James Madison

— 4th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery


POLITICAL PARTY:Democratic-Republican
TERM:March 4, 1809 to March 3, 1817

BORN:March 16, 1751
BIRTHPLACE:Port Conway, Virginia
DIED:June 28, 1836, Montpelier, Virginia
OCCUPATION:Planter, statesman, lawyer
MARRIED:Dorothea Payne Todd, 1794

James Madison was a sickly child who spent long periods of convalescence in reading and studying. Like Washington and Jefferson before him, James Madison was the son of a Virginia farmer. At age 11, he was sent to a school 70 miles away from his home. There he studied Latin, Greek, French, algebra, geometry, geography, and literature. After five years at this school, Madison went to the College of New Jersey in Princeton, instead of going to William and Mary like most Virginians did.

After his graduation from college, Madison wanted to become a minister, but he started to study law and got involved in politics in 1772, when he learned that several Baptists were put in prison because they held religious views different from those of the Church of England. He vowed he would never be silent about religious intolerance and persecution. By 1774, he began the struggle for independence from England. His efforts eventually led to the constitutional convention.

After many years of public service as a member of the Continental Congress, congresssman, and Secretary of State, he ran for president in 1808. In 1809, James Madison became the fourth President of the United States. He was also the smallest president ever. He was only5' 4" and weighed less than 100 pounds. President Madison was joined in Washington by his wife Dolley. Dolley was a noted hostess, and she is also known as the first person to serve a new dessert called "ice cream."But Dolley did more important things than host parties and serve ice cream. When Washington was attacked in 1812, she saved the original copy of the Constitution and many other American historical documents from being burned when the White House was torched by the British.

During Madison's term as president, America went to war with England. The war of 1812 was a very difficult time for the young nation. It caused a staggering debt, a disordered currency, and destruction in the capital. But through it all, President Madison managed to accomplish a few positive things. Indiana was admitted to the Union as the 19th state, the Missouri Territory was established, and the capital was rebuilt. The peace treaty with England stands to this day.

Madison retired from the White House in 1817 and returned to his home in Montpelier, Virginia. He died in 1836 at the age of 85.

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