President Madison's First Inaugural Address [March 4, 1809] - History

President Madison's First Inaugural Address [March 4, 1809] - History

UNWILLING to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail myself of the occasion now presented to express the profound impression made on me by the call of my country to the station to the duties of which I am about to pledge myself by the most solemn of sanctions. So distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate and tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would under any circumstances have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing period, I feel that both the honor and the responsibility allotted to me are inexpressibly enhanced.

The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel, and that of our own country full of difficulties. The pressure of these, too, is the more severely felt because they have fallen upon us at a moment when the national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the contrast resulting from the change has been rendered the more striking. Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the maintenance of peace with all nations whilst so many of them were engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were enjoyed in an unrivaled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs of this were seen in the improvements of agriculture, in the successful enterprises of commerce, in the progress of manufacturers and useful arts, in the increase of the public revenue and the use made of it in reducing the public debt, and in the valuable works and establishments everywhere multiplying over the face of our land. It is a precious reflection that the transition from this prosperous condition of our country to the scene which has for some time been distressing us is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor, as I trust, on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do justice to them. This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other, or impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been introduced equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law. How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the demonstrations that not even a pretext for them has been given by the United States, and of the fair and liberal attempt to induce a revocation of them, can not be anticipated. Assuring myself that under every vicissitude the determined spirit and united councils of the nation will be safeguards to its honor and its essential interests, I repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink under the weight of this deep conviction it is because I find some support in a consciousness of the purposes and a confidence in the principles which I bring with me into this arduous service. To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the right of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics—that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe; to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state—as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me. It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread lighted by examples of illustrious services successfully rendered in the most trying difficulties by those who have marched before me. Of those of my immediate predecessor it might least become me here to speak. I may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy with which my heart is full in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of a beloved country, gratefully bestowed or exalted talents zealously devoted through a long career to the advancement of its highest interest and happiness.

But the source to which I look or the aids which alone can supply my deficiencies is in the well-tried intelligence and virtue of my fellow-citizens, and in the counsels of those representing them in the other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.


First inauguration of James Madison

The first inauguration of James Madison as the fourth President of the United States was held on Saturday, March 4, 1809, in the chamber of the House of Representatives at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The inauguration marked the commencement of the first four-year term of James Madison as President and the second term of George Clinton as Vice President. The presidential oath was administered by Chief Justice John Marshall. The President wore a 100% American-made wool suit, and the first official inaugural ball occurred at Long's Hotel, with ticket prices being $4 (currently about $66). [1] Clinton died 3 years, 47 days into this term, and the office remained vacant for the balance of it. (Prior to ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, no constitutional provision existed for filling an intra-term vacancy in the vice presidency.)


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Transcript

Unwilling to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail myself of the occasion now presented to express the profound impression made on me by the call of my country to the station to the duties of which I am about to pledge myself by the most solemn of sanctions. So distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate and tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would under any circumstances have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing period, I feel that both the honor and the responsibility allotted to me are inexpressibly enhanced.

The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel and that of our own country full of difficulties. The pressure of these, too, is the more severely felt because they have fallen upon us at a moment when the national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the contrast resulting from the change has been rendered the more striking. Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the maintenance of peace with all nations whilst so many of them were engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were enjoyed in an unrivaled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs of this were seen in the improvements of agriculture, in the successful enterprises of commerce, in the progress of manufacturers and useful arts, in the increase of the public revenue and the use made of it in reducing the public debt, and in the valuable works and establishments everywhere multiplying over the face of our land.

It is a precious reflection that the transition from this prosperous condition of our country to the scene which has for some time been distressing us is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor, as I trust, on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned posterity at least will do justice to them.

This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other, or impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been introduced equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law. How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the demonstrations that not even a pretext for them has been given by the United States, and of the fair and liberal attempt to induce a revocation of them, can not be anticipated. Assuring myself that under every vicissitude the determined spirit and united councils of the nation will be safeguards to its honor and its essential interests, I repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink under the weight of this deep conviction it is because I find some support in a consciousness of the purposes and a confidence in the principles which I bring with me into this arduous service.

To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others to hold the union of the States as the basis of their peace and happiness to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general system to avoid the slightest interference with the right of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction to preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press to observe economy in public expenditures to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics--that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe to promote by authorized means improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufactures, and to external as well as internal commerce to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state--as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me.

