James Madison (March 4, 1809 - March 4, 1817)
James Madison (March 16, 1751 - June 28, 1836) was an American politician and the fourth President of the United States, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the "Father of the Constitution", he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution. As a leader in the first Congresses, he drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to limit the powers of special interests, which Madison called factions. He believed very strongly that the new nation should fight against aristocracy and corruption and was deeply committed to creating mechanisms that would ensure republicanism in the United States.
As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the republican party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He secretly co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Laws.
As Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801-1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation's size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo Act of 1807. As president, he led the nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain in order to protect the United States' economic rights. That conflict began poorly as Americans suffered defeat after defeat by smaller forces, but ended on a high note in 1815, after which a new spirit of nationalism swept the country. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second National Bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.¹
Quotes"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." -- The Federalist, Number 47, January 17, 1788.
"The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the states be cherished and perpetuated." -- Advice to my Country, 1834
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood."
"In Republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority."
"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries."
- ¹ James Madison - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Books on James Madison
- Biography of James Madison
- Essays on James Madison and His Administration
- James Madison's Montpelier
"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." ~ Benjamin Franklin
If you would like to read more about history and the presidents, visit our history bookstore.
... a thousand words
Bring history and education to life with posters and art prints in the following categories:
- U.S. Presidents
- Political Science
- Military & Warfare
"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." ~ Edmund Burke