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James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 (O.S. March 5) – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817) and 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 inherited tobacco land and owned slaves although he spent his entire adult life as a career politician.
After the constitution had been drafted, he became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify the constitution. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced the Federalist Papers (1788), which were only circulated in New York at the time, but would later come to be seen as one of the most famous 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, his political views changed over 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 in in between the two extremes late in his life.
In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. In one of his most famous roles, he drafted the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and what became the Federalist party in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called by historians the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He 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. 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 an embargo, he led the nation into the War of 1812. The war was in response to British encroachments on American honor and rights as well as to facilitate American settlement in the Midwest which was blocked by Indian allies of the British. The war was an administrative nightmare without a strong army or financial system, leading Madison afterwards to support a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank that he had long opposed.
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