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James Madison

James MadisonJames Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817) and is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

He was the principal author of the US Constitution, and is often called the “Father of the Constitution”. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first president to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafting many basic laws, and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is also known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. As a political theorist, Madison’s most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.

As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He secretly co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo Act of 1807. As president, he led the poorly prepared nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain. A series of disasters at the beginning of the war damaged his reputation, but by 1814–15 American forces repulsed major British invasions, the Federalist opposition fell into disarray, and Americans felt triumphant at the end of the war. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second National Bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.

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Related People:

John Jay

John Adams

Thomas Jefferson

Learn more about the Federalist Papers co authored by James Madison

federalist papers

How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation? The means of security can only be regulated by the means and the danger of attack. They will, in fact, be ever determined by these rules, and by no others. It is in vain to oppose constitutional barriers to the impulse of self-preservation. It is worse than in vain; because it plants in the Constitution itself necessary usurpations of power, every precedent of which is a germ of unnecessary and multiplied repetitions. If one nation maintains constantly a disciplined army, ready for the service of ambition or revenge, it obliges the most pacific nations who may be within the reach of its enterprises to take corresponding precautions. The fifteenth century was the unhappy epoch of military establishments in the time of peace. They were introduced by Charles VII. of France. All Europe has followed, or been forced into, the example. Had the example not been followed by other nations, all Europe must long ago have worn the chains of a universal monarch. Were every nation except France now to disband its peace establishments, the same event might follow. The veteran legions of Rome were an overmatch for the undisciplined valor of all other nations and rendered her the mistress of the world.

–James Madison, Federalist Papers


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