Page images
[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

AMES MADISON, of Virginia, was the immediate suc cessor of Mr. Jefferson in the presidency. He was born at the dwelling of his grandmother, opposite to Port Royal, on the Rappahannock river, in Orange county, Virginia, on the 16th of March, 1751. His family were of Welsh origin, and were among the earlier and the most respected emigrants to Virginia. His rudimental education was received in a small grammar-school in his native town, and at the age of fourteen he was put under the care of Mr. Robertson, a native of Scotland; and subsequently of the Rev. Mr. Martin, of New Jersey, for the purpose of studying the classics and being fitted for college. At the age of seventeen years he entered Princeton college, of New Jersey, where he graduated with the usual honors in 1771. Under the superintendence of Dr. Witherspoon, the president, he remained at the college a year after he graduated, and applied himself so intensely to study, as to impair his constitution, and he was feeble for years.

After leaving college, he returned to Virginia, and commenced the practice of law; but, his talents being appreciated, and the exigencies of the times calling for efficient aid from whatsoever source it might be obtained, he was soon drawn into active public life. He was elected a member of the general assembly of Virginia in 1776, and in 1778 was appointed one of the executive council of that state. In 1779, he was chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress, and was an active member of that body until 1784.


In 1786," the Virginia legislature appointed him a commissioner to meet with those of other states at Annapolis, to amend the Articles of Confederation, and to devise a uniform commercial system. The convention was attended by very few representatives, but they recommended the calling of another convention at Philadelphia, the

a January.

His labors for a new constitution. Is elected a member of Congress.- His activity and wisdom.

year following, to which Mr. Madison was elected. The convention assembled in May, and Mr. Madison was among the leading debaters. He labored assiduously in the formation of a constitution for the government of the country that should be acceptable; and the one that was finally adopted bears the strong and frequent impress of his mind and pen.* His views were coincident with those of Washington and others who were favorable to a strong federal government; and after the adoption of the constitution," he wielded the pen effectively in the numbers of the "Federalist," in connexion with Jay, Hamilton, and others, in its defence. He took copious notes of all the proceedings of the convention, which, with those of his other valuable productions, have been published since his death, under the title of "The Madison Papers."

a Sept.


Mr. Madison was elected a member of the Virginia convention to whom the new constitution was submitted for consideration,† and he there met in opposition some of the boldest thinkers of his native state, including Patrick Henry, James Monroe, William Grayson, George Mason (an intimate friend of Washington), and others; but he had the gratification of seeing the question finally carried in favor of adoption by a vote of eighty-nine to seventy-nine.

The majority of the members of the Virginia legislature being antifederalists, or opposed to the constitution, Mr. Madison was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat in the senate of the United States. He was, however, elected a representative for a congressional district, and took his seat at New York, in 1789. He was an active member of that body

* In a letter to Washington, written just previously to the assembling of the convention, Mr. Madison gave an outline of his views on the subject. of which the following is a brief synopsis of the main points: The maintenance of the individual sovereignty of the states, all amenable to the general control of a federal government; a change in the principle of representation; the general government to have absolute control in the regulation of trade, laying imposts, fixing terms of naturalization, coining money, &c., &c.; the federal government to possess a veto power in all cases whatsoever on the legislative acts of the states; to have general powers over the judiciary, causing the oaths of judges to include a promise of fidelity to the general government; the admiralty jurisdictions to fall entirely within the purview of the national government; the establishment of a national tribunal for appeals in all cases, to which foreigners or inhabitants of other states may be parties; the officers in the executive departments to be appointed by Congress; the militia to be placed under the authority of the general government; the national legislature to be divided into two branches, one of them to be chosen at short intervals by the people at large or by the legislatures of the states, the other to consist of fewer members, to be chosen for a longer term, and to possess the exercise of the vetopower before alluded to; the appointment of a further check- —a council of revision—including all the great ministerial officers; the provision of a national executive; provision made for guarantying the tranquillity of the states against internal and external dangers; and the ratification of the proposed constitution by the collective voice of the people, and not by legislative action in the respective states.

These views were remarkably sound, if his theory of a strong government was a correct one; and they formed to a great extent the basis of the constitution adopted by the convention. ↑ Conventions for this purpose were called in all the states.