It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread lighted by examples of illustrious services successfully rendered in the most trying difficulties by those who have marched before me. Of those of my immediate predecessor it might least become me here to speak. I may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy with which my heart is full in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of a beloved country, gratefully bestowed or exalted talents zealously devoted through a long career to the advancement of its highest interest and happiness.

But the source to which I look or the aids which alone can supply my deficiencies is in the well-tried intelligence and virtue of my fellow-citizens, and in the counsels of those representing them in the other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In these my confidence will under every difficulty be best placed, next to that which we have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising Republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.


President Reagan’s First Inaugural Address, 1981

Ronald Reagan’s election to the White House came at a time of great economic and international turmoil for the United States. His first inaugural address on January 20, 1981, highlights many major issues of the day, including rising inflation, unemployment, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, which came to an end just minutes after the speech’s conclusion. Reagan pointed to "economic affliction" as one of the most serious challenges facing the nation, and he asserted a need for the reduction of not just public spending but of the federal government itself: "It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States the States created the Federal Government."

A full transcript is available.

Excerpt

The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people. . . .

We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding ­we are going to begin to act, beginning today. . . .

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem.

From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.


Learn More

On March 4, 1863, President Lincoln signed an act creating Idaho Territory. (While the bill was passed on March 3, the enrolled bill was not signed by the speaker of the House and the presiding officer of the Senate until the early hours of March 4—after which Lincoln received the measure for his signature.) Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark crossed into Idaho at Lemhi Pass in 1805. At that time, approximately 8,000 Native Americans lived in the region. Originally part of the Oregon and Washington territories, fur trading and missionary work attracted the first settlers to the region. More than twenty thousand emigrants passed through southeastern Idaho during the California Gold Rush of 1849.

“Idaho.” Frank French, composer Chicago: H.M. Higgins, 1864. Historic American Sheet Music External . Duke University Libraries

They say, there is a land,
Where crystal waters flow,
O’er beds of quarts and purest gold,
Way out in Idaho
Chorus:
O! wait, Idaho!
W’ere coming Idaho.
Our four ‘hos’ team will soon be seen,
Way out in Idaho

The political stability of the territorial period encouraged settlement. Almost immediately, a public school system was created, stage coach lines were established, and two newspapers, the Boise News(1863) and the Idaho Statesman (1864), began publication. In 1865, Boise replaced Lewiston as capital. The 1866 discovery of gold in Leesburg, Idaho, and the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1869 brought many new people to the territory, including Chinese laborers who came to work the mines. When President Benjamin Harrison signed the 1890 law admitting Idaho to the Union, the population was 88,548. The state still operates under its original (1889) state constitution.

As Idaho approached statehood, mining and other extractive industries became increasingly important to her economy. While Idaho’s dependence on mining has decreased, the state, which produces seventy-two types of precious and semi-precious stones, is still known as “The Gem State.” Today Idaho is a top national producer of potatoes, trout, Austrian winter peas, and lentils. Its major industries are manufacturing, agriculture, food processing, timber, and mining.

Idaho Falls, Idaho. Geo. R. Lawrence Co., photographer Trowbridge & Nover Co., cNovember 11, 1909. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

Tourism is another way that Idaho capitalizes on its natural resources. The same vast tracts of unspoiled wilderness that attracted Ernest Hemingway to the region in the early 1960s continue to provide outdoor enthusiasts with excellent camping, hunting, fishing, as well as whitewater kayaking and rafting, and skiing.


Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1805

Proceeding, fellow citizens, to that qualification which the constitution requires before my entrance on the charge again conferred on me, it is my duty to express the deep sense I entertain of this new proof of confidence from my fellow citizens at large, and the zeal with which it inspires me so to conduct myself as may best satisfy their just expectations.

On taking this station on a former occasion, I declared the principles on which I believed it my duty to administer the affairs of our commonwealth. my conscience tells me I have, on every occasion acted up to that declaration, according to it’s obvious import, and to the understanding of every candid mind.

In the transaction of your foreign affairs, we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship of all nations, & especially of those with which we have the most important relations. we have done them justice on all occasions favor, where favor was lawful, & cherished mutual interests & intercourse on fair & equal terms. we are firmly convinced and we act on that conviction, that with nations, as with individuals, our interests, soundly calculated, will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties. and history bears witness to the fact, that a just nation is trusted on it’s word, when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others.

