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James Madison was born March 16, 1751, in his grandmother's home in Port Conway, Virginia. Born the first of ten children, James and his family took residence on a family estate in Orange County, Virginia, named "Montpelier."

Baptized and raised in the Anglican faith, Madison's family was active in organized religion. His father served as vestryman, and the entire family made weekly trips to the nearby Brick Church for worship services.

Even though Madison was frail and sickly most his life, he excelled as a student, attending a well-regarded private school in Virginia during his early childhood. Later, Madison would attend Princeton University (then called the College of New Jersey) to study history, government, and law. He graduated with a four-year degree after only two years of study.

At the age of 23, Madison served in the Continental Congress. Known for his knowledge and work ethic, he was quickly voted in as a leader in the Virginia Assembly. During the course of the next several years, Madison participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Madison also helped write the Bill of Rights and enacted the first revenue legislation. Madison was considered the hardest working and most widely respected man of his day.

Serving as President Jefferson's secretary of state, Madison made his mark as a powerful speaker who enjoyed debating national issues. He and Jefferson shared a mutual affection and remained friends throughout their lifetimes. It was with Jefferson that Madison first created the Republican party.

In 1794, while serving in the Congress in Philadelphia, Madison met and married a widow 17 years his junior. Dolley Payne Todd was a Quaker at the time, and would later be expelled for marrying outside her faith. Nicknamed "Lady Madison" and "Her Majesty," Todd was well received by the public for her outstanding beauty and charming personality.

Thomas Jefferson ran for president and lost narrowly to John Adams in 1796. President Adams offered Madison a mission to France, but Madison declined and instead left the House of Representatives and retired to Montpelier with his wife and her son (by a previous marriage).

In 1801, Jefferson won the Presidential election and took his seat as president with Madison serving as secretary of state. Madison was elected the United States' 4th president in 1808. He served through the War of 1812, the burning of the White House, and the creation of the Second National Bank.

Stepping down from the presidency in 1817, Madison remained active in retirement, serving as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention, serving as president of the American Colonization Society, and openly participating in statewide debates.

James Madison died on June 28, 1836, leaving his wife in virtual poverty. Following her death in 1849, she was nicknamed the "first lady." She was the first presidential spouse given this honor. James Madison is still known today as the "Father of our Constitution."