The 4th President of the United States was James Madison. His time in office spanned from 1809 until 1817. He enjoyed philosophy and various aspects of politics. The roles he took on secured his place in history as a diplomat and one of the prestigious Founding Fathers of the country. He is considered one of the great leaders of the country.
Madison ranks high for his approval as a President. One of the fascinating things about his demeanor is he could be serious and then tell a joke. It took some time for those around him to understand his sense of humor. His family was known to have various health issues, but his weren’t as bad as many of his siblings.
James Madison’s Health Issues
His biggest symptom over the years was bouts of chronic fatigue. It was very difficult for him to stay on top of his duties when he struggled with them. His wife often took on various duties for him to reduce suspicions from others about his health. He may have been a hypochondriac, causing him anxiety about health issues that weren’t real. It could have been difficult for him because he had seen his siblings suffer from many health issues over the years.
President Madison’s Early Years
Madison was born March 16th, 1751, to a wealthy family in Virginia. The family-owned a tobacco plantation known as Mount Pleasant. He was one of 12 children. Due to illness, many of them didn’t reach adulthood. It isn’t known what the underlying ailments were. Madison was kept at home frequently to reduce the risk of illness.
Due to the wealth of the family, he received a very good education. He was educated at the plantation by various tutors. One that worked with him for several years was Donald Robertson. Through him, Madison excelled in writing, reading, math and learned fluent Latin.
In 1769 he enrolled at Princeton and excelled in all of his classes. He was passionate about debate and speech. He joined the American Whig Society, an organization on campus with political undertones. He worked hard and completed the three-year Bachelor’s program in two years. He had a strong grasp of morality, values, and philosophy due to his education.
Was James Madison a Lawyer?
Many refer to him as a lawyer, but he has no record of achieving a law degree. He returned to the plantation and tutored his younger siblings. He also took up reading various law books and taught himself how to interpret those laws and situations where they could be applied. He talked fluently about the law to the point many turned to him for expert legal advice!
Madison took over the plantation after his parents died. He was an excellent businessman. The plantation had more than 100 slaves doing the labor there at any given point in time. It is claimed when he took office, he publicly called for freedom of slaves. However, those close to him said he referred to slaves as a necessary part of the business in private. He believed it was the only way for any plantation to be prosperous.
President Madison’s Wife
Madison wed Dolly Payne Todd on Sept 15th, 1974. She had been married before, but her husband passed away due to yellow fever. The couple had a short courtship but spent a great deal of time together once they were married. She fully supported his career path and was often at his side through all of it. She had various health issues on and off. It is believed they were complications of yellow fever.
She loved to take on the task of hosting dinners or campaign roles. She is credited with the mold for how the First Lady acts and takes care of social aspects for her husband. The couple never had any children of their own. Dolly had three children, but only one survived yellow fever. Madison was a wonderful father to him.
There were rumors he tried to have children but couldn’t with his wife. He may have been infertile, or she may have been after her bout with yellow fever. Others stated he never wanted to have biological children due to the many siblings with chronic health issues. He didn’t want to see his children suffering.
Path to the Presidency
Madison was always highly regarded by others from all walks of life. He was a good listener and a great speaker. People were interested in his thoughts and ideas. They listened to him, and they respected him. He was willing to listen to other sides of issues to gain knowledge.
He spent time as part of the Continental Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates. Such roles were a challenge due to the Revolutionary War taking place. With both of those roles, he was involved during and after the war ended. His diplomatic ways helped to reduce tensions and find solutions. His recognition widely increased when he became Secretary of State in 1801. He held this position until 1809, when he became President.
Madison wasn’t afraid to speak up and ask for change. He was solution-oriented, offering ways to make improvements. One such issue he took a stand against was the Articles of Confederation. He felt it left the government weak and vulnerable. To help eliminate this problem, he was a driving force being the creation of the Constitutional Convention.
When others saw him taking a stand and not back down, they were intrigued. Many felt the same way but hid their thoughts. Others discussed them privately. With his leadership, the written message was getting out there to the masses. The number of supporters grew, and those who didn’t speak up before started to find their voices.
He quickly took on a leadership role within the convention. It wasn’t long before he joined forces with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. They collaborated to write The Federalist Papers. These influential essays were designed to help ratify the Constitution. Once this was a success, Madison turned his attention to the House of Representatives. He was one of the top advisors to President Washington. So few were surprised when Madison campaigned for President or that he won.