At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. the suppression of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expences, enabled us to discontinue our internal taxes. these covering our land with officers, & opening our doors to their intrusions, had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely to be restrained from reaching successively every article of property & produce. if, among these taxes, some minor ones fall, which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount would not have paid the officers who collected them: and because if they had any merit, the state-authorities might adopt them instead of others less approved.

The remaining revenue, on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid chiefly by those who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts. being collected on our sea-board and frontiers only, & incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it may be the pleasure and the pride of an American to ask What farmer, what mechanic, what labourer ever sees a tax-gatherer of the US.? these contributions enable us to support the current expences of the government, to fulfill contracts with foreign nations, to extinguish the native right of soil within our limits, to extend those limits, & to apply such a surplus to our public debts, as places at a short day their final redemption. and, that redemption once effected, the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition of it among the states, & a corresponding amendment of the constitution, be applied, in time of peace , to rivers, canals, roads, arts, manufactures, education, & other great objects within each state. in time of war , if injustice by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war, increased as the same revenue will be by increased population & consumption, & aided by other resources reserved for that crisis, it may meet within the year all the expences of the year, without encroaching on the rights of future generations by burthening them with the debts of the past. War will then be but a suspension of useful works & a return to a state of peace a return to the progress of improvement.

I have said, fellow-citizens, that the income reserved had enabled us to extend our limits. but that extension may possibly pay for itself, before we are called on, & in the mean time may keep down the accruing interest: in all events it will replace the advances we shall have made. I know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension that the enlargement of our territory would endanger it’s union. but who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? the larger our association, the less will it be shaken by local passions. and in any view, is it not better that the opposite bank of the Missisipi should be settled by our own brethren & children than by strangers of another family? with which should we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?

In matters of Religion, I have considered that it’s free exercise is placed by the constitution independant of the powers of the general government. I have therefore undertaken, on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it: but have left them, as the constitution found them, under the direction & discipline of the state or church authorities acknoleged by the several religious societies.

The Aboriginal inhabitants of these countries I have regarded with the commiseration their history inspires. endowed with the faculties & the rights of men, breathing an ardent love of liberty and independance, & occupying a country which left them no desire but to be undisturbed, the stream of overflowing population from other regions directed itself on these shores. without power to divert, or habits to contend against it, they have been overwhelmed by the current, or driven before it. now reduced within limits too narrow for the hunter-state, humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture & the domestic arts to encourage them to that industry which alone can enable them to maintain their place in existence, & to prepare them in time for that state of society, which to bodily comforts adds the improvement of the mind & morals. we have therefore liberally furnished them with the implements of husbandry & houshold use we have placed among them instructors in the arts of first necessity and they are covered with the Aegis of the law against aggressors from among ourselves.

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason, follow it’s dictates, & change their pursuits with the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter. they are combated by the habits of their bodies, prejudices of their minds, ignorance, pride, & the influence of interested & crafty individuals among them, who feel themselves something in the present order of things, and fear to become nothing in any other. these persons inculcate a sanctimonious reverence for the customs of their ancestors that whatsoever they did must be done through all time that reason is a false guide, and to advance under it’s counsel in their physical, moral or political condition is perilous innovation: that their duty is to remain as their creator made them, ignorance being safety, and knolege full of danger. in short, my friends, among them also is seen the action and counteraction of good sense and of bigotry. they too have their Anti-Philosophists, who find an interest in keeping things in their present state who dread reformation, and exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendancy of habit over the duty of improving our reason, & obeying it’s mandates.

In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow citizens, to arrogate to myself the merit of the measures. that is due in the first place to the reflecting character of our citizens at large, who, by the weight of public opinion, influence and strengthen the public measures. it is due to the sound discretion with which they select from among themselves those to whom they confide the legislative duties. it is due to the zeal & wisdom of the characters thus selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholsome laws, the execution of which alone remains for others. and it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries, whose patriotism has associated them with me in the executive functions.

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the Press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever it’s licentiousness could devise or dare. these abuses of an institution, so important to freedom and science, are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen it’s usefulness and to sap it’s safety. they might perhaps have been corrected by the wholsome punishments reserved to, and provided by, the laws of the several states against falsehood & defamation. but public duties more urgent press on the time of public servants and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public indignation.

