James Madison was the fourth president of the United States. He was born March 16, 1751, and, other than a five-year span at a boarding school, he was privately tutored at home. He studied Latin, Greek, science, and philosophy at Princeton University (though it was called the College of New Jersey back then) and graduated in 1771.
Madison helped get Virginia’s Statute of Religious Freedom passed in 1786, and in 1789 helped write the US Constitution. He also wrote the Bill of Rights. Because of this work, he became known as the Father of the Constitution.
President James Madison
After serving as President Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state, Madison was elected president in 1808. One of the new president’s biggest problems was the trouble between the United States and Great Britain. American ships and crews were being captured by the British. In his second term, Madison declared war on Britain. The war was known as the War of 1812.
In 1814, British forces invaded Maryland and made their way to Washington where they burned many official buildings including the White House and the Capitol, forcing Madison and his government to flee the area. However, the next month, under the direction of Andrew Jackson and his soldiers, US troops were able to stop another invasion. The victory of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war.
Madison died on June 28, 1836 at his Montpelier estate. Just two years before, he had written a message titled “Advice to my Country” and had specifically requested that it not be published until after he was gone. In the note he said: “The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened; and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.”