James Madison, Jr. (March 16, [O.S. March 5] 1751 – June 28, 1836) was a political theorist, American statesman, and served as thefourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Madison inherited his plantation Montpelier in Virginia and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime. He served as both a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a member of the Continental Congress prior to the Constitutional Convention. After the Convention, he became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it, both nationally and in Virginia. His collaboration withAlexander Hamilton and John Jay produced The Federalist Papers, among the most important treatises in support of the Constitution. Madison changed his political views during his life. During deliberations on the constitution, he favored a strong national government, but later preferred stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life.
In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. He is noted for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is known also as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". He worked closely with PresidentGeorge Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and the Federalist Party in 1791, he andThomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party. In response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson and Madison drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions arguing that states can nullify unconstitutional laws.
As Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801–09), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation's size. Madison succeeded Jefferson as President in 1809, was re-elected in 1813, and presided over renewed prosperity for several years. After the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against the United Kingdom, he led the U.S. into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system. As a result, Madison afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed.