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President James MADISON, Jr.

Male 1751 - 1836  (85 years)

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  • Name James MADISON 
    Title President 
    Suffix Jr. 
    Born 16 Mar 1751  Port Conway, King George County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 28 Jun 1836  "Montpelier," Orange County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Montpelier Estate National Historic Site, Montpelier Station, Orange County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 

    • (1) Source: Roberts, Gary Boyd, Ancestors of American Presidents, 2009 Edition, Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009, p. 15.

      (2) "James Madison," Encyclopædia Brittanica, 2010, © 2010 Encyclopædia Brittanica, Inc.:

      James Madison, (b. March 16 [March 5, Old Style], 1751, Port Conway, Virginia [U.S.] - d. June 28, 1836, Montpelier, Virginia, U.S.), fourth president of the United States (1809-17) and one of the Founding Fathers of his country. At the Constitutional Convention (1787), he influenced the planning and ratification of the U.S. Constitution and collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in the publication of the Federalist papers. As a member of the new House of Representatives, he sponsored the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, commonly called the Bill of Rights. He was secretary of state under President Thomas Jefferson when the Louisiana Territory was purchased from France. The War of 1812 was fought during his presidency. . . .

      Early life and political activities

      Madison was born at the home of his maternal grandmother. The son and namesake of a leading Orange county landowner and squire, he maintained his lifelong home in Virginia at Montpelier, near the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1769 he rode horseback to the College of New Jersey (Princeton University), selected for its hostility to episcopacy. He completed the four-year course in two years, finding time also to demonstrate against England and to lampoon members of a rival literary society in ribald verse. Overwork produced several years of epileptoid hysteria and premonitions of early death, which thwarted military training but did not prevent home study of public law, mixed with early advocacy of independence (1774) and furious denunciation of the imprisonment of nearby dissenters from the established Anglican Church. Madison never became a church member, but in maturity he expressed a preference for Unitarianism.

      His health improved, and he was elected to Virginia's 1776 Revolutionary convention, where he drafted the state's guarantee of religious freedom. In the convention-turned-legislature he helped Thomas Jefferson disestablish the church but lost reelection by refusing to furnish the electors with free whiskey. After two years on the governor's council, he was sent to the Continental Congress in March 1780.

      Five feet four inches tall and weighing about 100 pounds, small boned, boyish in appearance, and weak of voice, he waited six months before taking the floor, but strong actions belied his mild demeanour. He rose quickly to leadership against the devotees of state sovereignty and enemies of Franco-U.S. collaboration in peace negotiations, contending also for the establishment of the Mississippi as a western territorial boundary and the right to navigate that river through its Spanish-held delta. Defending Virginia's charter title to the vast Northwest against states that had no claim to western territories and whose major motive was to validate barrel-of-rum purchases from Indian tribes, Madison defeated the land speculators by persuading Virginia to cede the western lands to Congress as a national heritage.

      Following the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, Madison undertook to strengthen the Union by asserting implied power in Congress to enforce financial requisitions upon the states by military coercion. This move failing, he worked unceasingly for an amendment conferring power to raise revenue and wrote an eloquent address adjuring the states to avert national disintegration by ratifying the submitted article. The Chevalier de la Luzerne, French minister to the United States, wrote that Madison was "regarded as the man of the soundest judgment in Congress."

      The father of the Constitution

      Reentering the Virginia legislature in 1784, Madison defeated Patrick Henry's bill to give financial support to "teachers of the Christian religion." To avoid the political effect of his extreme nationalism, he persuaded the states-rights advocate John Tyler to sponsor the calling of the Annapolis Convention of 1786, which, aided by Madison's influence, produced the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

      There his Virginia, or large-state, Plan, put forward through Governor Edmund Randolph, furnished the basic framework and guiding principles of the Constitution, earning him the title of father of the Constitution. Madison believed keenly in the value of a strong government in which power was well controlled because it was well balanced among the branches. (See primary source document: A Plurality of Interests and a Balance of Power.) Delegate William Pierce of Georgia wrote that, in the management of every great question, Madison "always comes forward the best informed Man of any point in debate." Pierce called him "a Gentleman of great modesty - with a remarkable sweet temper. He is easy and unreserved among his acquaintances, and has a most agreeable style of conversation."

