Happy Birthday, Mr. Madison!



Two hundred sixty years ago today Nelly Conway Madison gave birth to James Madison, Jr. in Port Conway, Virginia. Nelly and her husband, James Madison, Sr. raised their son at Montpelier, where young James developed an insatiable intellectual curiosity. This curiosity remained with Madison as he traveled to the College of New Jersey (today Princeton University), where he completed the curriculum ahead of his classmates and became the school’s first graduate student.

Madison began his 41-year political career in December 1774, when he was appointed to the Orange County Committee of Safety. By age 36, when the Constitutional Convention convened, James Madison had an enviable reputation from his service on the committees that drafted the first Constitution of Virginia and the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. In his Montpelier Second Floor Library, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, Madison studied past democracies and created a framework for the document that became the Constitution for the United States of America.

James Madison continued to heed the call of public service after the signing of the Constitution. He served as a member of Congress until 1797 and as Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State for two terms until his own election. During the War of 1812, President James Madison successfully established the United States’ sovereignty by combating Great Britain in the “second war of independence.” Madison was the nation’s first wartime president. He became the only sitting president in U.S. history to command troops in the field when he took command at the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814.

After two presidential terms, James Madison retired to his beloved Montpelier home, where birthday festivities are currently underway. We’ll post event photos and recaps here soon. Stay tuned to the Montpelier blog!





Montpelier Staff