Tuesday, February 5, 2008

#4 - James Madison, 1809-1817

There is something appropriate about James Madison's post appearing on Super Duper Tuesday. The first President James M. was the one who is known for a lot of things, most notably, being the father of the American Constitution. When the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia, it was Madison who took the lead on many issues, helping to hammer out the document that serves as the foundation for our government. He, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, helped advance their cause by writing the Federalist Papers, which were published anonymously.

James Madison attended college at Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey). It may be noted that our fourth president, was the third to attend college. Washington did not attend college, Adams graduated from Harvard, and Jefferson from William and Mary.

While Madison was a small man (our smallest president at 5 foot 4 inches and under 100 pounds), his wife was, in many ways, larger than life. Dolley Madison is so much more than a brand of ice cream. She was a force of American History and transformed the role of First Lady.

Madison's term is marked by a return to war for the new America. In 1812, America went to war yet again with the British. Hey, let's call it the War of 1812. But unfortunately, it took them more than a year to wrap up, but so what. The War of 1812 will feature the heroics of two future presidents, William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson. It is the War of 1812 that sees President Madison flee the White House in advance of British troops. And his wife, Dolley refusing to leave without the portrait of George Washington. The British burned the White House and the Capitol and much of Washington when they invaded. The War of 1812 is also when we get our national anthem, courtesy of Francis Scott Key.

Like his predecessors, when Madison left the Presidency, he was nearly destitute, as his farm had failed while in Washington. Trying to prepare for his future (and Dolley's) he refused to make available any of his papers until after his death. He spent his remaining years reviewing them and making changes to them (including forgery) as he slowly sank into depression and insanity.

The Facts:
  • born March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, Virginia
  • died June 28, 1836 at Montpelier (his home), Virginia (age 85)
  • Take note, Ms. Rice. Being Secretary of State is a good stepping stone to the White House. Jefferson was John Adams' Vice President, but Washington's Secretary of State. Madison was Jefferson's Secretary of State (and there will be others).
  • Madison is the first president to have prior congressional service, having served as a Representative from 1789-1797
  • Madison is the first president to wear pants, as opposed to knee breeches fancied by his predecessors.
  • The Madisons had no children.


Anonymous said...

His farm failed while in Washington!! That's tragic. I told his farm that it wouldn't make it in the capital city. But you know farms - they never listen.

But seriously, I knew Madison was an obsessive perfectionist and control-friek, but I didn't know that he was so intent on managing his legacy that he actually spiraled into insanity.

Note to self: "Learn to let things go."

Anonymous said...

Of course, as a perfectionist myself, I should have caught my typo on "friek" before publishing.

INSERT CORRECTION: control-freak

"You see that. I didn't let it go. I started to, but then I went the other way." Who said that line, and in what movie?

Lana Gramlich said...

What a sad ending...
Next time you're up in Western New York, if you can pop across to Canada there's LOTS of history regarding the War of 1812 there, from Fort Erie & Fort George to the Brock Monument & Laura Secord's house (or the ruins of it, anyway.)

Brave Astronaut said...

Took me a minute (it came to me while I was driving to work) - Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally"


Anonymous said...

Congrats, BA - give yourself the grand prize. (For me, that would be a bucket of fried chicken and a large pizza.)