Nor was it uninteresting to the world, that an experiment should be fairly and fully made, Whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth? Whether a government, conducting itself in the true spirit of it’s constitution with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole world should witness, can be written down by falsehood & defamation? the experiment has been tried. you have witnessed the scene. our fellow citizens looked on cool, & collected. they saw the latent source from which these outrages proceeded. they gathered around their public functionaries. and when the constitution called them to the decision by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them, and consolatory to the friend of man, who believes that he may be trusted with the controul of his own affairs.

No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the states against false & defamatory publications, should not be enforced. he who has time renders a service to public morals, & public tranquility, in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law. but the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth & reason have maintained their ground against false opinions, in league with false facts, the Press, confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint. the public judgment will correct false reasonings & opinions, on a full hearing of all parties and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty of the press, and it’s demoralising licentiousness. if there be still improprieties which this rule would not restrain, it’s Supplement must be sought in the Censorship of Public opinion.

Contemplating the union of sentiment now manifested so generally, as auguring harmony & happiness to our future course, I offer to our country sincere congratulations. with those too, not yet rallied to the same point, the disposition to do so is gaining strength. facts are piercing through the veil drawn over them: & our doubting brethren will at length see that the mass of their fellow citizens, with whom they cannot yet resolve to act, as to principles & measures, think as they think, & desire what they desire. that our wish, as well as their’s, is, that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good: that peace be cultivated, civil & religious liberty unassailed, law & order preserved, equality of rights maintained, & that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry, or that of his fathers. when satisfied of these views, it is not in human nature that they should not approve & support them. in the mean time, let us cherish them with patient affection: let us do them justice and more than justice in all competitions of interest & we need not doubt that truth, reason, & their own interests will at length prevail, will gather them into the fold of their country, & will compleat that entire union of opinion which gives to a nation the blessing of harmony & the benefit of all it’s strength.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again called me, & shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any motives of interest may lead me astray. I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me knowingly from the path of justice. but the weaknesses of human nature, & the limits of my own understanding will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests. I shall need therefore all the indulgence which I have heretofore experienced from my constituents. the want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need too the favour of that being in whose hands we are: who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries & comforts of life who has covered our infancy with his providence, & our riper years with his wisdom & power: & to whose goodness I ask you to join in supplications with me, that he will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their councils, & prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do shall result in your good, & shall secure to you the peace, friendship, & approbation of all nations.


James Madison

Known before the 20th century simply as The Federalist, The Federalist Papers were a series of 85 essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay under the pseudonym "Publius." The essays were written between October 1787 and August 1788, and were intended to build public and political support for the newly constructed Constitution.

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Interview with Joseph Ellis

Joseph Ellis, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation, discusses his latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789.

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Washington, Jefferson, and Madison

Read about the personal and political relationships between these three founders, and how their changing relationships reflected America's changing political situation.

Historic Site

Montpelier

Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, is owned and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The fourth president of the United States, James Madison, Jr., was born on March 16, 1751, in King George County, Virginia. He was the eldest of twelve children born to James and Nelly Conway Madison. The elder Madison was a wealthy planter and slave owner who raised James and his surviving siblings on the family estate, Montpelier, in Orange County, Virginia. Madison would later inherit Montpelier and live on the estate until his death in 1836. Madison married Dolley Payne Todd, a widow with one son and the sister-in-law of George Steptoe Washington, George Washington's nephew and ward, on September 15, 1794. A quiet, reserved man, Madison stood in sharp contrast to the sociable Dolley. The couple had no children.

Despite graduating with an excellent education from the College of New Jersey (present-day Princeton University) in 1771, Madison lacked direction in his life once he returned to Virginia. The American Revolution, however, provided him with a necessary spark. A member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Madison served as a member of the committee that framed the state's first constitution. At the national level, he served in the Second Continental Congress and its successor, the Confederation Congress.

Madison reveled in the political atmosphere that he encountered during these years. Along with Alexander Hamilton, he orchestrated the call by the Annapolis Convention for a constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Madison worked tirelessly to ensure George Washington's presence at the Philadelphia convention. A nationalist, Madison authored the so-called Virginia Plan at the convention.

After the convention drafted a new constitution, Madison worked for its passage, particularly in Virginia and New York. Madison teamed up with New York residents Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to co-author the Federalist Papers. As a member of the First Congress, Madison would subsequently draft the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights.

A close confidant of Washington, Madison helped the first president set up the new federal government by offering advice on a variety of issues, including personnel selection. Washington also frequently asked Madison to write important public addresses, including Washington's first inaugural address. Like many of Washington's close associates, Madison lobbied the president for a second term in office in 1792, even after Washington had asked Madison to prepare for him his farewell address to the country.

