Appointed by President Thomas Jefferson
James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, into the landowning class of the Virginia piedmont. His father, James Madison, Sr., was the wealthiest planter in developing but still provincial Orange County. James, Jr. was the eldest of 10 siblings, 7 of whom lived to adulthood. His father happily supported his eldest son's academic and political endeavors. In 1769, he sent James to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), a more expensive but superior alternative to the College of William and Mary—where most planters' sons went.
Madison soon became a protégé of John Witherspoon, the college's Scottish-born president. Under Witherspoon's guidance, he first began to think of America as a future continental empire. The young Virginian read broadly and intensively, particularly in the political and economic theories of the Scottish Enlightenment. He graduated in two years, nearly studying himself to death in the process. After college, Madison spent several months reading law, pondering a career, and fretting over his health—the latter remaining a lifelong tendency.
Like many young men, Madison found an opportunity to distinguish himself in the American Revolution. Small and sickly, he proved too frail to serve in the military. Instead, he put his intellect to work for the cause. He served first as a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention, where he began his lifelong friendship and political partnership with Thomas Jefferson. In 1778 and 1779 Madison labored on the Virginia Council of State, where he helped coordinate Virginia's contribution to the war effort. Impressed with young Madison's intelligence and tenacity, the state's leaders sent him to represent Virginia in the Continental Congress.
Madison arrived at the Continental Congress in early 1780. At the time, American prospects appeared grim. The states had yet to ratify the Articles of Confeder-ation, the French essentially controlled the Continental Congress, and British forces were amassing in the vulnerable South. Madison played an important role in reinvigorating the Congress. He focused on provisioning the army and asserting
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Publication information: Book title: American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell. Contributors: Edward S. Mihalkanin - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 2004. Page number: 334.
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