One of the founding fathers and fourth president of the country, james madison is hailed by many as the de facto “father of the constitution” thanks to his essential role in writing the constitution and bill of rights of the united states . After his ratification, Madison served as a close confidante and adviser to the Washington presidency.
From 1789 to 1801, Madison was a congressman. from 1801 to 1809, he was appointed secretary of state. From there, he ran for and won the title of President of the United States.
Although he was certainly the most famous of his clan, Madison was not a lone figure. he had an entire family that proved instrumental in his advancement in politics and his meteoric rise to the presidency. This overview will delve into the various members of his family to see who they are and their importance in his life and career.
captain isaac madison (madison’s great-great-grandfather)
born in 1590 in london, england, isaac madison was the first of his family to immigrate to america, settling in virginia. he managed to acquire an important piece of land throughout his time, where he lived as a landowner with his family until his death in 1624.
ambrose madison (madison’s grandfather)
Born in 1696, Ambrose Madison, grandson of Isaac Madison and grandfather of James Madison, and his brother-in-law bought a piece of land in the Virginia foothills. In 1732, he and his family moved from his grandfather’s original land to his new home, then known as Mount Pleasure.
six months after moving to mount pleasure, ambrose was poisoned and the culprits were three african american slaves. After his death, his wife, Frances, managed his estate, where she lived with her only child, James Madison, Sr.
james madison mr. (“Colonel Madison”)
James Madison Jr.’s father, Madison Sr., was born in 1723 and was also known as “Colonel Madison” later in life. colonel madison was a tobacco planter and grew up on his property with his mother after his father’s death. He was a prominent and esteemed politician in Virginia and served as a colonel in the Revolutionary War.
madison mr. he was a very wealthy landowner in his time, acquiring over 5,000 acres of land in multiple estates. In fact, at the time, Madison Sr. he was the largest landowner in the country. He died in 1801 at the age of 77, the same year his son was appointed secretary of state.
dolley madison (wife of madison)
While many people in James Madison’s family proved influential (some spanning centuries), none proved more essential in his life than his wife, Dolley Madison. born May 20, 1768, dolley todd madison was noted as one of the first active first ladies in the presidency.
during her time as first lady, between 1809 and 1817, dolley would hold social functions, bringing together members of both political parties, essentially becoming the forerunner of bipartisan cooperation. Whereas previously, bipartisan meetings were largely one-on-one affairs, often ending violently, Dolley worked to create an environment in which members on either side could safely engage and socialize with one another.
Born in 1768, in Guilford County, North Carolina, Dolley Madison was originally named Dolley Payne. The fourth of eight children, Dolley and her family moved to Philadelphia in 1783 at the age of 15. During her stay in Philadelphia, she never received a formal education and, in 1790, she married her fellow Quaker, John Todd Jr.
during her first marriage to john todd, the two lived with her husband’s family in a small house where they later had two sons, john and william todd. In 1793, her youngest son, William, and her husband and all of her family died of yellow fever, leaving Dolley and her eldest son, John, as the only survivors.
meeting james madison
After her husband’s death in 1793, Dolley married James Madison a year later. At the time, Madison was little more than a wealthy Virginia planter and congressman and had not risen to his subsequent positions of power and prestige. Three years after their marriage, the couple moved to the family’s Madison plantation in Orange, Virginia, where Dolley cared for her mother-in-law.
Acting First Lady
Though she mastered these traits during her husband’s presidency, Dolley began acting as an unofficial first lady between 1801 and 1809. She co-hosted events for President Thomas Jefferson. Because Jefferson’s wife had died years before, and both Madison and Jefferson were good friends, Dolley was expected to help organize special events.
During this time, Dolley helped create incredibly unique events that were instrumental in selling America’s refined nature to Europeans abroad, from visitors from London and Paris. She was so good at organizing these events that Jefferson relied almost exclusively on her, giving her as much decision-making power as possible.
officially titled first lady
After her husband was elected president in 1808 and inaugurated in 1809, Dolley sponsored the first inaugural ball. She was also the first official First Lady to formally partner with a public charity, sponsoring a home for orphaned girls throughout the DC area.
While little of this is mentioned in the history books, Dolley was a skilled political advocate who used her position as the president’s wife to develop friendships and alliances with the wives of other politicians. this allowed her access to any information that she could harm her husband and more significant influence over said politicians through her wives.
the fire of washington, 1814
Despite his many years of vital service to both Jefferson and Madison, his most memorable moment comes from his actions during the War of 1812. In 1814, two years after war was declared between the United States and England. , British forces attacked the White House. While Madison and her staff fled the city, Dolley was left alone to help recover vital documents, important paintings, and various pieces of art and silver, the most important of which is a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart.
While the White House underwent repairs, Dolley continued to entertain guests and carry out her duties as First Lady while at her temporary quarters (now known as Dumbarton House). This greatly improved the morale of the country, as she showed the strength of the United States even in those difficult times.
After Madison’s last term as president, the two returned to their Virginia estate. There, Madison died in 1836 and Dolley returned to DC, where he would be granted an honorary seat in Congress. she was also the first private citizen of the country to send a message by means of the telegraph.
on july 12, 1849, dolley madison passed away at the age of 81 in dc. to this day, she remains highly regarded as the first royal first lady, the one all others are compared to, before and since.
the influence of the madison family
James Madison Jr., while the country’s secretary of state and later president, was not alone in his success, nor were their achievements thanks solely to his efforts. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were instrumental in building a financial foundation without which none of his political or congressional efforts would have been possible. likewise, his wife played a crucial and essential role in making him the man he was. she subtly worked behind the scenes to create a political environment that would ensure his success in a second term.
By examining the family surrounding President James Madison, we are better able to appreciate his actions in their fuller context with a fuller understanding.