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James Madison (1751-1836) was the principal architect of the United States Constitution, then Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and later the fourth president of the United States. During the Revolution, he helped draft Virginia's state constitution and served in the Continental Congress. In the years immediately following the war, he grew convinced that domestic and international disasters would follow unless the national government established by the Articles of Confederation was reformed, and therefore joined those calling for a constitutional convention. He teamed with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to publish the Federalist Papers, which encouraged voters to ratify the new federal Constitution.

As President Jefferson's Secretary of State, Madison exercised great influence on Jefferson's foreign policy. He encouraged Jefferson to secure from Congress the embargo that suspended American trade in December 1807. Over the next year, as opposition to this policy mounted, Jefferson largely deferred to Madison on all foreign policy decisions. Despite the unpopularity of the administration's policies in New England, Madison was elected president in 1808 by more than a two-to-one margin in the Electoral College.

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