A Young Nation Stands: James Madison and the War of 1812

Research & Collections
 

A Young Nation Stands: James Madison and the War of 1812, June 2012-December 2014

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison formally requested from Congress a Declaration of War against the United Kingdom of Great Britain. In declaring war, Congress and the president exercised powers granted to them in the United States Constitution. For our young country, only three decades removed from the first war for independence, the War of 1812 tested the ideas put forth in the Constitution, and called upon Madison to abide by the limitations on power he worked so hard to institute.

From June 2012 to December 2014, a special exhibit, A Young Nation Stands: James Madison and the War of 1812 was on display in the south wing of the Mansion. The exhibit used innovative technology to immerse visitors in the decisions faced by Madison as Great Britain violated American trading rights and impressed sailors into the British navy. With the turn of a ship’s wheel in “Madison at the Helm,” visitors viewed the consequences of diplomacy, economic coercion, war, or inaction. A touch-screen map illustrated how the war played out on land and at sea. Panel displays offered insight into topics ranging from native American and African American involvement in the war to Madison’s commitment to uphold Constitutional rights as a war president. 

The War of 1812 was the first test to our nation’s survival and our constitution’s sustainability—the outcome would determine the legitimacy of the American experiment in the eyes of the world.

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A Young Nation Stands: James Madison and the War of 1812

A War of 1812-themed installation was also housed in the Grills Gallery. Exhibited objects included several Madison manuscripts, pamphlets, and a drum belonging to William Madison.