When he took office, he tried various strategies to work with Britain. There were issues with embargos and other economic factors. Britain continued to attack American ships and take the goods from them. This President wasn’t going to stand for it. A solution couldn’t be found all agreed to, and the War of 1812 ensued. The United States was victorious, and it showed he would not allow another country to take advantage.
To protect the United States and boost the economy, he created The Second Bank of the United States. The Protective Tariff soon followed it in 1816. His second term was coined the Era of Good Feelings, and it was a relief to have the wars in the rear-view mirror. Funding the wars had taken a toll on the country financially. Part of the reconstruction was to get the banks backed and on track.
A tariff was put in place for American goods, helping to protect the economy. In addition, the government put money into the military to help keep them strong. Madison believed this prevented the United States from becoming a target for other countries. Since the two political parties were greatly divided after the wars, he extended an olive branch.
While he stood his ground on many topics, he was willing to negotiate with others. This brought about discussions and new ideas. In the end, both parties seemed to be happier with the outcome than they were before. This type of leadership in his second term was different from how he presided over topics in his first term.
His first term focused on power and growth and showed other countries the United States didn’t back down. His second term was focused more on the people and helping them have their rights upheld. While he publicly asked for slavery to end, he also supported states in the union making their own decision about it. He tried to avoid the issue, mainly because he was linked to owning slaves.
James Madison’s Failures as President
In the overall scheme of things, his portrayal of the American Indian culture was a failure. He didn’t value their society or their beliefs as they did. Instead, he worked out deals to buy their land for a low cost and some supplies. He also encouraged them to give up their nomadic ways of hunting. Instead, he wanted them to stay in one spot and farm. Naturally, the Indians weren’t happy with this new way of life.
He did this to help the United States grow and access land they didn’t before. Madison had a vision for the county that included expansion and development. It was a quest to offer a peaceful existence rather than people being fearful of Indians when they tried to establish a home on new land or explore unknown territories. One of the ideas he introduced was for white women to marry Indian men. He felt it would break down the barriers, but it upset people.
The idea was pushed aside due to the opposition to it. Publicly, he was optimistic that the whites and Indians could find harmony together on the land. However, in private, he was heard that the Indians were savages who could never be tamed or trusted on more than one occasion. While his intentions may have been good, this is considered the biggest failure of his presidential career.
After the Presidency
When his second term as President ended in 1817, Madison retired. It wasn’t long, though, before he grew restless, and he jumped back into politics. He wasn’t fond of President Adam’s administration. He worked hard to publish information informing others why he felt they weren’t going a good job.
He enjoyed a good debate and discussing philosophy. He loved to mentor and tutor young men he felt had potential in the world of politics. He would guide them, try to instill values and morals in them, and help them to feel confident with standing firm in their beliefs. Most of them were in awe of Madison. They appreciated the time he dedicated to them and all they learned from him.
He was often asked if he had any regrets as President. Sometimes he would joke as a reply. Other times, he would state the challenges, accomplishments, and disappointments that helped shape him. He had an incredible opportunity to do good for the country, and he stood behind his decisions. He didn’t always get the outcome he was after, but he pursued it with heart and passion!
Despite his family history of illnesses and his chronic fatigue, he lived to be 85 years old! He passed away on June 28th, 1886. His cause of death was congestive heart failure. At the time of his death, he still owned the plantation and 36 slaves. Both were left to his wife, Dolly. Upon her death, they were given to their son. He freed the slaves and sold the plantation land. He had no desire to maintain it, and he had accumulated a huge amount of debt from various failed endeavors.
President James Madison will always be known as the Father of the Constitution. He played a vital role in the concept, in the numerous drafts presented, and in promoting the Constitution. He was also part of the group that created the United States Bill of Rights. With this successful change, history was made! The Bill of Rights gave everyone personal freedom under the Constitution of the United States.
During his time as Secretary of State, Madison was able to double the size of the United States. This was accomplished through the Louisiana Purchase! More than 23 million acres of land were acquired during his presidency. Most of the land had belonged to American Indians. While many see that as an accomplishment, some still see obtaining such land as controversial today.