4. James Madison

“The Father of the Constitution”


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Presidential Basics

  • Full name: James Madison
  • Years in office: 1809–1817
  • Political party: Democratic-Republican
  • Vice president: George Clinton (first term), Elbridge Gerry (second term)
  • Age at inauguration: 57
  • Nicknames: “Father of the Constitution,” “Little Jemmy”

Random Trivia

  • Shortest president: At 5’4″ tall, James Madison is the shortest of all presidents.
  • Washington portrait: When the British invaded DC during the War of 1812, James Madison’s wife, Dolley Madison, is credited with saving the famous George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

Birth & Death

  • Birthday: March 16, 1751
  • Birthplace: Port Conway, Virginia
  • Death date: June 28, 1836
  • Place of death: Montpelier, Virginia
  • Place of burial: Montpelier, Virginia
  • Last words: “I always talk better lying down.”


  • Father: James Madison 1723–1801); Justice of the peace, vestryman, farmer
  • Mother: Eleanor Conway Madison (1732–1829)
  • Wife: Dorothea (Dolley) Payne Todd (1768 –1849)
  • Marriage: September 15, 1794 in Virginia
  • Kids: None
  • Home: Montpelier, Virginia

Other Facts

  • Height: 5’4”
  • Eye color: Blue
  • Ancestry: English
  • Religion: Episcopalian
  • Born in a log cabin: No
  • Owned enslaved people: Yes
  • Freemason: No


  • Early education: Donald Robertson’s school; private tutoring
  • College degree: Yes
  • College: Princeton (graduated in 1771)


  • Military Service: Yes
  • Lawyer: Yes
  • Writer
  • Colonel in Virginia Militia (1775)
  • Member of Orange County Committee of Safety (1775)
  • Member of  the Virginia Constitutional Convention (1776)
  • Member of Virginia Executive Council (1778–1779)
  • Member of Virginia Legislature (1779)
  • Member of Continental Congress (1780–1783)
  • Delegate to Annapolis Convention (1786)
  • Member of Constitutional Convention (1787)
  • Member of the Virginia Ratification Convention (1788)
  • U.S. House of Representatives (1789–1797)
  • Secretary of State: Jefferson administration (1801–1809)
  • President (1809–1817)
  • Rector of University of Virginia (1826–1836)


  • The Writings of James Madison
  • The Papers of James Madison


At the end of his second term, Jefferson followed the precedent established by Washington and did not seek a third term.  He then hand-selected his successor, James Madison.

Jefferson had lost popularity because of his trade embargo with Britain and France.  A Democratic-Republican victory was far from certain.

In the end, Madison won by a large margin, and the “Father of the Constitution” became the leader of our union.

The onset of the War of 1812 was just days apart from the beginning of the election of 1812.  Madison’s popularity had been fluctuating for much of the recent years.  The Federalists, in an attempt to unseat the incumbent, changed their platform to include as many different perspectives and opinions as possible.  The strategy failed and Madison won his second term by a large margin.


US Constitution

You give me a credit to which I have no claim in calling me ‘The writer of the Constitution of the U.S.’ This was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands.

-James Madison to William Cogswell, March 10, 1834




© 2021 Periodic Presidents, PJ and Jamie Creek