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James Madison

James Madison

James Madison was born in Port Conway, Virginia in 1751. After studying at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), he returned to Virginia and in 1774 assumed the first of several positions in state government. Beginning in 1780 he served three years as a state delegate to the Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Madison became famous for his advocacy of a stronger national government. As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (1784–6), he secured passage of Thomas Jefferson's landmark religious freedom bill. A notable force at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, many of his ideas made their way into the final document, including his desire for a strong central government. Although not the official secretary, his record of the convention is among the most complete. Madison's influence is perhaps most felt in the addition of the Bill of Rights. Although he joined with Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in contributing to the Federalist papers, Madison later was drawn to more liberal Jeffersonian Republican politics. After serving in the US House of Representatives (1789–97), and as President Jefferson's Secretary of State (1801–9), Madison was elected as the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). His terms were marked by conflict with both Britain and France, as well as domestic troubles, which led to the War of 1812. Although the war led to the burning of Washington and no decisive victory, when Madison left office in 1817 he enjoyed considerable popularity. Madison retired to his estate, Montpelier, in Virginia and served as Thomas Jefferson's successor as rector of the University of Virginia (1826-36). In 1829, Madison was chosen as a representative to the constitutional convention in Richmond for the revising of the Virginia state constitution. This was to be Madison's last appearance as a legislator and constitutional draftsman. In failing health, Madison continuted to write on political subjects. He died at Montpellier on June 28, 1836, the last remaining signatory of the United States Constitution.