James Madison: A Study in Success
Part 2: Witness to History

Madison was elected to a seat in the House of Representatives and served from 1789 to 1797. During this time, he was instrumental in helping Congress add the Bill of Rightsto the Constitution. In fact, he wrote much of the Bill of Rights himself. Also during this time, Madison became disillusioned with Hamilton's increasingly capitalistic policies and joined with Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe to found the Democratic-Republican Party.

The friendship between Jefferson and Madison led to Madison's being appointed Secretary of State when Jefferson became president in 1801. The Louisiana Purchase happened on Madison's State Department watch, although Madison didn't have a whole lot to do with it. He did oversee the defeat of the Barbary Pirates, brought about in part by the creation of the United States Marines. And when Jefferson retired after two terms in office, Madison took up the party mantle and was elected president (in 1808).

One part of Madison's State Department difficulties that came with him was trade difficulties with Britain and France. As Secretary of State, he had urged the passage of the Embargo Act of 1807, which backfired in a big way when other countries found other sources of goods they had been importing from America. Encouraged by this trade success, Britain became even more belligerent in its economic and military policies. British warships stopped American ships bound for other countries. Reports came to Madison of British agents stirring up trouble among the Indians in Canada and the residents of the West Indies. Convinced that war was the only answer, Madison asked Congress to declare war in 1812. Congress did so, and the War of 1812 began.

Next page > War and Prosperity > Page 1, 2, 3

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White