James Madison: 4th President: Pro Separation of Church and State
Who is on the $5000 bill?
James Madison, our fourth president, was born on March 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia. Madison grew up as the oldest of twelve children, although only nine survived infancy. Six of his siblings lived into adulthood: three brothers and three sisters, all were younger. His father James Madison Sr. was a tobacco farmer and his mother was Nelly Conway Madison. Both of his parents were very influential to the President.
He was well-studied, although he did not make traditional choices. He attended Princeton, which was not the norm of that era. Madison's attendance there may have increased its popularity. His primary studies were languages, both old and new. Although he studied law as well, he never took the bar exam. He was able to graduate in two years and later worked as a lawyer, despite never officially passing the bar. This did not seem to affect his political career.
He later married a widow, Dolley Payne Todd and adopted her son John Payne Todd that she had with her first husband. This was a great surprise to many because Madison was known for his shy reticent personality. His wife compensated for his lack of charisma because she was extremely warm and joyful. Despite Madison's shy nature, he was a very bold politician. His wife, although was well-liked, was often criticized for her love of gambling, wearing make-up, and using tobacco.
Madison had a great influence on George Washington and the forming of the new Federal government. A few years prior to Washington's presidency, Madison wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. This made it so that the Church of England would not rule over the country, and people would be allowed to worship freely. Madison and Thomas Jefferson were good friends, and many even referred to Madison as Jefferson's protégé. He also worked as Thomas Jefferson's secretary of state, where he supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which essentially doubled the size of the United States at the time. Both Jefferson and Madison opposed the national debt and would be ashamed to hear where our current national debt is at today.
He strongly opposed a very active government and felt that the government should have very little power over the people, which is one reason he wanted a separation of church and state. He wanted the nation to not dictate over how or who we worshiped. He was sickened by George Washington's and Alexander Hamilton's desire to establish a government similar to a European government.
What Was James Madison's Role in the Constitutional Convention?
In 1787, James Madison and many others gathered for the Federal Constitutional Convention, which ultimately was how the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Madison's role during this convention would result in him being called the "Father of the Constitution." He began his work by working on George Mason's draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
During the Convention, Madison wrote "Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress," which recorded the activities of Congress as they wrote the Constitution that would replace the previous Articles of Confederation. Many people also had a hand in the writing of it, it was Madison who wrote George Washington on April 16, 1787, stating he had "formed in my mind some outlines of a new system, I take the liberty of submitting them without apology, to your eye." He entitled it, "Vices of the Political System of the US [sic]."
When the Virginia delegates met in early May 1787, they used this as the outline for the "Virginia Plan of Government." Four months and much debate later, the Constitution was written. The new Constitution was then approved by 39 of the 42 delegates. It was eventually approved by the states and became effective in 1789.
Father of the Constitution
James Madison was not only our fourth United States President, but he was also one of our founding fathers due to his work on the Constitution. He wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, 29 total. He wrote these in order to help with the ratification of the Constitution. He also drafted the first ten amendments. He has been coined as being the "Author of the Bill of Rights," as well as the "Father of the Constitution." He fought these titles due to his belief that they were not drafted due to a single mind and was "the work of many heads and many hands."
He felt strongly about adhering to the Constitution and was very outspoken, despite his shy nature, in getting the Bill of Rights ratified. Many disagreed with the writing of the Bill of Rights; in fact, Madison was hesitant despite encouragement to write them. Ultimately, he chose to write the Bill of Rights and confirmed to the masses that they were not going against the Constitution, but rather more fully supporting and explaining what was written in the Constitution. These would protect our liberties and still do today.
Who Did James Madison Run Against in 1808?
James Madison first ran for President in the 1808 presidential election as the Democratic-Republican. He won with a wide margin, against both Federalist Charles C. Pickney and the Independent Republican George Clinton. Madison actually received a remarkable 70 percent of the electoral votes.
James Madison served two terms from 1809 to 1817. His presidency started the same day as his term as Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson expired. For his first term as president, he had George Clinton as his vice-President, and the second term Eldridge Gerry held the position.
The Presidency of James Madison
Madison led the ill-prepared nation into the War of 1812, which was fought against Great Britain. The war started out very rough for Americans, but in the end, Americans felt victorious despite the stalemate. Unfortunately for Madison, his reputation was already tarnished due to negative feelings regarding the feelings that our nation was underprepared as it went against Britain in the War of 1812. As a result, Madison was able to forge a very strong military.
Also during his Presidency, he created the second national bank, which he put into place in 1816. His secretary of state wanted to stop the first national bank in 1812, but Madison recognized that the government would not be able to continue to fight in the War of 1812, without the bank. At the end of his Presidency, the nation was on an upswing of good feelings, rather than the downward trend early on in his Presidency. He retired after his second term, not going on for a third term.
After his retirement from the Presidency, he and his wife had an active part in attempting to free slaves. They actually worked on freeing and moving many slaves to the West coast of South Africa. He died at the age of 85, on June 28, 1836, in Orange County in Montpelier, Virginia. He was buried in the family plot on the Madison mansion grounds. He is remembered as one of the most successful politicians, because of his ability to be on the winning side of virtually every issue throughout his entire career as a politician.
March 16, 1751 - Virginia
Virginia Militia - Colonel
Age at Beginning of Presidency
58 years old
Term of Office
March 4, 1809 - March 3, 1817
How Long President
George Clinton (1809–1812) None (1812–1813) Elbridge Gerry (1813–1814) None (1814–1817)
Age and Year of Death
June 28, 1836 (aged 85)
Cause of Death
- He is one of our smallest presidents at only 5'4".
- Along with helping create the Constitution, he fought to have the first ten amendments added to it.
- His wife, Dolly, often served ice cream at get-togethers in the White House, which was a new treat during his time.
- He had to live in temporary quarters during part of his time in office since England had the White House set on fire. During the fire, Dolley saved the valuable portrait of George Washington that still adorns the White House walls today, when a fire broke out there.
List of American Presidents
1. George Washington
16. Abraham Lincoln
31. Herbert Hoover
2. John Adams
17. Andrew Johnson
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Thomas Jefferson
18. Ulysses S. Grant
33. Harry S. Truman
4. James Madison
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
5. James Monroe
20. James Garfield
35. John F. Kennedy
6. John Quincy Adams
21. Chester A. Arthur
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
7. Andrew Jackson
22. Grover Cleveland
37. Richard M. Nixon
8. Martin Van Buren
23. Benjamin Harrison
38. Gerald R. Ford
9. William Henry Harrison
24. Grover Cleveland
39. James Carter
10. John Tyler
25. William McKinley
40. Ronald Reagan
11. James K. Polk
26. Theodore Roosevelt
41. George H. W. Bush
12. Zachary Taylor
27. William Howard Taft
42. William J. Clinton
13. Millard Fillmore
28. Woodrow Wilson
43. George W. Bush
14. Franklin Pierce
29. Warren G. Harding
44. Barack Obama
15. James Buchanan
30. Calvin Coolidge
45. Donald Trump
- Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2014). James Madison. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/jamesmadison
- James Madison. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from https://www.montpelier.org/james-and-dolley-madison/james-madison
- James Madison. (2017, April 28). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from https://www.biography.com/people/james-madison-9394965
- "James Madison and the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 - James Madison Papers, 1723-1859." The Library of Congress. Accessed April 15, 2018. https://www.loc.gov/collections/james-madison-papers/articles-and-essays/james-madison-and-the-federal-constitutional-convention-of-1787/.
- Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “James Madison.” Accessed April 21, 2016. http://millercenter.org/president/madison.
- Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz