James Madison, Jr. was born on March 16, 1751, in Orange County, Virginia Colony, descended from a wealthy planter family. He attended a boarding school in Virginia's King and Queen County between the ages of 11 and 16, as well as receiving private tutoring at home. Thereafter, James enrolled at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1769. He studied a broad range of subjects during his college career, and especially excelled in the Classical languages. After graduation, he remained in the college and studied Hebrew, philosophy, and law with the renowned scholar and president of the college, the Scottish-American and Presbyterian Reverend John Witherspoon.
Rise to Power
Madison returned home in 1772, and soon found himself caught up in the growing tension between the American Colonies and the British Empire governing them. He served several local political positions in Virginia over the next 10 years, including throughout the American Revolution. After the war, Madison represented Virginia at the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia, where Madison played a pivotal role in the drafting of the Constitution. After his fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson took over the U.S. Presidency in 1801, Madison was chosen to be President Jefferson's Secretary of State. After Jefferson had served two terms, Madison became the Presidential candidate for the newly formed Democratic-Republican Party in 1808. and was successfully elected as the 4th President of the United States. Madison was once again reelected four years later.
Madison played a crucial role in drafting and pushing for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and its first ten Amendments (the Bill of Rights). He, together with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, wrote the influential Federalist Papers, which expressed the importance of the Constitution and the Federal government to the newly formed nation. After becoming U.S. President, Madison switched teams and became opposed to the Federalists and their overarching measures. He helped found the Democratic-Republican Party, and as a result was part of the birth of the American two-party system, which is one of the most important aspects of American political life still today.
Madison met many challenges throughout his political career. Domestically, he disagreed with the Federalists and their proposals for an strong Federal government, and as such the growing tension brought forth strong partisan opposition. Internationally, the biggest challenge he encountered came from Great Britain, who still had strong economic influence and military power in North American, and once again put the newly founded country under threat. As a result, Madison waged the famous War of 1812 against the British. After almost 3 years of war, the two nations finally signed a peace treaty, and Madison has been said to have successsfully helped to keep the burgeoning U.S. afloat.
Death and Legacy
Madison died on June 28th, 1836, in his native Orange County, Virginia. He is still regarded as one of the most important figures in U.S. history. Not only is he one of the "Founding Fathers" of the U.S. but, perhaps more importantly, he is also extolled for being the "Father of the Constitution". His firm belief in, and push for, civil liberty and personal freedom in the U.S. made the "Bill of Rights" an integral part of the Constitution, protecting rights and freedom that American citizens enjoy even unto this very day. He was also a patriot for his country, willing to wage a war against a powerful empire to protect its integrity. Many educational institutions, counties, and other public placeshaven named to honor him.