      Madison took day-by-day notes of debates at the Constitutional Convention, which furnish the only comprehensive history of the proceedings. To promote ratification he collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in newspaper publication of the Federalist papers (Madison wrote 29 out of 85), which became the standard commentary on the Constitution. His influence produced ratification by Virginia and led John Marshall to say that, if eloquence included "persuasion by convincing, Mr. Madison was the most eloquent man I ever heard."

      Elected to the new House of Representatives, Madison sponsored the first 10 amendments to the Constitution - the Bill of Rights - placing emphasis in debate on freedom of religion, speech, and press. His leadership in the House, which caused the Massachusetts congressman Fisher Ames to call him "our first man," came to an end when he split with Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton over methods of funding the war debts. Hamilton's aim was to strengthen the national government by cementing men of wealth to it; Madison sought to protect the interests of Revolutionary veterans.

      Hamilton's victory turned Madison into a strict constructionist of the congressional power to appropriate for the general welfare. He denied the existence of implied power to establish a national bank to aid the Treasury. Later, as president, he asked for and obtained a bank as "almost [a] necessity" for that purpose, but he contended that it was constitutional only because Hamilton's bank had gone without constitutional challenge. Unwillingness to admit error was a lifelong characteristic. The break over funding split Congress into Madisonian and Hamiltonian factions, with Fisher Ames now calling Madison a "desperate party leader" who enforced a discipline "as severe as the Prussian." (Madisonians turned into Jeffersonians after Jefferson, having returned from France, became secretary of state.)

      In 1794 Madison married a widow, Dolley Payne Todd (Dolley Madison), a handsome, buxom, vivacious Quaker 17 years his junior, who rejected church discipline and loved social activities. Her first husband had died in the yellow fever epidemic the previous year. She periodically served as official hostess for President Jefferson, who was a widower. As Madison's wife, she became a fixture at soir??es, usually wearing a colourful feathered turban and an elegant dress ornamented with jewelry and furs. She may be said to have created the role of First Lady as a political partner of the president, although that label did not come into use until much later. An unpretentious woman, she ate heartily, gambled, rouged her face lavishly, and took snuff. The "Wednesday drawing rooms" that she instituted for the public added to her popularity. She earned the nation's undying gratitude for rescuing a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington in 1814 just ahead of the British troops who put the torch to the White House in the War of 1812.

      Madison left Congress in 1797, disgusted by John Jay's treaty with England, which frustrated his program of commercial retaliation against the wartime oppression of U.S. maritime commerce. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 inspired him to draft the Virginia Resolutions of that year, denouncing those statutes as violations of the First Amendment of the Constitution and affirming the right and duty of the states "to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil." Carefully worded to mean less legally than they seemed to threaten, they forced him to spend his octogenarian years combating South Carolina's interpretation of them as a sanction of state power to nullify federal law.

      During eight years as Jefferson's secretary of state (1801-09), Madison used the words "The President has decided" so regularly that his own role can be discovered only in foreign archives. British diplomats dealing with Madison encountered "asperity of temper and fluency of expression." Senators John Adair and Nicholas Gilman agreed in 1806 that he "governed the President," an opinion held also by French minister Louis-Marie Turreau.

      Madison's presidency

      Although he was accused of weakness in dealing with France and England, Madison won the presidency in 1808 by publishing his vigorous diplomatic dispatches (see primary source document: First Inaugural Address). Faced with a senatorial cabal on taking office, he made a senator's lacklustre brother, Robert Smith, secretary of state and wrote all important diplomatic letters for two years before replacing him with James Monroe. Although he had fully supported Jefferson's wartime shipping embargo, Madison reversed his predecessor's policy two weeks after assuming the presidency by secretly notifying both Great Britain and France, then at war, that, in his opinion, if the country addressed should stop interfering with U.S. commerce and the other belligerent continued to do so, "Congress will, at the next ensuing session, authorize acts of hostility . . . against the other."

      An agreement with England providing for repeal of its Orders in Council, which limited trade by neutral nations with France, collapsed because the British minister violated his instructions; he concealed the requirements that the United States continue its trade embargo against France, renounce wartime trade with Britain's enemies, and authorize England to capture any U.S. vessel attempting to trade with France. Madison expelled the minister's successor for charging, falsely, that the president had been aware of the violation.

      Believing that England was bent on permanent suppression of American commerce, Madison proclaimed nonintercourse with England on November 2, 1810, and notified France on the same day that this would "necessarily lead to war" unless England stopped its impressment of American seamen and seizure of American goods and vessels. One week earlier, unknown to Congress (in recess) or the public, he had taken armed possession of the Spanish province of West Florida, claimed as part of the Louisiana Purchase. He was reelected in 1812, despite strong opposition and the vigorous candidacy of DeWitt Clinton. . . .

      With his actions buried in secrecy, Federalists and politicians pictured Madison as a timorous pacifist dragged into the War of 1812 (1812-15) by congressional War Hawks, and they denounced the conflict as "Mr. Madison's War." In fact, the president had sought peace but accepted war as inevitable. As wartime commander in chief he was hampered by the refusal of Congress to heed pleas for naval and military development and made the initial error of entrusting army command to aging veterans of the Revolution. The small U.S. Navy sparkled, but on land defeat followed defeat.

      By 1814, however, Madison had lowered the average age of generals from 60 to 36 years; victories resulted, ending a war the principal cause of which had been removed by revocation of the Orders in Council the day before the conflict began. Contemporary public opinion in the United States, Canada, England, and continental Europe proclaimed the result a U.S. triumph. Still the country would never forget the ignominy of the president and his wife having to flee in the face of advancing British troops bent on laying waste Washington, D.C., including setting afire the executive mansion, the Capitol, and other public buildings.

      The Federalist Party was killed by its opposition to the war, and the president was lifted to a pinnacle of popularity. Madison's greatest fault was delay in discharging incompetent subordinates, including Secretary of War John Armstrong, who had scoffed at the president's repeated warnings of a coming British attack on Washington and ignored presidential orders for its defense.

      On leaving the presidency, Madison was eulogized at a Washington mass meeting for having won national power and glory "without infringing a political, civil, or religious right." Even in the face of sabotage of war operations by New England Federalists, he had lived up to the maxim he laid down in 1793 when he had said:

      If we advert to the nature of republican government we shall find that the censorial power is in the people over the government, and not in the government over the people.

      Later life

      Never again leaving Virginia, Madison managed his 5,000-acre (2,000-hectare) farm for 19 years, cultivating the land by methods regarded today as modern innovations. As president of the Albemarle Agricultural Society, he warned that human life might be wiped out by upsetting the balance of nature, including invisible organisms. He hated slavery, which held him in its economic chains, and worked to abolish it through government purchase of slaves and their resettlement in Liberia, financed by sale of public lands. When his personal valet ran away in 1792 and was recaptured - a situation that usually meant sale into the yellow-fever-infested West Indies - Madison set him free and hired him. Another slave managed one-third of the Montpelier farmlands during Madison's years in federal office.

      Madison participated in Jefferson's creation of the University of Virginia (1819) and later served as its rector. Excessive hospitality, chronic agricultural depression, the care of aged slaves, and the squandering of $40,000 by and on a wayward stepson made him land-poor in old age. His last years were spent in bed; he was barely able to bend his rheumatic fingers, which nevertheless turned out an endless succession of letters and articles combating nullification and secession - the theme of his final "Advice to My Country." Henry Clay called him, after George Washington, "our greatest statesman."


      James Madison
      Birth: Mar. 16, 1751, Montpelier, Virginia, USA
      Death: Jun. 28, 1836, Montpelier, Virginia, USA

      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)

      Family links: Parents: James Madison (1723 - 1801), Eleanor Rose Conway Madison (1731 - 1829); Spouse: Dolley Madison (1768 - 1849)

      Burial: Montpelier Estate National Historic Site, Montpelier Station, Orange County, Virginia, USA

      Maintained by: Find A Grave
      Record added: Jan 01, 2001
      Find A Grave Memorial# 661
    Person ID I14363  Frost, Gilchrist and Related Families
    Last Modified 29 Dec 2018 

    Father James MADISON, Sr.,   b. 27 Mar 1723, Probably Orange County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 Feb 1801, "Montpelier," Orange County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Mother Eleanor Rose CONWAY,   b. 9 Jan 1731, Caroline County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 11 Feb 1829, "Montpelier," Orange County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 98 years) 
    Relationship natural 
    Married 15 Sep 1749 
    Family ID F8056  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Dorothea Dandridge PAYNE,   b. 20 May 1768, Guilford County, NC Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 12 Jul 1849, Washington, DC Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 81 years) 
    Married 15 Sep 1794  "Harewood," Jefferson County, VA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 29 Dec 2018 19:11:43 
    Family ID F6488  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart