By 1786, James Madison knew that the Articles of Confederation, which governed America like 13 separate countries instead of one nation, was not worth the paper it was written on. He and other Americans, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, met in Philadelphia in 1787. There – behind locked doors – they wrote a new Constitution.
It was Madison, born on March 16, 1751, who gave America an independent court system, a strong Presidency, and the Senate and House of Representatives. So important was Madison in giving the U. S. its new form of government, that he was called “The Father of the U. S. Constitution.”
He and other supporters of the Constitution (called Federalists) worked hard to get the backing of the people. They wrote a series of letters (the “Federalist Papers,”) which appeared in newspapers to win support for the Constitution.
In 1809, Madison became America’s fourth President and faced trouble with
Great Britain. That nation would not allow U. S. ships to freely sail the ocean. He did not want war, but Madison finally gave in to the angry “war hawks” in Congress and the War of 1812 began.
Things did not go well for America as defeat followed defeat. In 1814, the British even burned Washington, D. C. President Madison’s office became the saddle of his horse. The war was so unpopular that several New England states threatened to form their own country.
But then the war started going better for America. The British were stopped at Fort McHenry near Baltimore, Maryland. It is that fight Americans remember when they sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The British then sought peace and the war ended on Christmas Eve, 1814.
Madison worked hard to heal the wounds between Americans caused by the war and was largely successful by the time he left office in 1817. In his last years he worked with Jefferson to found the University of Virginia before he died on June 28, 1836.