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James Madison: 4th President: Pro Separation of Church and State

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Who is on the $5000 bill?

You guessed it, James Madison.

You guessed it, James Madison.


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, which did not seem to affect his political career.

James Madison played a key role in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers

James Madison played a key role in the Constitution and the Federalist Papers

Major Accomplishments

He later married a widow, Dolley Payne Todd, and adopted her son John Payne Todd whom she had with her first husband, which 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 timid nature, he was a very bold politician. Although well-liked, his wife was often criticized for her love of gambling, wearing makeup, and using tobacco.

Madison had a significant influence on George Washington and forming the new Federal government. A few years before Washington's presidency, Madison wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, making it so that the Church of England would not rule over the country. 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 not to dictate 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.

The Constitutional Convention

In 1787, James Madison and many others gathered for the Federal Constitutional Convention and drafted the U.S. Constitution. Madison's role during this convention would result in his nickname, 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. Madison 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, they finished the Constitution. 39 of the 42 delegates approved the new Constitution, and eventually approved by the states. It 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. Madison wrote these to help with the ratification of the Constitution. He also drafted the first ten amendments. He is known as the "Author of the Bill of Rights" and the "Father of the Constitution." He did not approve of these titles because he believed they were not drafted due to a single mind and were "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 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 against both Federalist Charles C. Pickney and the Independent Republican George Clinton with a wide margin. Madison received a remarkable 70 percent of the electoral votes.

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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 in the second term, Eldridge Gerry held the position.

The Presidency of James Madison

Madison led the ill-prepared nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain. The war started very rough for Americans, but in the end, Americans felt victorious despite the stalemate. Unfortunately for Madison, negative feelings regarding the feelings that our nation was unprepared as it went against Britain in the War of 1812. As a result, Madison was able to forge a powerful 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's feelings towards him had significantly improved compared to early on in his Presidency. He retired after his second term, not going on for a third term.

After he retired from the Presidency, he and his wife played an active part in attempting to free enslaved people. They 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 he was winning side of virtually every issue throughout his career as a politician.

Fun Facts

  • 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.
  • 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.

Basic Facts

Question Answer


March 16, 1751 - Virginia

President Number



Democratic- Republican

Military Service

Virginia Militia - Colonel

Wars Served


Age at Beginning of Presidency

58 years old

Term of Office

March 4, 1809 - March 3, 1817

How Long President

8 years


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



  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2014). James Madison. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from
  • James Madison. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2016, from
  • James Madison. (2017, April 28). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from
  • "James Madison and the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787 - James Madison Papers, 1723-1859." The Library of Congress. Accessed April 15, 2018.
  • Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “James Madison.” Accessed April 21, 2016.­/president/madison.
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

© 2011 Angela Michelle Schultz


Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 19, 2011:

I actually don't, but going to the library works, I just can't write nearly as fast I would like.

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on October 19, 2011:

THis is a good idea for a Hub series. Have you got your Internet again?

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on September 29, 2011:

I have been slacking in my writings as I have been focusing on moving. Plus I no longer have Internet.

ThoughtSandwiches from Reno, Nevada on August 07, 2011:

Angela, James Madison has always been my favorite of the early crop of Virginia Presidents. I look forward to your future hubs on the subject so I must start following you!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 18, 2011:

Always glad to be a teacher of new things. :) I'm actually going through each of the Presidents. I'm learning new things myself.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 18, 2011:

This was a very interesting hub and it made me remember some more of my history and I learned some new things. Thanks.

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