Interesting Facts About James Madison: “Father of the Constitution”

James Madison served as the fourth President of the United States from March 4, 1809 to March 4, 1817. Founding father James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia.
Born in a rich family, Madison was a bright student who did his four-year graduation course at Princeton in just two years. At Princeton, he founded the American Whig Society. During the American Revolutionary War, Madison served as a politician in Virginia.
Around this time, he met Thomas Jefferson and the two became lifelong friends. Their friendship is considered one of the most fruitful political partnerships in American history. After the war, Madison played a pivotal role in the formation of the U.S. Constitution due to which he is regarded as the Father of the Constitution. After serving as Secretary of State under President Jefferson, Madison became President in 1809.
Though shy and physically frail, he forged a hugely influential political career that included guiding the Constitution through its ratification process, drafting the Bill of Rights and serving as the fourth president during the War of 1812.
The fourth President of the United States was a man of bravery and valor. He ran into battle as commander-in-chief when the enemy marched into Washington, and held his ground in the political arena of the Revolutionary period. The last of the Founding Fathers to die, he was the end of an era.
Explore FIVE interesting facts about the man often called the “Father of the Constitution.”
1. He declined an offer to prolong his life until July 4. After leaving the presidency, Madison returned to his Montpelier plantation and spent his later years farming and serving as the second rector of his friend Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia.
When the 85-year-old was later on his deathbed in the summer of 1836, his doctor suggested that he take stimulants to keep him alive until July 4, the same historic date that Jefferson, John Adams and James Monroe had all perished.
Madison turned down the offer, however, and instead died on June 28—six days before the 60th anniversary of the nation’s birth. At the time, he was the last surviving signer of the Constitution.
2. Both of Madison’s vice presidents died in office. Despite his lifelong struggles with his health, Madison proved to be more resilient than his vice presidents. His original VP George Clinton died in 1812, and Clinton’s successor Elbridge Gerry later suffered a fatal hemorrhage in 1814, just a year and a half after taking office. Having lost two vice presidents in less than three years, Madison finished his second term without a recognized number two.
3. He once lost an election because he didn’t give alcohol to voters. Following a stint in the Virginia Convention in 1776, a young James Madison lost a 1777 bid for election to the state’s House of Delegates.
He would later write that the defeat was the result of his refusal to provide free liquor to the voters on Election Day, a common custom then known as “swilling the planters with bumbo.” The future president believed that bribing electors with booze was contrary to republican principles, but one of his opponents—who also happened to be a tavern keeper—simply “adhered to the old practice” and raked in the votes.
Despite the setback, Madison was soon chosen for an open seat on Virginia’s Council of State. By 1780, the 29-year-old was serving as the youngest delegate to the Continental Congress.
4. He was America’s smallest president ever. Madison was a sickly and slightly built man who stood just 5 feet 4 inches tall and rarely tipped the scales at much more than 100 pounds.
His voice was so weak that people often had difficulty hearing his speeches, and he was plagued by recurring bouts of “bilious fever” and what he described as “a constitutional liability to sudden attacks, somewhat resembling epilepsy.”
While contemporaries praised Madison’s fierce intelligence, many also made note of his small size and timid demeanor. The wife of a Virginia politician once labeled him “the most unsociable creature in existence.”
5. Madison was on the $5,000 bill. When the $5,000 bill was authorized by Congress in 1861, Madison’s face was chosen to grace these high-denomination bills. But the $5,000 bill was doomed to the same fate as the one currency worth more—the $10,000 bill.
The currency just wasn’t used, and the last printing of these bills was in 1945. Both were discontinued in 1969, and there are believed to be less than 400 bills with Madison’s face existing today.

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