Written by Czarina

Modified & Updated: 21 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

james madison facts

The 4th US President James Madison lived a long and fascinating life. He may not be as popular nor as memorable as his good friend Thomas Jefferson, but he still made a name for himself in the best way he can: through his great use of intellect.

Known as the “Father of The Constitution,” Madison was very smart. He had an estimated IQ of 160. He also helped author the Bill Of Rights. Those three James Madison facts show what a great man he truly was. Both intelligent and brave, he was not afraid of going into battle to fight for his country. In fact, Madison is the only incumbent commander-in-chief to have been actively involved in military action with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, who was present at the Battle of Fort Stevens during the Civil War.

All this he did, while sick! He was diagnosed with a seizure disorder when he was 24. Madison suffered from gallbladder inflammation and chronic arthritis as well. Madison’s contemporaries admired his ferocious intelligence, but many also noted his diminutive stature and meek manner. He stood 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed no more than 100 pounds. Madison was such an introvert, the wife of a Virginia politician once described him as “the most unsociable creature in existence.”

Love him or hate him, the life story of this great leader is absolute proof that it is possible to live your dreams independent of the opinions of others. That said, did Madison’s story inspire you? Do you want to know more? To satisfy your curiosity, why not check out our collection of James Madison facts below.

  1. James Madison finished a four-year college course in just two years.
  2. He wrote 29 out of the 85 essays in The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays and articles to promote the ratification of the United States constitution.
  3. Madison was 57 years old when he was inaugurated as president of the United States.
  4. His friendship with Thomas Jefferson spanned 50 years.
  5. He died six days before the 60th anniversary of the United States.
  1. James Madison was born at a Virginia plantation in 1751.
  2. He was the oldest of the 12 children born to James Madison Sr. and Nelly Conway Madison.
  3. James Madison is the fourth US President.
  4. Thomas Jefferson is his closest friend.
  5. He is the “Father of the Constitution.”
  6. Originally, he was against the Bill of Rights but later changed his mind.
  7. Madison suffered many illnesses, including hypochondria and depression.
  8. He lost reelection in Virginia’s Revolutionary Convention of 1776 because he refused to give free whiskey to electors.
  9. James Madison married the 26-year-old widow, Dolley Payne Todd.
  10. Madison and Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.
  1. James Madison is the only president who led the troops to war.
  2. He created the Democratic-Republican Party with Thomas Jefferson.
  3. He is considered America’s smallest president.
  4. He’s the first president to wear trousers instead of knee breeches.
  5. He lost reelection in Virginia’s Revolutionary Convention of 1776.
Table of Contents

James Madison is Princeton University’s first graduate.

James Madison was seen as an intellectual man. He finished a four-year college degree in just two years. Princeton University honored him with the James Madison Program “dedicated to exploring enduring questions of American constitutional law and Western political thought.”

princeton university
Source: Pixabay

James Madison also started public office two years after he graduated.

The Brits have colonized America for over 100 years.  James Madison was elected two years after he finished university. It happened after he proposed to take action against the British government. This marked the beginning of a long and successful political career for James Madison.

James Madison was an incredible author.

Did you know that James Madison loved to write? He was an amazing writer and essayist. Aside from drafting the Constitution, he also wrote the Bill of Rights. There were 29 essays Madison wrote for The Federalist Papers. Before he became president, he wrote the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions with Thomas Jefferson. There were even strange rumors that he wrote anonymously in some publications.

James Madison was a bookworm.

Thomas Jefferson knew that James Madison spends most of his time in the library. This was obvious as his love for reading helped him with his essays and debates. Thomas Jefferson helped Madison prepare for the Constitutional Convention by sending 200 books from France.

James Madison wrote speeches for the first US President.

First US President George Washington trusted James Madison as a confidant and close adviser. He also asked Madison to prepare speeches whenever needed. James Madison had written most of George Washington’s speeches, from his first inaugural address to his farewell speech.

James Madison became the fifth Secretary of State.

It was not surprising that James Madison was immediately appointed as Secretary of State after Thomas Jefferson won the presidential election. Their friendship and political partnership helped Jefferson in acquiring Louisiana from the French. They were also responsible for the Embargo Act, an act that banned trade with warring countries Britain and France. It was unfortunate the effort was unsuccessful as both countries were offended with neutrality, and therefore attacked the American shores.

James Madison presented a new government system.

We have James Madison to thank for the modern structure of democracy. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 allowed James Madison to propose a new and more effective government system, divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. James Madison also explained this concept in The Federalist No. 51, an essay published by James on February 6, 1788.

James Madison expanded the United States.

Louisiana and half of the USA were under French colonial rule until 1803. Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison bought the Louisiana Territory from the French for $15 million. Some historians say the Louisiana Purchase was bought for a bargain price, others say there was no need to pay for it.

