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Biography of James Madison


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JAMES MADISON, fourth President of the United States, was born at King George, Virginia, March 16th, 1751. His father, James Madison of Orange, was of English ancestry. He graduated at Princeton, N.J. in 1771, and studied law. In 1776, he was a member of the Virginia convention, and though too modest for an orator, his life from this time was devoted to politics, and he became one of the most eminent, accomplished, and respected of American statesmen. He was elected to the Federal congress in 1779; in 1784 to the legislature of Virginia in which he supported the measures of Mr. Jefferson in the revision of the laws, and placing all religious denominations on an equality of freedom without state support. As a member of the convention of 1787, which framed the Federal constitution, Mr. Madison acted with Jay and Hamilton, and with them wrote the Federalist. He did as much as any man, perhaps, to secure the adoption of the constitution, but opposed the financial policy of Hamilton, and became a leader in the Republican or Jeffersonian party. He declined the mission to France, and the office of Secretary of State, but in 1792, became the leader of the Republican party in congress, and wrote the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which contain the basis of the State-rights doctrines.

In 1801, Mr. Jefferson having been elected President. Madison was made Secretary of State, which post he filled during the eight years of his administration. In 1809, he was elected President. The European wars of that period, with their blockades and orders in council, were destructive to American commerce. The claim of the English government to impress seamen from American vessels was violently resisted. Mr. Madison vainly endeavored to avoid a war with England, which was declared in 1812, and continued for two years, at a cost of 30,000 lives. He was elected for a second term, during which he approved the establishment of a national bank as a financial necessity - a measure which he had opposed and vetoed. In 1817, he retired to his seat at Montpelier, Virginia, where he continued to serve his country as rector of the University of Virginia, and a promoter of agriculture and public improvements. Without being a brilliant man, he was a statesman of eminent ability and purity of character. He died at Montpelier, January 28, 1836.