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Interesting and Little-Known Facts About James Madison

Updated on July 23, 2012

Personal Facts About James Madison


March 16, 1751 (Port Conway, Virginia)


June 28, 1836 (Madison’s last words were, "I always talk better lying down.”)

Political Party


Vice President(s)

George Clinton (1809-1812)

Elbridge Gerry (1813-1814)

Physical Characteristics

5 feet 4 inches tall, 100 pounds (Madison was the shortest president.)

Family Members

WIFE – Dorothea “Dolley, Dolly, or Dollie” Payne Todd (Dolley was often called “The Toast of Washington.” She was known for her gambling, wearing make-up, using tobacco, and throwing parties. )

James Madison


James Madison Quotes

Americans have the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

Interesting Facts About James Madison


  • Graduated from the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University (Lawyer)

Favorite Foods

  • Ice cream

Little is known about Madison’s favorite foods, but based on the lavish dinners that Dolley Madison threw at the White House during his presidency, these are likely his favorite dishes, in addition to ice cream:

  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Virginia ham
  • Buttery rolls
  • Apple pie
  • Cider

Fun Facts

  • Never held a job that was not involved with politics
  • Was second cousin to a future president, Zachary Taylor
  • Was related to George Washington who was his half, first cousin twice removed.
  • Called “Jemmie” by his friends
  • Didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence, but his second vice president, Eldridge Gerry, did
  • Fought against slavery but had slaves on his plantation, Montpelier (Madison favored resettling freed slaves back to Africa.)

Legacy (Best Known for the Following)

  • Owned and ran a plantation, Montpelier
  • Acted as a member of the Continental Congress
  • Called for the Constitutional Convention in 1786
  • Collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay producing the Federalist Papers (1788)
  • Known as the Father of the Constitution, because he largely wrote the U.S. Constitution
  • Known as the Father of the Bill of Rights, because he largely drafted the first ten amendments
  • While president, led the nation into the War of 1812 (America declared war as a response to trade restrictions brought on by Britain's seemingly unending war with France, the continued impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, and British support of American Indian tribes that opposed American expansion.)

Military Experience

  • Colonel of Virginia militia, Orange County (Madison saw no combat.)

Presidential Firsts

  • First president who had also been a congressman
  • First president to be younger than both his vice presidents
  • First president to have both vice presidents die while he was in office
  • First president to wear pants (All previous presidents wore short pants, knickers.)

Presidential Politics

  • Led the nation into the War of 1812– See “Legacy” for a detailed description.
  • Macon’s Bill No. 2 (1810) (Macon's Bill No. 2 was a bill intended to motivate either Britain or France to stop seizing American ships. The law lifted all embargoes with Britain and France for a duration of three months. If either one of the two countries ceased attacks upon American shipping, the United States stated it would end trade with the other country. Since Britain and France were at war, this was supposed to be of benefit for both America and one of the two coutries. The bill proved to be useless.)
  • Tariff of 1816 (The War of 1812 ended, leaving large quantities of manufactured goods in Britain. These goods were dumped on the American market, making it difficult for manufacturers in New England to compete. While opposed by many people, including Daniel Webster, the tariff was a protectionist measure that raised the average rate to around 20 percent.)
  • Rejected Nationally-Funded Roads

True or False

Dolley Madison saved a portrait of George Washington, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence from being burned when the British marched into Washington D.C.

True and False - Dolley Madison is often credited with saving the Stuart portrait of George Washington, other valuables such as silver, and original drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. While she was certianly involved in the evacuation of the White House before the British burned it, many twentieth-century historians stated that Jean Pierre Sioussat, a Frenchman, directed the Madison's servants in the crisis.

As the invading British army pushed towards Washington in 1814, Dolley Madison ordered the Stuart painting to be removed from the White House:

"Our kind friend Mr. Carroll has come to hasten my departure, and in a very bad humor with me, because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. The process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken and the canvas taken out"..... "It is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen from New York for safe keeping. On handing the canvas to the gentlemen in question, Messrs. Barker and Depeyster, Mr. Sioussat cautioned them against rolling it up, saying that it would destroy the portrait. He was moved to this because Mr. Barker started to roll it up for greater convenience for carrying."

Return to Interesting and Little-Known Facts About the American Presidents.

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