The working relationship between the two men deteriorated, however, as the policy conflicts and acrimony between Madison and Alexander Hamilton increased during Washington's two terms in office. When Madison sought to destroy the Senate-ratified Jay's Treaty, Washington used the minutes of the Constitutional Convention to refute Madison's arguments. The episode forever ended the close relationship between the two men, as Washington lost all trust in Madison's objectivity.

With Thomas Jefferson, Madison orchestrated the formation of the Democratic-Republican Party. The two men would later cooperate in their response to the Sedition Act of 1798, as Madison anonymously authored the Virginia Resolutions and Jefferson, the Kentucky Resolutions. Madison worked for Jefferson's election in 1800, becoming the third president's secretary of state.

Madison succeeded Jefferson as president in 1809. Foreign affairs dominated Madison's presidency, especially as the country sought to find a middle ground between warring Great Britain and France. In 1812, Madison finally asked for a declaration of war against Great Britain. Derogatorily called "Mr. Madison's War," the War of 1812 often found Madison in search of answers to numerous problems. After retiring from the presidency, Madison seldom journeyed from Montpelier. In 1829, he did travel to Richmond, where he served as a delegate to the convention revising the Virginia constitution. Madison died on June 28, 1836, and was laid to rest in the Madison family cemetery at Montpelier.

Jeffrey A. Zemler, Ph.D.
Brookhaven College

Bibliography:
"Editorial Note: Address of the President to Congress." The Papers of James Madison, Vol. 12. Charles F. Hobson and Robert A. Rutland, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979.

"Editorial Note: The General Assembly Session of October 1786." The Papers of James Madison, Vol. 9. William M.E. Rachal, ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975.

"Editorial Note: Madison at the First Session of the First Congress, 8 April-29 September 1789." The Papers of James Madison, Vol. 12. Charles F. Hobson and Robert A. Rutland, eds.. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1979.

"Editorial Note: Virginia Resolutions." The Papers of James Madison, Vol. 17. David B. Mattern et al., eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991.

Ketcham, Ralph. James Madison: A Biography. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1971.

James Madison: A Biography in His Own Words. Merrill D. Peterson, ed. New York: Newsweek Book Division, 1974.


President Madison's First Inaugural Address [March 4, 1809] - History

Born in 1751, Madison was brought up in Orange County, Virginia, and attended Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey). A student of history and government, well-read in law, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, served in the Continental Congress, and was a leader in the Virginia Assembly.

When delegates to the Constitutional Convention assembled at Philadelphia, the 36-year-old Madison took frequent and emphatic part in the debates.

Madison made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the Federalist essays. In later years, when he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison protested that the document was not “the off-spring of a single brain,” but “the work of many heads and many hands.”

In Congress, he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enact the first revenue legislation. Out of his leadership in opposition to Hamilton’s financial proposals, which he felt would unduly bestow wealth and power upon northern financiers, came the development of the Republican, or Jeffersonian, Party.

As President Jefferson’s Secretary of State, Madison protested to warring France and Britain that their seizure of American ships was contrary to international law. The protests, John Randolph acidly commented, had the effect of “a shilling pamphlet hurled against eight hundred ships of war.”

Despite the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807, which did not make the belligerent nations change their ways but did cause a depression in the United States, Madison was elected President in 1808. Before he took office the Embargo Act was repealed.

During the first year of Madison’s Administration, the United States prohibited trade with both Britain and France then in May, 1810, Congress authorized trade with both, directing the President, if either would accept America’s view of neutral rights, to forbid trade with the other nation.

Napoleon pretended to comply. Late in 1810, Madison proclaimed non-intercourse with Great Britain. In Congress a young group including Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, the “War Hawks,” pressed the President for a more militant policy.

The British impressment of American seamen and the seizure of cargoes impelled Madison to give in to the pressure. On June 1, 1812, he asked Congress to declare war.

The young Nation was not prepared to fight its forces took a severe trouncing. The British entered Washington and set fire to the White House and the Capitol.

But a few notable naval and military victories, climaxed by Gen. Andrew Jackson’s triumph at New Orleans, convinced Americans that the War of 1812 had been gloriously successful. An upsurge of nationalism resulted. The New England Federalists who had opposed the war–and who had even talked secession–were so thoroughly repudiated that Federalism disappeared as a national party.

