James Madison: Biography
James Madison ran as the Democratic-Republican candidate for President in 1808. The Democratic-Republicans nicknamed their candidate the Great Little Madison.
James Madison was born in Port Conway Va, on March 16,1751. He became the fourth president of the United States in 1809, and served two terms. His vice presidents were George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry. He was called the Father of the Constitution, and he was the first president to wear trousers regularly, instead of knee breeches.
In 1809, when James Madison became president, he inherited a country in crisis. The Embargo Act had been repealed, but the effect on the economy was still being felt. Madison's task was to find a way to protect U.S. ships without reducing trade. Madison tried a variety of strategies, nothing seemed to work. Britain and France paid no attention, and trade suffered. So Madison tried a somewhat different approach. In 1810, he signed into Law Macon's Bill Number Two, which offered a new deal to Britain and France. If one of them would agree to respect U.S. neutrality, trade would be cut off with the other. Napoleon was the first to agree to these terms on behalf of France, so Madison reimposed the trade embargo on Britain.
A cautious man, Madison moved slowly with regard to the British. But the rest of the country had little patience for Madison's seemingly endless waiting. During the midterm electons of 1810, nearly half the members of Congress were thrown out of office. The voters wanted change, so they elected a group of much younger politicians. These new Congressmen were known as the War Hawks, because they promised if elected, to declare war on Britain. Madison held against the War Hawks for more than a year. But, in June 1812, he could fight them no longer, he reluctantly asked Congress for a Declaration of War against Great Britain.
Everyone knew the reasons for war: the pressuring of sailors, the lack of respect for U.S. neutrality and the continuing British agitation of Indian tribes along the Northwestern frontier. The opposition to the war came principally from the Federalists of New England, who were quite vocal in their opposition to what they called, "Mr. Madison's war." New England merchants wanted nothing to do with a war that would halt trade with their biggest customer, Great Britain. Some New England merchants even flirted with treason, as they became wealthy selling supplies to both sides.
The campaign of 1812 was the first ever held during a war. Despite the success of the War Hawks in 1810, opposition to the war of 1812 was strong, especially in New England. Madison ran for reelection against former New York city Mayor Dewitt Clinton, who was also a Democratic-Republican but was running independently of the party. Clinton won four New England states, in addition to Deleware, New York, New Jersey and five of Maryland's eleven votes. But Madison took the rest, winning 128 electoral votes to Clinton's 89.
As James Madison took the oath of office at his second inauguaral in March 1813, the country was in the midst of its greatest crisis since the American Revolution. Madison's invasion of Canada had failed miserably, and now the British were on the offensive. During the summer of 1814, British forces swept past the weak U.S. defenses in the Chesapeake Bay and marched on Washington, burning the nation's capital on August 24,1814.
In the meantime, the British minister had informed Madison in January 1814 that his government was prepared to discuss terms of peace. Madison accepted the offer of peace talks immediately. The British ministers immediately presented a number of demands. John Quincey Adams was one of the U.S. Peace Commissioners. Adams was shocked by the British demands. Henry Clay was less experienced in diplomacy than Adams, but he was a better poker player. He thought the British were bluffing and that they would be willing to accept less. The British held firm for months, but eventually they began to reduce their demands. When the Treaty was finally signed in December 1814, neither side gained or lost any territory.
The War of 1812 did have a lasting effect, Britain showed a great deal more respect for the United States, that it had ever shown before.