About James Madison
Considered the Father of the Constitution, a title he decried, he was one of the foremost thinkers behind the document and others that contributed to the formation of the United States. The first years of the fledgling country were far from easy and disaster loomed almost around every corner. He did his part to steer the country towards a stronger union and brighter future.
Born in 1751 in Virginia, he attended what was later to become Princeton, but at the time was called the College of New Jersey. Fascinated with law and history and equipped with a sharp mind, he helped with writing the Virginia constitution in 1776 at the age of 25. He served in the Virginia assembly and then in the Constitutional Convention, becoming an ardent debater on the themes of federation.
James Madison and the Federalist Papers
In fact with Hamilton and John Jay, James Madison was one of the, at the time, anonymous authors of The Federalist, a series of compelling essays on the Constitution and why it should be ratified. These essays are considered to be some of the best work of political science ever. At one point they argue that the core theme of the American experiment is if mankind can actually form a good government using reason and choice rather than be at the mercy of circumstance and brute force.
James Madison as a Politician
Madison continued to serve in the US government. Not only did he help write the Bill of Rights, he helped create the first revenue legislation, attempting to create a fairer taxation policy. His efforts, among those of others, created the seeds of the Jeffersonian Party or what was to become the Republican Party.
When Thomas Jefferson was elected as the nation’s 3rd president, Madison became Secretary of State, and oversaw rising tensions with Europe, specifically Britain and France. He successfully ran for President becoming the 4th person to fill that office in 1808. He held the office for 2 successive terms.
The War of 1812
One of the foremost events of his administration was the 1812 war with Britain. The US was not ready for war and at first it went very badly for the young nation. The capitol was conquered and the White House burnt to the ground. However, the US eventually won the war, substantially helped by various successful campaigns such as one led by Andrew Jackson in New Orleans.
Madison retired but continued his intellectual work of defending the American experiment, such as arguing against States rights or the notion that a state could nullify federal laws. He died at the age of 85 in 1836, the last founding father. His legacy lives on in the American experiment he helped to form.