James Madison Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will talk about the life, career, and accomplishments of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and one of the authors of the Constitution.

Who is James Madison?

Portrait of President James Madison
James Madison portrait

Do you know who is called the 'Father of the Constitution?' James Madison would know, even though he didn't like that title. James Madison helped create the government when the United States first became a country and was president from 1809 to 1817. His wife and partner, Dolley, was famous for her charm and hospitality.

Early Life

James Madison was born on March 6, 1761, in Virginia. He grew up on a plantation called Montpelier with 11 younger siblings. Yes, he was the oldest of 12 children!

Education was very important to Madison, and he studied math, languages, geography, history, and law.

The Constitution and Federalist Papers

Madison supported the American colonies becoming independent from Great Britain. After American got their independence during the American Revolutionary War, they set up a government with the Articles of Confederation, but didn't work very well.

The young country's leaders came together at the Continental Congress to come up with a better government in 1787. Madison was representing Virginia and came ready with ideas. He had been studying other kinds of governments, what worked, and what didn't.

Many of the ideas in Madison's Virginia Plan can be seen in our Constitution. During the Constitutional Convention, Madison kept very detailed notes about everything. Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay wrote 85 essays called the Federalist (later called the Federalist Papers) explaining why the new Constitution was a good choice.

Madison also wrote the Bill of Rights, ten amendments, or additions, at the end of the Constitution that protect the people. One of these protections is the freedom of religion, something Madison believed was very important.

That's how Madison got to be called the 'Father of the Constitution'. He disagreed, though, and wrote that the Constitution was actually ''the work of many heads and many hands'' and ''not the off-spring of a single brain.''

The New Government

Madison worked in Congress from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the leaders of the Democratic-Republican party.

Portrait of Dolley Madison in 1817
Dolley Madison

It's amazing to imagine all the Founding Fathers working together. Madison helped write George Washington's inaugural address. Madison also worked as Secretary of State for his good friend President Jefferson.

President Madison and the War of 1812

Madison became the fourth U.S. president in 1809.

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