[ocr errors]

His marriage.-Appointed secretary of state. -Elected president of the United States.

during the whole of Washington's administration. Upon the subject of
the funding system, a national bank, and other leading measures, origi-
nating with Hamilton, he was found in opposition to his federal friends,
and generally sustained the views of Mr. Jefferson, then secretary of
state. In 1794, he introduced a series of resolutions, based upon Jef-
ferson's recommendations, concerning the commercial policy of the gov-
ernment, which, being considered favorable to France and offensive to
Great Britain, awakened a warm debate. During that year, he was
married to Mrs. Dolly Paine Todd, a young widow, twenty-three years
whose first husband died in less than three years after marriage.
This marriage proved highly beneficial to Mr. Madison, for the strong
mind and pleasing manners of his wife were essential aids to him whi
he was the chief magistrate of the nation.

Mr. Madison continued to act with the republican or democratic party, and in the Virginia assembly (to which he was elected, having resigned his seat in Congress), in 1797, he made a report against the "alien and sedition laws" of Mr. Adams, which report, it is said, has ever since been the text for the doctrine of state-rights in that state.

When, in 1801, Mr. Jefferson was elected president, he appointed Mr. Madison secretary of state, which office he held during Mr. Jeffer son's administration of eight years' duration. He became the democratic candidate for president in 1808, and was successful. Mr. Madison was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1809. He retained a portion of Mr. Jefferson's cabinet. At the opening of the eleventh Congress in May, there was a majority of democrats. During that session, the British minister at Washington (Mr. Erskine) made overtures for the repeal of the non-intercourse law, promising the reversal of the British orders in council. But his government refused to sanction his act, and the non-intercourse law was revived in full force. The people were greatly excited, and would readily have sanctioned a declaration of war with England.

In the early part of 1810, Napoleon issued the decree of Rambouillet,‡ which was avowedly issued as a retaliation of the non-intercourse act of the United States, and French privateers constantly depredated upon

• She was the daughter of a Philadelphia quaker named Paine, who removed from that city to Virginia. She was well educated, and was remarkable for her fine person, polished manners, and distinguished talents in conversation. She still survives her honored husband (1847), and resides chiefly at Washington city, where her society is courted by the distinguished visiters to the national metropolis.

† He appointed Robert Smith, of Maryland, secretary of state; William Eustis, of Massachusetts, secretary of war; Paul Hamilton, of South Carolina, secretary of the navy; and Albert Gallatin was continued secretary of the treasury, and Cæsar A. Rodney, of Delaware, attorney-general

It decreed that all United States vessels which had entered French ports since the 20th of March, 1808, should be declared forfeit, and sold for the benefit of the French treasury.

Expiration of the charter of the United States bank. His aversion to war.-Re-elected president. our commerce. In May, Congress passed a new non-intercourse act, declaring that when either the British or French government should repeal its orders or decrees, and the other did not, the United States would repeal the act so far as it applied to the government so repealing. France reciprocated the movement, but the British cabinet would not,* and American vessels continued to be seized and sold, and American seamen pressed into the British service.

During the session of 1811, the people of Louisiana were authorized to form a state constitution, preparatory to being admitted into the Union. Also the charter of the United States bank, incorporated in 1791, expired, and a bill providing for its renewal was lost by the casting vote of the vice-president (George Clinton) in the senate. The general policy of Mr. Madison was fully sustained by Congress and the a Nor, people; and at the meeting of the twelfth Congress, Henry 1811. Clay, an ardent supporter of the administration, was elected speaker of the house of representatives.†

After years of ineffectual negotiation with both England and France respecting their orders and decrees, the president waived his decided opposition to war measures, and, by the advice of Mr. Clay and other leading friends, he recommended strong measures toward Great Britain. Bills were accordingly passed for augmenting the army and navy, and for giving the president extraordinary powers.

The time now approached for another presidential election. The leading republicans of New York, who were dissatisfied with Mr. Madison because they thought his measures too mild in regard to foreign policy, and were anxious for an immediate declaration of war against Great Britain, contemplated nominating for the presidency De Witt Clinton, then lieutenant-governor of the state, and mayor of the city of New York. But the change in Mr. Madison's policy, and his expressed determination to prosecute a war with vigor if commenced, reconciled his more belligerent friends, and he was re-elected. He was inaugurated on the 4th of March, 1812.‡

Toward the close of February, 1812, the president received a communication from a person named John Henry, who declared himself a secret agent of the British government, employed to treat with the disaffected federalists of New England on the subject of a separation from

• England urged that France had given no positive evidence of a repeal of her decrees. In fact, they were not repealed: and in March, 1811, Napoleon declared that those decrees were the "fundamental laws of the empire."

Mr. Clay had been a member of the senate for two short sessions. John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, and William H. Crawford, of Georgia, were members of the house at this time, and all were the warm friends of the president.

The only change in his cabinet was the appointment of Colonel James Monroe secretary of state, and William Pinckney attorney-general. Mr. Monroe was the only member of his cabinet possessed of military taste and skill.

« EelmineJätka »