- NAME: James Madison
- OCCUPATION: U.S. President
- BIRTH DATE: March 16, 1751
- DEATH DATE: June 28, 1836
- EDUCATION: College of New Jersey (now Princeton University)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Port Conway, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Orange County (Montpelier), Virginia
- Full Name: James Madison Jr.
- Nickname: "Father of the Constitution"
- AKA: James Madison
Best Known For
The fourth U.S. president, James Madison believed in a robust yet balanced federal government and is known as the "Father of the Constitution."
James Madison - War of 1812 (2:21)
At just 5'4", James Madison was hardly a commanding presence, but that didn't stop him from shaping American history.
In 1812, James Madison became the first U.S. president to ask Congress to declare war. Find out why he wanted to wage war against Britain and how his constituents felt about it.
Learn how first lady Dolley Madison saved one of America's first national treasures.
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Born on March 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia, James Madison wrote the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution, co-wrote the Federalist Papers and sponsored the Bill of Rights. He established the Democrat-Republican Party with President Thomas Jefferson, and became president himself in 1808. Madison initiated the War of 1812,
"As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights."
and served two terms in the White House with first lady Dolley Madison. He died on June 28, 1836, at the Montpelier estate in Orange County, Virginia.
One of America's Founding Fathers, James Madison helped build the U.S. Constitution in the late 1700s. He also created the foundation for the Bill of Rights, acted as President Thomas Jefferson's secretary of state, and served two terms as president himself.
Born in 1751, Madison grew up in Orange County, Virginia. He was the oldest of twelve children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. His father, James, was a successful planter and owned more than 3,000 acres of land and dozens of slaves. He was also an influential figure in county affairs.
In 1762, Madison was sent to a boarding school run by Donald Robertson in King and Queen County, Virginia. He returned to his father's estate in Orange County, Virginia—called Montpelier—five years later. His father had him stay home and receive private tutoring because he was concerned about Madison's health. He would experience bouts of ill health throughout his life. After two years, Madison finally went to college in 1769, enrolling at the College of New Jersey—now known as Princeton University. There, Madison studied Latin, Greek, science and philosophy among other subjects. Graduating in 1771, he stayed on a while longer to continue his studies with the school's president, Reverend John Witherspoon.
Returning to Virginia in 1772, Madison soon found himself caught up in the tensions between the colonists and the British authorities. He was elected to the Orange County Committee of Safety in December of 1774, and joined the Virginia militia as a colonel the following year. Writing to college friend William Bradford, Madison sensed that "There is something at hand that shall greatly augment the history of the world."
The learned Madison was more of a writer than a fighter, though. And he put his talents to good use in 1776 at the Virginia Convention, as Orange County's representative. Around that time, he met Thomas Jefferson, and the pair soon began what would become a lifelong friendship. When Madison received an appointment to serve on the committee in charge of writing Virginia's constitution, he worked with George Mason on the draft. One of his special contributions was reworking some of the language about religious freedom.
In 1777, Madison lost his bid for a seat in the Virginia Assembly, but he was later appointed to the Governor's Council. He was a strong supporter of the American-French alliance during the revolution, and solely handled much of the council's correspondence with France.
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They are American icons—they're on our dollars and coins, they are the subject of our monuments, and we live our daily lives in the world their ideas helped create. America's "Founding Fathers" include George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and of course, Benjamin Franklin. These men, together with several other key players of their time, structured the American democracy and left a legacy that has shaped the world. But beyond their legends, these men were human beings who led complex and fascinating lives. Learning their stories helps us better understand what made them tick, as well as their influence on our world today.
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