The New International Encyclopædia/Madison, James

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The New International Encyclopædia
Madison, James
Edition of 1905. See also James Madison on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MADISON, James (1751-1836). An eminent American statesman, fourth President of the United States. He was born at Port Conway, Va., March 16, 1751; entered Princeton College in 1769, and after his graduation in 1771 undertook the study of law. While only twenty-three he served on the Committee of Safety of his county, and two years thereafter, in 1776, was a delegate to the Revolutionary convention of Virginia. In this body he was a member of the committee appointed to draft a constitution, in connection with which work he rendered notable aid to Jefferson in his agitation for the complete toleration of all religious denominations. Madison was sent to the first Legislature elected under this Constitution; in the following year he was one of the executive council, and in 1780 he was sent to the Continental Congress, where for three years he served with marked credit. He again became a member of the Virginia Legislature in 1784, where he was particularly attentive to the problem of the relations of the States under the Confederation and strongly favored the calling of the Annapolis Convention of 1786, although for political reasons he was not a member himself. At the same time Madison, as a member of the Legislature, was again contending for religious toleration, and also for sound public finance. In 1787 he was again elected to Congress, then in its decadence, and in the same year served in the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. In that body he was the author of what became known as the ‘Virginia plan,’ and throughout rendered such manifold and effective service as to win for himself the title of the ‘Father of the Constitution.’ He was an untiring advocate of the principle of proportional representation in the upper as well as the lower House of the National Legislature. Madison coöperated with Hamilton and Jay in the production of the Federalist (q.v.), about 30 of the 80 papers of that work being attributed to him. Of inestimable value to the Supreme Court in the interpretation of the Constitution were the notes of the debates which he kept and which were published by the Government after his death (3 vols., Washington, 1843).

Upon his return to Virginia, Madison was chosen a delegate to the Constitutional Convention called to take action on the new Constitution, and in the critical contest in that body he led the Federalists and gained a substantial victory over Henry, Mason, Lee, and the other opponents of the Constitution. The Anti-Federalists, however, were so strong in the Legislature that Madison failed in his candidacy for the Senate, chiefly through the influence of Patrick Henry, although he was elected to the first House of Representatives, defeating James Monroe, a moderate Anti-Federalist. He served in that body for four terms, until the retirement of Washington from the Presidency, and as party lines were gradually drawn he became recognized as the ally of Jefferson, and as the leader in the House of the Anti-Federalist opposition to the policy of Alexander Hamilton (q.v.). He proposed the resolutions for the creation of the first three executive departments (those of State, Treasury, and War), proposed a series of twelve amendments to the Constitution, out of which were formed the first ten amendments as finally adopted, and took an important part in the framing of the first tariff act. The direction of business in the House was to a large extent intrusted to him. A further contribution in the formative period of the Government was his insistence upon the President's power to remove his Cabinet officers without the concurrence of the Senate. Upon matters involving party policy, from the time of his definite break with Hamilton, he followed the normal course of his associates, opposing Great Britain, and particularly the Jay Treaty (q.v.), refusing to approve fully the Administration's policy with reference to the manner of paying the domestic debt, and taking a position of vigorous hostility to the establishment of a national bank. His enemies finally attempted, and with some success, to connect him with the questionable political journalism of Freneau and others. With Jefferson he tried to discredit Hamilton and was charged with the authorship of the Giles resolutions attacking the management of the Treasury. He warmly supported the resolution calling upon the President for the instructions given to Jay and led the attack upon the President's reply. Madison's four years of retirement (1797-1801) were broken by brief service in the Virginia Legislature (1799-1800), and by his noteworthy contribution to political literature, popularly known as the Virginia Resolutions of 1798. (See Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.) Upon the success of the Jeffersonian Republicans in 1801 Madison was named by Jefferson as Secretary of State, and retained the office throughout both terms of his chief. The administrative routine of this service was broken in the early years by the negotiations leading to the purchase of Louisiana and by the strained relations with the Barbary States. The later years, however, produced a series of problems of difficulty and importance, turning largely upon the theories maintained by England as correct principles of international law. It thus fell to the lot of Madison to direct the fruitless mission of William Pinkney to England, and to take action at the time of the search of the Leopard. The policy of embargoes had been adopted, the war of commercial retaliation had been begun, and the conduct of England and France in regard to American commerce had reached a critical point, when the second term of Jefferson ended and the power of the ‘Virginia dynasty’ was attested by the election to the Presidency of Madison, who was Jefferson's candidate, and who received 122 out of 175 electoral votes. His first term was occupied largely by the diplomatic difficulties with England, culminating in a request for the recall of the English Minister, and by the protracted dealings with France with reference to the commercial decrees of Napoleon. The anti-English faction gained control of Madison's party, and their activity, coupled with that of the younger pro-war element, finally secured the acquiescence of the President in the Congressional policy of war against England. War was declared by the United States on June 18, 1812. At the outset the Americans suffered serious reverses on land, but on the sea they won a succession of triumphs. Madison was reëlected to the Presidency in 1812, receiving 128 votes, 89 being given to his opponent, De Witt Clinton, who had been set up by a coalition of Federalists and the New York wing of the Republican Party. The war with England lasted almost through half of Madison's second term. Madison's Presidency witnessed the complete overthrow of the Federalist organization. The old Federalist principles of a strong national government were now largely adopted by the dominant Republican Party, as illustrated by the increased appropriations for the army and navy and by the reëstablishment of the national bank, in all of which Madison concurred, although he differed with his party upon the warmly contested point of the propriety of making appropriations of national money for public improvements. Upon these matters, as upon the subject of the tariff, neither sectional nor party lines were permanently drawn in Madison's time. Upon his withdrawal from public service Madison retired to Montpelier, Va., where after a period of twenty years of quiet and leisure he died, June 28, 1836. In later life he took much interest in popular education and devoted himself to promoting the interests of the University of Virginia. His last public service was in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1829, where his frail and venerable figure commanded the most profound attention and respect. His wife, formerly Mrs. Dorothea (familiarly known as ‘Dolly’) Payne Todd, who lived until 1849, was for many years a conspicuous figure in Washington society. Her biography has been written by M. W. Goodwin (New York, 1897). The Letters and Writings of Madison were published in 1865 (Philadelphia), and a new edition of his Writings was edited by Gaillard Hunt (New York, 1900). John Quincy Adams wrote a biography of Madison (Boston, 1850); W. C. Rives prepared a more complete Life and Times (Boston, 1859-69). The history of Madison's Administration is ably treated by Henry Adams in his History of the United States from 1801 to 1817 (New York, 1889-90). Consult also the biography by Gay, James Madison (Boston, 1884; in the “American Statesmen Series”). A calendar of Madison's correspondence appeared in Bulletin No. 4 of the Bureau of Rolls and Library, Department of State (Washington, 1894). For an account of Madison's Administrations, see the article, United States.