James Madison:

4th President of the United States (1809-1817)

  • Thomas Jefferson refused to run for a third term. Rather, he chose to endorse Madison and George Clinton.
  • Because of Jefferson’s embargo of all goods from England and France, the country was in economic trouble. The New England states had openly discussed seceding from the Union.
  • The Federalists attacked Madison as a physically weak and incapable of running the country. It took Jefferson to persuade many Democratic-Republicans from straying into the Federalist camp.
  • By the time the election was held, Madison was the clear victor by a wide margin. He won the presidency with 122 electoral votes going for him vs. 44 votes for Charles C. Pinckney of South Carolina. Even though George Clinton had been chosen to run as vice president, he had broke with the camp before the election and declared his own candidacy for president. He was only able to garnish 6 votes from his home state.

  • Domestic Issues

Most domestic issues took a back seat to the foreign affairs that plagued Madison’s terms in office. The single most important issue for Madison was the rechartering of the Bank of the United States. Madison was fundamentally opposed to the idea of the United States government having its hands in the banking system. But because of the War of 1812, Madison was forced to consider how difficult it was to fund a war without the banks assistance. The charter of the Bank of the United States was allowed to expire. But by 1816, with Madison’s support, the second Bank of the United States was chartered with a 20 year term. Many opponents to the bank, and to Madison, used this as a way to expose Madison’s supposed Federalist leanings.

  • Foreign Issues

Madison was forced to deal with trade issues between France and England. Unfortunately the issues were complicated and cannot be dealt with here. Click here for more information.

Congress voted to declare war on Britain on June 18, 1812. Madison considered this war a “second war of independence” against Britain. Madison’s major objectives was to take all of Florida from the Spanish, put down Indian uprisings in the northwest, and to invade Canada. This move was not successful. Because of the tremendous British support, the invasion of Canada was a disaster. American troops had surrendered in Detroit, were defeated in New York, and much of the northwest was under British control.

By 1813 the war had managed to take a turn for the better for Madison. Thanks to William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson, the U.S. had managed to gain the upper hand in their fight against the Indians. A victory over the British fleet at Lake Erie helped to turn the tide against the British as well.

The British defeated Napoleon and were now able to turn their attention completely on the states. They raided American ports up and down the East coast. The British troops managed to ransack Washington D.C. and burned the White House to the ground.

Even though the war was fierce and bloody, in the end the United States was victorious . In the process they managed to minimize the threat of Indians in the northwest. Madison became somewhat of a victorious wartime president and the country became swelled with national pride after winning what it considered to be the second revolutionary war. Because of the victory and following circumstances, the Federalist party was doomed as a national political force.

Madison died on June 28, 1836. He was the last Founding Father to pass away.