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Madison, James,1751–1836, 4th President of the United States (1809–17), b. Port Conway, Va.
A member of the Virginia planter class, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1771. Like George Washington and others, he opposed the colonial measures of the British. His distinctive contribution to the colonial cause was a deep knowledge and understanding of government and political philosophy—resources that first proved their value in 1776 when Madison helped to draft a constitution for the new state of Virginia.
He served in the Continental Congress (1780–83, 1787) and represented his county in the Virginia legislature (1784–86), where he played a prominent part in disestablishing the Anglican Church. During this time he watched the ineffectual floundering of Congress under the Articles of Confederation with apprehension and became convinced of the necessity for a strong national authority.
Master Builder of the Constitution
Madison played important role in bringing about the conference between Maryland and Virginia concerning navigation of the Potomac. The meetings at Alexandria and Mt. Vernon in 1785 led to the Annapolis ConventionAnnapolis Convention,
1786, interstate convention called by Virginia to discuss a uniform regulation of commerce. It met at Annapolis, Md. With only 5 of the 13 states—Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—represented, there could be no
..... Click the link for more information. in 1786, and at that conference he endorsed New Jersey's motion to call a Constitutional ConventionConstitutional Convention,
in U.S. history, the 1787 meeting in which the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. The Road to the Convention
The government adopted by the Thirteen Colonies in America (see Confederation, Articles of, and Continental
..... Click the link for more information. for May, 1787. With Alexander HamiltonHamilton, Alexander,
1755–1804, American statesman, b. Nevis, in the West Indies. Early Career
He was the illegitimate son of James Hamilton (of a prominent Scottish family) and Rachel Faucett Lavien (daughter of a doctor-planter on Nevis and the estranged
..... Click the link for more information. he became the leading spokesman for a thorough reorganization of the existing government, and his influence on the Virginia Plan, which advocated a strong central government and served as a working model for the new U.S. Constitution, is evident.
At the convention his skills in political science and his persuasive logic made him the chief architect of the new governmental structure and earned him the title "master builder of the Constitution." His journals of the period are the principal source of later knowledge of the convention, and were published after his death as Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787 as Reported by James Madison. (Madison's Notes, however, were apparently later edited by him in ways that sometimes obscure the positions he took during the convention.) He fought to get the Constitution adopted. He contributed with Alexander Hamilton and John JayJay, John,
1745–1829, American statesman, 1st chief justice of the United States, b. New York City, grad. King's College (now Columbia Univ.), 1764. He was admitted (1768) to the bar and for a time was a partner of Robert R. Livingston.
..... Click the link for more information. to the brilliantly polemical papers of The FederalistFederalist, The,
series of 85 political essays, sometimes called The Federalist Papers, written 1787–88 under the pseudonym "Publius." Alexander Hamilton initiated the series with the immediate intention of persuading New York to approve the Federalist Constitution.
..... Click the link for more information. , and in Virginia he led the forces for the Constitution against the opposition of Patrick HenryHenry, Patrick,
1736–99, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Hanover co., Va. Largely self-educated, he became a prominent trial lawyer. Henry bitterly denounced (1765) the Stamp Act and in the years that followed helped fan the fires of revolt in the South.
..... Click the link for more information. and George MasonMason, George,
1725–92, American political leader, b. Fairfax co., Va. He was one of the most affluent of the colonial Virginia planters. In his triple capacity as trustee of Alexandria (1754–79), justice of the Fairfax county court, and vestryman of Truro parish,
..... Click the link for more information. .
As a representative from Virginia (1789–97), he had a hand in getting the new government established and was a strong advocate of the first 10 amendments to the ConstitutionConstitution of the United States,
document embodying the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept.
..... Click the link for more information. (the Bill of Rights). Yet, although modern historians have demonstrated the conservative nature of the Constitution and its founders, Madison was an opponent of the policies of the conservative wing in the Washington administration, a steadfast enemy of Alexander Hamilton and his financial measures, and a supporter of Thomas JeffersonJefferson, Thomas,
1743–1826, 3d President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence, and apostle of agrarian democracy. Early Life
Jefferson was born on Apr. 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," in Goochland (now in Albemarle) co.
..... Click the link for more information. , with whom he organized the Democratic-Republican party. Madison especially deplored Hamilton's frank Anglophilia. After the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, he attacked these measures as unconstitutional and dangerous to the Union, and he prepared the protesting Virginia resolutions (see Kentucky and Virginia ResolutionsKentucky and Virginia Resolutions,
in U.S. history, resolutions passed in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, which were enacted by the Federalists in 1798. The Jeffersonian Republicans first replied in the Kentucky Resolutions, adopted by the Kentucky legislature in Nov.
