James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, in King George County, Virginia. He graduated from Princeton University at the age of 20 in 1771. He served in the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776. In 1780, Madison served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. Madison served as the chief recorder at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He is generally regarded as the “Father of the Constitution”. Later in 1787, Madison teamed with Alexander Hamilton (and to a small extent John Jay) to write the Federalist Papers, a series of persuasive essays designed to convince the states to ratify the Constitution. Written under the pen name “Publius,” the Federalist Papers is considered one of the most important documents in American history.
In 1789, Madison was elected to the House of Representatives, where he helped draft The Bill of Rights and fought against passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. Madison married Dolley Payne Todd in 1794. He helped found the Democratic Party and was chosen as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State in 1801.
Madison was elected as America’s fourth president in 1808. George Clinton was appointed vice president but died in office in 1812. Madison’s first term was plagued by tensions with Great Britain and his foreign policy was widely criticized. Despite the problems that characterized his first term, Madison was re-elected in 1812 for a second term. Elbridge Gerry was appointed vice president, but he too died in office in 1814. During Madison’s second term, he guided the nation through The War of 1812 with Great Britain, which many called the second American Revolution. Unfortunately, the peace treaty signed between the two countries ultimately settled few of the issues between the countries.
In 1817, after his second term, James Madison retired to his estate at Montpelier, Virginia. In 1829 he served as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention before his death on June 28, 1836. He was the last surviving signer of the Constitution. Madison was honored on the United States $5,000 bill before it was taken out of circulation.