Scholars believe no one won the War of 1812.

In 1812, President James Madison sent a war declaration against Great Britain after they violated US maritime rights. Months before the war ended, British soldiers burned parts of the White House. Thankfully, First Lady Dolley Madison and the enslaved Paul Jennings saved some of the valuables.

war of 1812
Photo in Public Domain

James Madison lowered the average age of generals.

President James Madison declared that war generals should be young and fit to fight. When he did that, the War of 1812 was coming to its peak and the country experienced repeated defeats against the British. Madison made some changes, which started by lowering the age of war generals, from 60 years old to 36 years old. In spite of those changes, Britain won the war in 1815.

James Madison outlived both his vice presidents.

President James Madison has always been a hardworking intellectual, and his vice presidents were, too. But for some strange reason, Madison lived longer than both his vice presidents.

Former wartime governor George Clinton was also Thomas Jefferson’s vice president. He served for four more years under the Madison Administration until his death on June 30, 1804. His successor, former Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry, was the Democratic-Republican Party’s chosen vice president. Unfortunately, he died before he reached his second year in office.

James Madison had contradictory views on slavery.

Political rivals claimed James Madison was not against slavery, especially since he grew up with slaves at his grandfather’s plantation.

Though the president agreed that owning a slave did not fit Revolutionary ideals, he had 100 African-American slaves. Madison continued to buy slaves and even brought some to the White House, even though he was against it. It’s no surprise that there is still an ongoing debate with historians and scholars about his stance on slavery.

James Madison’s footman wrote a memoir about life in the White House.

Paul Jennings, who was a slave since he was a young boy, accompanied the Madisons almost his whole life. He became James Madison’s manservant and the First Lady’s household slave for many years.

A decade after the president’s death, Paul Jennings earned his freedom after a senator brought him from a new slave owner for $120. In 1865, A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison, which was written by Jennings was published. It described the role of African-American slaves in the early American republic.

James Madison married a widow.

Thomas Jefferson introduced James Madison to 26-year-old widow Dolley Payne Todd. Months after their first meeting, the couple married in 1794. Immediately after the marriage, Madison adopted her surviving son, John Payne Todd.

The First Lady loved organizing, arranging, and hosting parties. James Madison also loved it when his wife would take the lead and play “presidentess.” The couple truly complemented each other and despite their striking difference in age and personality, they were hardly ever apart.

Dolley Madison, Dolley Payne Todd
Image from Wikipedia

The Madisons loved ice cream.

Dolley Payne Todd loved ice cream so much that she served it during the second inaugural dinner. Her husband, James Madison, even built a two-story ice house at the Montpelier estate so they could have ice cream whenever they wanted.

The popular flavors then, although considered unusual now, were asparagus, parmesan, and chestnut. There was no record of what flavor the president liked, but Dolley loved oyster-flavored ice cream.

James Madison had poor health since he was a child.

When malaria hit southeastern Virginia, the family doctor urged James Madison to travel elsewhere. He was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder when he was 24.

From his middle age onwards, he suffered from constant gallbladder inflammation and chronic arthritis. Even then, despite all his illnesses, he died at the ripe old age of 85. Despite his poor health condition, it didn’t stop James Madison from pursuing a successful political career.

James Madison suffered from depression.

Depression had always been a sensitive topic, and James Madison was no stranger to it. His insecurity as a young man developed his melancholic disorder, a major depressive disorder.

The death of a friend triggered James Madison’s depression, saying that he did “not to expect a long or a healthy life.” Doctors suggested he should take physical exercise, but his delicate health wouldn’t allow it. His depression worsened as he grew older, it made him anxious and questioned his abilities as a man because he failed to sire a biological child.

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson’s friendship lasted five decades.

The bond between the two Founding Fathers runs deep. The duo shared striking similarities, from being plantation owners from Virginia, to founding the Democratic-Republican Party, to becoming US presidents.

The duo shared political views and beliefs in religious freedom as they both pursued their political careers. When Thomas Jefferson became president, he made James Madison his Secretary of State. Meanwhile, James Madison won as Thomas Jefferson’s successor as the President of the United States. Friendship truly lasts a lifetime.

James Madison spent his retirement as Rector of the University of Virginia.

Scholars believed that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison considered founding the University of Virginia as early as 1799, but only in 1819 did the idea come to fruition.

The university aimed to hone young minds and educate future leaders, as the friends were in their lifetime. In 1826, the hardworking James Madison went out of retirement and took over the job as the university rector after Thomas Jefferson’s death.

university of virginia
Source: Pixabay

James Madison liked making jokes.

James Madison’s quick wit and sharp tongue, which he mostly used for debates and essays, must have been instrumental in his jokes. He even managed to squeeze in a joke even on his deathbed. As he took his last breath, his final words were, “I always talk better lying down.”

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