..... Click the link for more information. ).
When Jefferson triumphed in the election of 1800, Madison became (1801) his secretary of state. He served through both of Jefferson's terms, and he was Jefferson's choice as presidential candidate. As president, Madison had to deal with the results of the foreign policy that, as secretary of state, he had helped to shape. The Embargo Act of 1807Embargo Act of 1807,
passed Dec. 22, 1807, by the U.S. Congress in answer to the British orders in council restricting neutral shipping and to Napoleon's restrictive Continental System. The U.S.
..... Click the link for more information. was in effect dissolved by Macon's Bill No. 2. The bill provided, however, that if either Great Britain or France should remove restrictions on American trade, the president was empowered to reimpose the trade embargo on the other.
Madison, accepting an ambiguous French statement as a bona fide revocation of the Napoleonic decrees on trade, reinstated the trade embargo with Great Britain, an act that helped bring on the War of 1812War of 1812,
armed conflict between the United States and Great Britain, 1812–15. It followed a period of great stress between the two nations as a result of the treatment of neutral countries by both France and England during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars,
..... Click the link for more information. . This move alone, however, did not bring about the war with Great Britain; equally significant were the activities of the "war hawks," led by Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career
His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
..... Click the link for more information. and John C. CalhounCalhoun, John Caldwell
, 1782–1850, American statesman and political philosopher, b. near Abbeville, S.C., grad. Yale, 1804. He was an intellectual giant of political life in his day. Early Career
Calhoun studied law under Tapping Reeve at Litchfield, Conn.
..... Click the link for more information. , who, hungry for the conquest of Canada and for free expansion, clamored for action. They helped to bring about the declaration of war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812.
The War of 1812 was the chief event of Madison's administration. New England merchants and industrialists were already disaffected by the various embargoes, and their discontent grew until at the Hartford ConventionHartford Convention,
Dec. 15, 1814–Jan. 4, 1815, meeting to consider the problems of New England in the War of 1812; held at Hartford, Conn. Prior to the war, New England Federalists (see Federalist party) had opposed the Embargo Act of 1807 and other government measures;
..... Click the link for more information. they talked of sedition rather than continuing "Mr. Madison's War." Even the friends of the president and the promoters of the war grew discouraged as the fighting went badly. Victories in late 1813 and in the autumn of 1814 lifted the gloom somewhat, but disaster came in Sept., 1814, when the British took Washington and burned the White House. Nevertheless the war ended in stalemate with the Treaty of Ghent.
Madison's remaining years in office witnessed the beginning of postwar national expansion. He encouraged the new nationalism, which hastened the split in the Democratic party, evident in the rise of Jacksonian democracy. Through these later upheavals Madison lived quietly with his wife, Dolley Madison, after his retirement in 1817 to MontpelierMontpelier,
estate, central Va., near Charlottesville; formerly the home of President James Madison. The brick mansion was built c.1760 by Madison's father. Altered and enlarged by later owners, it has been restored (completed 2008) to its appearance when Madison lived there.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Madison's writings were edited by G. Hunt (9 vol., 1900–1910). See biography in his own words, ed. by M. D. Peterson (1974); biographies by I. Brant (6 vol., 1941–61; abr. ed. 1970), N. Riemer (1968), R. Ketcham (1971, repr. 2003), R. A. Rutland (1981), G. Wills (2002), R. Brookhiser (2011), J. Broadwater (2012), and L. Cheney (2014); studies by D. R. McCoy (1989), L. Banning (1995), J. P. Kaminski (2010), and N. Feldman (2017).
Born Mar. 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Va.; died June 28, 1836, in Montpelier, Va. American statesman.
Madison took part in the War for Independence (1775-83). He was the author of a proposal that formed the basis of the American Constitution (1787). In a series of articles written for the press, Madison defended the new constitution and advocated broadening the power of the central government. After first supporting the Federalists, Madison later joined the Republicans and headed their right wing in Congress. From 1789 to 1797 he was a member of the House of Representatives. From 1801 to 1809 he served as secretary of state in the administration of T. Jefferson. He was president of the USA from 1809 to 1817. In the first period of his presidency Madison was occupied primarily with foreign policy problems connected with the Anglo-American War of 1812-14. During his second term he advocated the general development of American industry.