had reached his late seventies, this "straightening out" had become almost an obsession. This can be seen by his editing of a letter he had written to Jefferson criticizing Lafayette: Madison not only inked out original passages, but went so far as to imitate Jefferson's handwriting as well. In Madison's mind, this may have represented an effort to make himself clear, to justify his actions both to history and to himself.

During the final six years of his life, amid a sea of personal [financial] troubles that were threatening to engulf him...At times mental agitation issued in physical collapse. For the better part of a year in 1831 and 1832 he was bedridden, if not silenced...Literally sick with anxiety, he began to despair of his ability to make himself understood by his fellow citizens.

In 1826, after the death of Jefferson, Madison followed Jefferson as the second Rector ("President") of the University of Virginia. It would be his last occupation. He retained the position as college chancellor for ten years, until his death in 1836.

In 1829, at the age of 78, Madison was chosen as a representative to the constitutional convention in Richmond for the revising of the Virginia state constitution; this was to be Madison's last appearance as a legislator and constitutional drafter. The issue of greatest importance at this convention was apportionment. The western districts of Virginia complained that they were underrepresented because the state constitution apportioned voting districts by county, not population. Westerners' growing numbers thus did not yield growing representation. Western reformers also wanted to extend suffrage to all white men, in place of the historic property requirement. Madison tried to effect a compromise, but to no avail. Eventually, suffrage rights were extended to renters as well as landowners, but the eastern planters refused to adopt population apportionment. Madison was disappointed at the failure of Virginians to resolve the issue more equitably. "The Convention of 1829, we might say, pushed Madison steadily to the brink of self-delusion, if not despair. The dilemma of slavery undid him." Although his health had now almost failed, he managed to produce several memoranda on political subjects, including an essay against the appointment of chaplains for Congress and the armed forces, because this produced religious exclusion, but not political harmony.

Madison lived on until 1836, increasingly ignored by the new leaders of the American polity. He died at Montpelier on June 28, the last of the Founding Fathers to die. He was buried in the Madison Family Cemetery at Montpelier.


4th United States President. He was the co-author of the Federalist Papers and Father of the American Constitution. He was born in Port Conway, Virginia on a plantation to a wealthy father and a mother the daughter of a rich tobacco merchant. He was sickly suffering from seizures which would plague him throughout his life. James Madison married Dorothea Dandling Payne (Dolley Madison) in 1794. As chief executive throughout the War of 1812, he displayed little understanding of military matters. The British were seizing cargoes from American owned ships. Madison caved to the pressure and asked Congress to declare war. Despite his poor record James Madison is nevertheless remembered: His administration gave the country a new identity with an upsurge of nationalism, enduring slogans like the Star Spangled Banner, Don't give up the ship, FreeTrade and sailor's Rights; historic events such as Perry and the victory on Lake Erie, Andrew Jackson and New Orleans and the US Constitution with its many victories. She was dubbed "Old Iron sides," is preserved as a national treasure and can be seen today. It was on his watch that British burned the public buildings of Washington, D.C. He was influenced by his Secretary of War who insisted Washington was not a target of the British. The aging President died quietly at breakfast in his room where he was confined for chronic rheumatism and liver dysfunction at the age of eighty-five. A small gathering of slaves, and family friends witnessed his burial the next day at the family cemetery located on the estate. Many physical legacy reminders remain today: The little farmhouse where he was born, long since razed has only an historic marker to indicate the spot which is near the large plantation mansion "Montpelier," which is the lifelong home of James Madison as well as three generations of the family. The mansion core was constructed by his father. Today, the property is owned and exhibited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Octagon Home in Washington DC located a few blocks from the White House was the Madison's temporary home after the burning of the White House. He signed the Treaty of Ghent in the upstairs parlor which declared England and America at peace. The James Madison Museum is located in Orange, Virginia and contains the nation's best collection of Madison artifacts. The Madison Family Cemetery is stunning as well as historic. It is surrounded by a brick wall with an iron gate marked simply Madison. It is accessible by a dirt road , very isolated and not much changed from the days of the President. It not only is the final resting place of the last founding father who formulated the Constitution but Dolley who was returned in death, penniless, after a massive state funeral in Washington DC. This is the place where John Quincy Adams came to deliver a public oration lauding the man for his service to the fledging nation. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)





THE FOURTH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES Source The Familly Tree newsletter April/May 2002 Pg 17: The architect of the American Constitution, James Madison was born in Port Conway. The son of a Virginia planter of English and Irish ancestry, he had Scottish tutors in his early years and then studied at Princeton under the direction of president Dr. John Witherspoon. In 1776, as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention, Madison was involved in drafting the declaration of rights and the Virginia constitution; he was also closely involved in the drafting of the bill to establish religious freedom. James Madison strongly believed in the people's right to choose government-a conviction reflected in the US Constitution. Elected fourth president of the the United States in 1808, he was re-elected in 1812, retiring in 1817. "If the will of the majority cannot be trusted where there are diversified and conflicting interests, it can be trusted nowhere," wroted James Madison of the American Constitution.

James Madison BIRTH 16 Mar 1751 Port Conway, King George County, Virginia, USA DEATH 28 Jun 1836 (aged 85) Montpelier Station, Orange County, Virginia, USA BURIAL Montpelier Estate National Historic Site Montpelier Station, Orange County, Virginia


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James Madison, 4th President of the United States's Timeline

March 16, 1751
Belle Grove Plantation, Port Conway, Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, Colonial America
- 1771
Age 17
College of New Jersey (Princeton)
Age 19
Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey, United States
March 4, 1789
- March 3, 1797
Age 37
People of VA
March 4, 1789
- March 3, 1793
Age 37
March 4, 1793
- March 3, 1797
Age 41