President James Madison

In 1809, at the end of his second term as President, Thomas Jefferson followed the precedent set by George Washington and retired from public life. His successor to the presidency was another Republican, James Madison.

Like Washington and Jefferson, Madison was a Virginian. And, again like those earlier Presidents, Madison had been active in public life and government for most of his adult life. He had served in the Continental Congress and was a leader of the Virginia Assembly. His role at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 earned him the title, "Father of the Constitution." Many of the key ideas in the Constitution were Madison's. His writings in favor of the new plan helped convince people in such key states as New York and Virginia to ratify the Constitution. When the new government began work in 1789 Madison was elected to the Congress. Later he served as Secretary of State for President Jefferson.

Madison had worked with Jefferson to avoid war with Great Britain, but as he took office in 1809 the problems that had caused tension between the two nations had not gone away. In fact, they were getting worse. Ultimately, in 1812, the U.S. would go to war with Great Britain for a second time.

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