In retirement at Montpelier, his estate in Orange County, Virginia, Madison spoke out against the disruptive states’ rights influences that by the 1830’s threatened to shatter the Federal Union. In a note opened after his death in 1836, he stated, “The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated.”


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National Archive/Newsmakers President Harry Truman's second inauguration, on Jan. 20, 1949, was the first to be nationally televised. It was viewed by 10 million Americans, making it the most-watched event in history, according to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. The 1949 inauguration was also the first openly integrated presidential inauguration, with the president ensuring minorities were welcome to attend all events.

James Madison’s defense of religious freedom

American Minute with Bill Federer

James Madison’s defense of religious freedom began when he stood with his father outside a jail in the village of Orange and heard Baptists preach from their cell windows.

They were “unlicensed” — preaching religious opinions not approved by the government.

A Virginia historical marker reads:

“John Weatherford’s Grave … Baptist Preacher … jailed for five months … for unlicensed preaching. His release was secured by Patrick Henry.”

“Crooked Run Baptist Church … Thomas Ammon became a minister and was imprisoned in the Culpeper jail for preaching.”

Madison wrote about the fate of Baptist ministers to William Bradford, JANUARY 24, 1774:

“There are at this time in the adjacent Culpeper County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in jail for publishing their religious sentiments which in the main are very orthodox.”

On October 31, 1785, James Madison introduced in the Virginia Legislature a Bill for Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship, passed 1789.

James Madison assisted George Mason in his drafting of Article 16 of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, ratified June 12, 1776:

“That Religion, or the duty which we owe to our CREATOR, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence

and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,

and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other.”

The phrase “Christian forbearance” is an appeal for citizens to follow the Biblical Judeo-Christian teachings of “love your enemies” and “do unto others as you would have do unto you.”

In was unanticipated that other belief and non-belief systems would take advantage of this “Christian forbearance” to propagate intolerance of Christianity, such as state-enforced secularism, atheistic communism, satanism, or sharia Islam.

James Madison wrote in Religious Freedom-A Memorial and Remonstrance, June 20, 1785:

“It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to Him …

Much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular civil society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.

We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of civil society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance …”

In contrast to religions which kill infidels and behead those leaving their community, Madison advocated the opposite:

“Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.

If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered …

‘The equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of his conscience’ is held by the same tenure with all our other rights.”

James Madison sought George Mason’s advice, as he commented to Jefferson in 1783:

“I took Colonel Mason in my way and had an evening’s conversation with him … on the article of convention for revising our form of government, he was sound and ripe and I think would not decline participation in such a work.”

George Mason was praised by another Virginia delegate to the Constitutional Convention, Edmund Randolph. He wrote that of all the plans for the new government: “those proposed by George Mason swallowed up all the rest.”

George Mason was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, but he refused to sign the U.S. Constitution because it did not put enough limits on the new Federal Government, stating:

“There is no declaration of rights, and the laws of the general government being paramount to the laws and constitution of the several states, the declarations of rights in the separate states are no security.”

George Mason proposed a list of Amendments to handcuff the government’s power gave rise to him being referred to as the “Father of the Bill of Rights.”

George Mason suggested wording for what would eventually be the First Amendment:

“That Religion or the Duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Conviction, not by Force or violence,

and therefore all men have an equal, natural, and unalienable Right to the free Exercise of Religion according to the Dictates of Conscience,

and that no particular religious Sect or Society of Christians ought to be favored or established by Law in preference to others.”

The consensus at that time was to have tolerance among the different Christian sects and denominations. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens admitted in Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985:

“At one time it was thought that this right merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith.”

George Mason’s role was acknowledged by Jefferson, April 3, 1825:

“The fact is unquestionable, that the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution of Virginia, were drawn originally by George Mason, one of our greatest men, and of the first order of greatness.”

With inspiration from George Mason, James Madison introduced his wording for the First Amendment, June 7, 1789:

“The Civil Rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, nor on any pretext infringed.”

The First Amendment was intended to limit the Federal Government’s jurisdiction, as James Madison entered in his journal, June 12, 1788:

“There is not a shadow of right in the general government to inter-meddle with religion … The subject is, for the honor of America, perfectly free and unshackled. The government has no jurisdiction over it.”

James Madison stated in his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1809:

“To avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the function of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction.”

