Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Madison, James

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MADISON, JAMES, an American statesman, 4th President of the United States; born in Port Conway, Va., March 16, 1751. He was the eldest of a family of seven children. His early education was mostly under private tutors. In 1769 he entered Princeton College, graduating in 1771. He studied law, and afterward, with some idea of entering the ministry, theology. He first attracted public attention through his efforts, in company with Jefferson and George Mason, to secure the religious rights of the dissenting sects in Virginia, as against the taxation and persecution to which they were subjected by the Anglican party. In 1776 he was elected to the convention that framed the Virginia constitution; in 1777 he was defeated for the Virginia Assembly, but appointed a member of the Executive Council; in 1780 entered the Continental Congress, where he served three years; and in 1784 was elected to the Virginia Legislature, where he advocated the abolition of the feudal system of entail and primogeniture, and the removal of the remaining hindrances to perfect religious freedom. In 1785 he urged a meeting of the States by delegates to perfect a common government, and was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and one of the chief framers of the Constitution of the United States. He advocated the adoption of it in some of the ablest papers of “The Federalist.” He gradually parted political company with the Federal party and refused a seat in the cabinet and the mission to France in consequence of his inclination to adopt the principles of the Republican party. During Adams's administration he remained mostly in retirement. In 1794 he married a brilliant society woman, Mrs. Todd, who afterward proved socially helpful to him in public life. He opposed the Alien and Sedition Laws that were repealed somewhat through his influence. His writings produced to some extent the reaction against the Federalists that resulted in Jefferson's election, who at once (1801) made him Secretary of State, in which office he conducted the diplomatic affairs of government so ably as to make him Jefferson's successor. He was elected to the presidency in 1808. The principal events of his administrations concern the War of 1812 with Great Britain and the treaty by which it was concluded. He filled the office for two terms, retiring in 1817 to his estate. He served in his old age as rector of the University of Virginia, and as a member of the convention called to reform the Virginia constitution. He died in Montpelier, Va., June 28, 1836.

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