James Madison's Presidency: the War of 1812 & the Monroe Doctrine

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  • 0:01 Who was James Madison?
  • 1:22 The War of 1812
  • 2:58 Monroe Doctrine
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the presidency of James Madison. We will learn about his contributions and what kind of man he was, but we will focus specifically on the War of 1812 and the Monroe Doctrine.

Who Was James Madison?

Washington. Adams. Jefferson. Madison. Most of us probably know a thing or two about the first three presidents, but how much do we really know about Madison? Let's dig in, and learn who he was and what happened while he was president. We'll be focusing on the War of 1812, but before we do that, let's do some Madison 101. Here we go!

So, James Madison was from Virginia, making him a part of what historians call the Virginia Dynasty, along with Washington, Jefferson, and James Monroe. See, the term Virginia Dynasty refers to the fact that four out of the first five presidents were from Virginia. Madison is considered the father of our Constitution because, well, he basically wrote it.

Like Jefferson before him, he was a Democratic-Republican, which means he was opposed to an overly powerful centralized government. Instead, he favored a limited government with power in the hands of the common people.

Madison was an intellectual. Today, many of us would probably consider him a geek. He was brilliant, but was a poor speaker and had a weak voice. He was pretty shy and small in stature. You get the idea - not someone who commanded respect in the same way Washington did. But, again, he was a brilliant intellectual, and was foundational to setting up our American Republic.

The War of 1812

Probably the most significant event that took place during the Madison administration was the War of 1812. The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain between 1812-1815. It was fought over a number of complex issues, including British impressment of American sailors, British support for Native American raids against Americans, trade restrictions, and disputed territory. Whoa! Wait a second, what is impressment you may ask? It's basically stealing sailors and forcing them to fight for you instead of their native country. See, during this time, Great Britain had been kidnapping American sailors and forcing them to fight in the Royal Navy.

Major fighting took place at sea on the Atlantic Ocean, along the American-Canadian border, along the Gulf of Mexico, and in the mid-Atlantic region. The most dramatic moment of the War of 1812 occurred when British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and burned down the White House! The shelling of Fort McHenry was also an important event in the War of 1812 because it was during this battle that Francis Scott Key penned the American National Anthem.

Over the course of the war, both the Americans and the British won important battles. With both sides war-weary and neither making much progress, the Treaty of Ghent was signed on December 24, 1814. The Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812 and restored boundaries to their pre-war status. The War of 1812 basically ended as a draw with neither side getting much out of it. And, that's the War of 1812 in a nutshell!

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