In proclaiming the U.S. should take possession of the land east of the Mississippi River and south of the Mississippi Territory extending to Perdido River, President Madison wrote, October 27, 1810:

“The good people inhabiting the same are…under full assurance that they will be protected in the enjoyment of their liberty, property, and religion.”

When the War of 1812 began with Britain, James Madison proclaimed a National Day of Public Humiliation and Prayer, July 9, 1812:

“I … recommend the third Thursday of August … for … rendering the Sovereign of the Universe … public homage … that He would inspire all …with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion, to do to others as they would require that others should do to them.”

After the British burned the U.S. Capitol, James Madison proclaimed a National Day of Fasting, November 16, 1814:

“I … recommend … a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering … their humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance.”

When the War of 1812 ended, James Madison proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving, March 4, 1815:

“To the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil …

I now recommend … the people of every religious denomination … unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage … and of their songs of praise.”

James Madison ended his 7th Annual Message, December 5, 1815:

“… to the goodness of a superintending Providence, to which we are indebted … to cherish institutions which guarantee their safety and their liberties, civil and religious.”

James Madison wrote to Edward Everett, 1823:

“That there has been an increase of religious instruction since the revolution can admit of no question.

The English Church was originally the established religion …

Of other sects there were but few adherents, except the Presbyterians who predominated on the west side of the Blue Mountains. A little time previous to the Revolutionary struggle, the Baptists sprang up, and made very rapid progress.”

“Among the early acts of the Republican Legislature, were those abolishing the Religious establishment, and putting all sects at full liberty and on a perfect level.

At present the population is divided, with small exceptions, among the Protestant Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Baptists and the Methodists …

I conjecture the Presbyterians and Baptists to form each about a third, and the two other sects together of which the Methodists are much the smallest, to make up the remaining third …

Among the other sects, Meeting Houses have multiplied and continue to multiply … Religious instruction is now diffused throughout the Community by Preachers of every sect with almost equal zeal …”

“The qualifications of the Preachers, too among the new sects where there is the greatest deficiency, are understood to be improving.

On a general comparison of the present and former times, the balance is certainly and vastly on the side of the present, as to the number of religious teachers the zeal which actuates them, the purity of their lives and the attendance of the people on their instructions.”

James Madison wrote to Frederick Beasley, November 20, 1825:

“The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources.”

Bishop William Meade, whose father had been an aide-de-camp to George Washington’s aides during the Revolution, wrote in Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1857, Vol. II, p. 99-100):

“Madison on the subject of religion … was never known to declare any hostility to it. He always treated it with respect, attended public worship in his neighborhood, invited ministers of religion to his house, had family prayers on such occasions.”

James Madison had Presbyterian ministers preach at his Montpelier estate, such as Samuel Stanhope Smith and Nathaniel Irwin, of whom he wrote:

“Praise is in every man’s mouth here for an excellent discourse he this day preached to us.”

Madison reportedly met with Baptist preacher John Leland in Orange County, Virginia. Leland considered running for Congress, but when Madison promised to introduce an amendment protecting religious liberty, Leland persuaded Baptists to support him.

John Leland wrote in Rights of Conscience Inalienable, 1791:

“Every man must give account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he can best reconcile to his conscience.

If government can answer for individuals at the day of judgment, let men be controlled by it in religious matters otherwise, let men be free.”

Presbyterian Rev. James Waddell preached in Charlottesville, Virginia, as attorney William Wirt wrote in 1795:

“Every heart in the assembly trembled in unison. His peculiar phrases that force of description that the original scene appeared to be, at that moment, acting before our eyes …

The effect was inconceivable. The whole house resounded with the mingled groans, and sobs, and shrieks of the congregation.”

When Rev. James Waddell spoke at St. Thomas Anglican Church James Madison wrote praising his sermons:

“He has spoiled me for all other preaching.”

St. Thomas Anglican Church was built with help from Colonel James Taylor II, the great-grandfather of President James Madison and President Zachary Taylor.

In contrast to sharia Islam, or a state-enforced LBGTQ agenda, or aggressive secularism, Madison believed:

-that a Supreme Being did indeed exist
-that He was to worshiped and
-that worship was only acceptable to Him if it was uncoerced.

In a National Proclamation of Public Humiliation and Prayer, July 23, 1813, James Madison explained:

“If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy of the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to whom it is addressed, it must be … guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences …

proving that religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man, is freed from all coercive edicts.”

Self-Educated American Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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