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In the new, more powerful Congress, Madison and Jefferson soon found themselves disagreeing with the Federalists on key issues dealing with federal debt and power. For example, the two men favored states' rights and opposed Federalist leader Alexander Hamilton's (c.1755-1804) proposal for a national bank. In 1792, Jefferson and Madison founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been labeled America's first opposition political party. Jefferson, Madison and James Monroe (1758-1831) were the only Democratic-Republicans ever to become U.S. presidents, as the party divided into competing factions in the 1820s.
Madison also new development in his personal life: In 1794, after a brief courtship, the 43-year-old Madison married 26-year-old Dolley Payne Todd (1768-1849), an outgoing Quaker widow with one son. Dolley's personality contrasted sharply with that of the quiet, reserved Madison. She loved entertaining and hosted many receptions and dinner parties during which Madison could meet other influential figures of his time. During the couple's 41-year marriage, they reportedly were rarely apart.
Secretary of State: 1801-09
Through the years, Madison's friendship with Jefferson would continue to thrive. When Jefferson became the third president of the United States, he appointed Madison as secretary of state. In this position, which he held from 1801 to 1809, Madison helped acquire the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, doubling the size of America.
In 1807, Madison and Jefferson enacted an embargo on all trade with Britain and France. The two European countries were at war and, angered by America's neutrality, they had begun attacking U.S. ships at sea. However, the embargo hurt America and its merchants and sailors more than Europe, which did not need the American goods. Jefferson ended the embargo in 1809 as he left office.
Presidency and the War of 1812
In the presidential election of 1808, Madison defeated Federalist candidate Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1745-1825) to become the nation's fourth chief executive. Madison continued to face problems from overseas, as Britain and France had continued their attacks on American ships following the embargo. In addition to impeding U.S. trade, Britain took U.S. sailors for its own navy and began supporting American Indians in battles against U.S. settlers.
In retaliation, Madison issued a war proclamation against Britain in 1812. However, America was not ready for a war. Congress had not properly funded or prepared an army, and a number of the states did not support what was referred to as "Mr. Madison's War" and would not allow their militias to join the campaign. Despite these setbacks, American forces attempted to fight off and attack British forces. The U.S. met defeat much of the time both on land and at sea, but its well-built ships proved to be formidable foes.
As the War of 1812 continued, Madison ran for re-election against Federalist candidate DeWitt Clinton (1767-1828), who was also supported by an anti-war faction of the Democratic-Republican Party, and won. Despite the victory, Madison was often criticized and blamed for the difficulties stemming from the war. Trade stopped between the U.S. and Europe, hurting American merchants once again. New England threatened secession from the Union. The Federalists undermined Madison's efforts; and Madison was forced to flee Washington, D.C., in August 1814 as British troops invaded and burned buildings, including the White House, the Capitol and the Library of Congress.
Finally, weary from battle, Britain and the U.S. agreed to negotiate an end to the war. The Treaty of Ghent was signed in December 1814 in Europe. Before word of the peace agreement reached America, a major victory for U.S. troops at the Battle of New Orleans (December 1814-January 1815) helped shine a positive light on the controversial war. Though the war was mismanaged, there were some key victories that emboldened the Americans. Once blamed for the errors in the war, Madison was eventually hailed for its triumphs.
After two terms in office, Madison left Washington, D.C., in 1817, and returned to Montpelier with his wife. Despite the challenges he encountered during his presidency, Madison was respected as a great thinker, communicator and statesman. He remained active in various civic causes, and in 1826 became rector of the University of Virginia, which was founded by his friend Thomas Jefferson. Madison died at Montpelier on June 28, 1836, at the age of 85.
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Jefferson is an insightful 2-hour presentation on HISTORY which examines his many identities and asks viewers to answer for themselves: who was the real Thomas Jefferson, and what is his most lasting legacy in our world today?