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James Madison
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Presidents of the USA

James MadisonJames Madison (1751-1836) was the fourth President of the United States of America. He was President from 1809 until 1817. Madison belonged to the Democratic-Republican Party.

Madison was born in Port Conway, Virginia, on March 16, 1751. Madison entered the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton) when he was 17 years old, studying government and history. During college, he and some friends formed a political club called the American Whig Society, which discussed anti-British topics.

Madison helped write the Virginia Constitution (1776), was a leader in the Virginia legislature (from 1776, where he worked diligently for religious freedom), and was elected to the Continental Congress (1779-1783). Madison and Thomas Jefferson became close friends, probably meeting in 1776 at the Virginia House of Delegates.

In 1787, Madison was the youngest member of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania(this was the meeting at which the US Constitution was written). Madison was an advocate for a stronger central government (years later, he later changed his position, calling for states' rights). Madison participated in editing the final draft of the US Constitution. He was the only person who kept extensive notes on this secret convention, and they are now the main record of this historic event.

Madison was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1789-1797) as a representative from Virginia. On Sept. 15, 1794, Madison married Dorothea (Dolley or Dolly) Payne Todd (1768-1849); Dolley was a widow with one surviving child (her first husband, John Payne Todd, and one of her children had died during a yellow fever epidemic). James Madison and Dolley never had children, but Dolley led the social life in Washington, D.C., for many years. President Thomas Jefferson appointed Madison Secretary of State in 1801.

Madison was elected President of the USA in 1808 and in 1812; he served from 1809 until 1817. George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry were his Vice-Presidents.

Naval seizures by Great Britain caused Madison to declare war with Britain on June 1, 1812. During the war, the British burned the White House, the Capitol, and much of Washington, D.C., Dolley saved many of Madison's important papers and George Washington's portrait. The War of 1812 ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814; neither side had won.

During Madison's term as President, the "Star-Spangled Banner" was written (by Francis Scott Key), steamboats began to operate, gaslights were introduced, many new roads were being built (mostly by private companies), parts of Florida became US territory, and Native Americans were defeated in many areas.

Madison retired to Montpelier, his home in Virginia, in 1817. Late in life, he worked in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, helped Jefferson found the University of Virginia, and worked against slavery. Madison died on June 28, 1836 - he was 85 years old.


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