James Madison Timeline
Timeline Description: James Madison was an American politician who became the fourth President of the United States. He was hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" and, along with Thomas Jefferson, formed the Democratic-Republican Party.

Date Event
March 16, 1751 James Madison is born.

James Madison Junior is born on March 16, 1751, the oldest of twelve children to Nelly and James Madison. Madison is raised on the family plantation of Mount Pleasant, near Orange, Virginia. He suffers periods of ill-health throughout his childhood.
1771 Madison graduates.

From 1762 Madison studies away from home, returning to the new family house, Montpellier, aged sixteen to prepare for college. In 1769, he enrolls at the College of New Jersey where he enjoys debating. Madison graduates two years later.
1776 Madison serves in Virginia state legislature.

Madison serves in the Virginia state legislature from 1776. He forms early ideas about religious freedom and becomes known as a protégé of Thomas Jefferson. The pair draft the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which is passed in 1786.
1780 Madison enters Continental Congress.

Madison becomes the youngest delegate to the Continental Congress in 1780 and gains a good reputation persuading Virginia to give up northwestern territorial claims to create the Northwest Territory in 1783. Madison is critical of "excessive democracy" and believes legislatures should act in the interest of the wider state.
1787 Madison is hailed as the Father of the Constitution.

Madison believes the Articles of Confederation expose the fledgling country to social unrest, financial debt and foreign attack. Madison urges a national convention in 1787, persuades Washington to chair the meeting and draws up the Virginia Plan which forms the framework of the constitution.
1787 Madison ensures the constitution is ratified.

The Constitution is ratified in each state, a process which is led by Madison and supported by the publication of his Federalist Papers in New York.
1789 Madison is elected to the House of Representatives

Madison is elected to the House of Representatives in 1789 and introduces the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing civil liberties. He breaks away from George Washington, instead joining Thomas Jefferson to form the Democratic-Republican party. Madison fights the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts.
September 15, 1794 Madison marries Dolley Payne Todd.

Madison, who is a shy and retiring 43-year-old, marries 26-year-old Dolley Payne Todd, a vivacious widow with a young son. Dolley is popular and later makes a name for herself as a wonderful hostess in the White House.
1799 Madison is appointed Secretary of State.

Madison supports Jefferson's Presidential campaign and serves as Secretary of State when the party is victorious. Madison is credited with shaping the foreign policy, which is dominated by the Napoleonic wars in Europe.
1801 Madison's father dies.

When his father dies in 1801, Madison inherits the large family plantation of Montpelier, along with 108 slaves. Madison views African American slaves as an "unfortunate race" and believes that, as "property", they should be protected by both their masters and the government.
1803 Louisiana Purchase.

After a crippling defeat in modern-day Haiti, Napoleon concedes his ambition of a new Empire and sells the Louisiana territory to America in 1803. Madison and Jefferson acquire the vast area at an incredibly low price, effectively doubling the size of the United States.
1807 Embargo Act.

Diplomatic efforts to stop Britain and France violating American naval rights fail. Madison campaigns for the Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibits US ships docking in foreign ports. This hugely unpopular act backfires as it cripples American exports.
1808 Madison is elected President.

The Federalists believe they will easily win the elections after the Embargo Act disaster and rely on a fierce anti-Madison campaign. In fact Madison is elected President by a landslide of 122 votes to 44.
1812 Second War of Independence

The 1812 war is predominantly against Native Americans, backed by the British. In 1814 the British set fire to the White House and other federal buildings. The war is likened to a second war of independence and the resulting America victory boosts national pride and Madison's popularity.
1816 Bank of United States.

One of Madison's few domestic policies is to re-authorize the Bank of the United States as the charter terminates in 1812. Madison vetoes the first bill, but finds it difficult to finance a war without a national bank. In 1816 the Second National Bank is chartered with a twenty-year term.
1815 American Indians lose their land.

Madison has a paternalistic attitude towards American Indians, believing that they will benefit from American civilization. Madison orders the army to protect Native lands from invasion, but his military commander, Andrew Jackson, disobeys the President.
1817 Madison retires from politics.

Madison retires to Montpelier, where his plantation has slowly declined over the years due to the persistent low price of tobacco and his stepson's mismanagement. By 1835 Madison sells a quarter of his slaves to make up for financial losses.
1825 University of Virginia opens.

Madison and Jefferson work together to open the University of Virginia in 1825. When Jefferson dies the following year, Madison assumes leadership.
1833 Madison becomes president of the American Colonization Society.

Madison co-founded the American Colonization Society in 1816 with the aim of returning freed slaves to Africa. However, the majority of African Americans resist, wanting to remain in America where they are born and believe they have worked for the right of citizenship.
June 28, 1836 Madison dies.

Madison continues to suffer ill health throughout his life and at 85 years old he dies peacefully at home, the last of the Founding Fathers.