HISTORY MEME I :  James Madison (s. 1751-1836)

James Madison was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the United States Constitution, and as the key champion and author of the United States Bill of Rights. He served as a politician much of his adult life.

After the constitution had been drafted, Madison became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay  produced the Federalist Papers (1788). Circulated only in New York at the time, they would later be considered among the most important polemics in support of the Constitution. He was also a delegate to the Virginia constitutional ratifying convention, and was instrumental to the successful ratification effort in Virginia. Like most of his contemporaries, Madison changed his political views during his life. During the drafting and ratification of the constitution, he favored a strong national government, though later he grew to favor stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life. In 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party).

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation’s size. After his election to the presidency, he presided over renewed prosperity for several years. As president (1809–17), after the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against Great Britain, he led the nation into the War of 1812. He was responding to British encroachments on American honor and rights; in addition, he wanted to end the influence of the British among their Indian allies, whose resistance blocked United States settlement in the Midwest around the Great Lakes. Madison found the war to be an administrative nightmare, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system; as a result, he afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed. Madison supported the three-fifths compromise that allowed three-fifths of the enumerated population of slaves to be counted for representation.

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