President James Madison was born to a wealthy Virginia family based in Colonial America. At an early age, he showed a high intelligence and was educated in the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton, during the tenure of John Witherspoon.
He was known for being short, but despite his shorter-than-average build, he had a great mind. He became known as the Father of the Constitution and helped write the Federalist Papers with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton.
He served in Congress after the nation's founding and eventually as the Secretary of State under President Thomas Jefferson.
When he became President of the United States, he took over during a tumultuous time and led the nation during the War of 1812, which almost resulted in America coming under British control. After the war ended, he would usher in a time that became known as the "Era of Good Feeling" and saw America begin to grow.
He was a prominent slaveowner and came from a family of slaveowners. Slavery was common, but in terms of the day, he was a more empathetic slaveowner compared to others. He did not want them sold without their consent. While that is still grotesque, it was better than most.
After his presidency, he retired to his home in Virginia, where he enjoyed his wife and correspondence with friends until his death.
James Madison came from a well-known family in Virginia, and his father was an ardent patriot who wanted independence from Great Britain.
His mother was a Conway, which was another well-known family in Virginia.
His parents had 11 children, with James Madison as the oldest. Of the 11 children, 6 would survive until adulthood. His brothers and sisters went on to have many children, but James did not.
He married later in life to Dolley, who was a widow, and the two did not have any children. He adopted her only surviving son, but he was a disgrace and would be a burden to both parents during his lifetime.
Family Tree Chart
James Madison Sr. (1723 - 1801) - He was a prominent planter in Virginia who served in the colonial militia during the Revolutionary War.
Eleanor Rose Conway (1731 - 1829) - She lived until she was 98 years old and almost outlived James Madison Jr. Her family was well-known in Virginia and had a town named after them.
Dolley Payne (1768 - 1849) - Known for defining the role of the First Lady in the White House and for saving a picture of George Washington during the War of 1812 when Washington was burned down by the British. She was a widow when she met James Madison.
James Madison and Dolley Payne did not have children of their own. Dolley was previously married and had two sons, with only one surviving to adulthood. James adopted him after he married Dolley.
John Payne Todd (stepson) (1792 - 1852) - Although adopted by James Madison, he became a disappointment. After spending many years in Europe, gaining a reputation for big spending, he returned to the United States, where he found himself in debtor prison. His spending would bring his mother to near poverty.
Francis Madison (1753 - 1800) - He was the eldest of the Madison children and seemed to be less interested in the politics of the day than his father and brothers. He married and had five children.
Ambrose Madison (1755 - 1793) - He was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and was named after his grandfather, who was murdered by a slave. There is not much known about him other than his service to his country. He and his wife had 1 daughter.
Catlett Madison (1758) - Died shortly before he was a month old.
Eleanor Conway Madison (1760 - 1802) - She married and had two children with her husband and helped raise the other children from his previous marriage.
William Taylor Madison (1762 - 1843) - He and his wife had eleven children. William served as a General during the Revolutionary War and also served during the War of 1812.
Sarah Catlett Madison (1764 - 1843) - She had nine children and married Thomas Macon. Little is known of her life outside of her marriage and children.
Infant Madison (1766) - Child that died at birth
Elizabeth Madison (1768 - 1775) - She died of dysentery at the age of 7.
Infant Madison (1770) - Child that died at birth
Reuben Madison (1771 - 1775) - He died shortly after his sister Elizabeth. He, too, died of dysentery.
Frances Taylor Madison (1774 - 1823) - She was born on the eve of the American Revolution and the last of her siblings. She and her husband had 11 children.
Last Will and Testament
I, James Madison of Orange County, do make this my last Will and testament, hereby revoking all Wills by me heretofore made.
I devise to my dear Wife during her life the tract of land whereon I live, as now held by me, except as herein otherwise devised; and if she shall pay the sum of nine thousand dollars within three years after my death, to be distributed as herein after directed, then I devise the same land to her in fee simple. If my wife shall not pay the said sum of money within the period before mentioned, then and in that case, it is my Will, and I hereby direct that at her death, the land shall be sold for cash or on credit as may be deemed most for the interest of those entitled to the proceeds thereof. If my Wife shall pay the said sum of money within the time before specified, as aforesaid, so as to become entitled to the fee simple in the said land, then I bequeath the said sum of money to be equally divided between all my nephews and Nieces which shall at that time be living, and in case of any of them being dead leaving issue at that time living, then such issue shall take the place of its or their deceased parent. It is my further Will that in case my Wife does not pay the said sum of money within the time before named, and it shall therefore be necessary to sell the said land at her death as before directed, then after deducting the twentieth part of the purchase money of the said land which deducted part I hereby empower my Wife to dispose of by her Will, I bequeath the residue of the purchase money, and in case of her dying without having disposed of such deducted part by her Will I bequeath the whole, of the purchase money of the said land to my nephews and nieces or the issues of such of them as may be dead, in the manner before directed in regard to the money to be paid by her in case she shall pay the same.
I devise my grist Mill with the land attached thereto to my Wife during her life, and I hereby direct the same to be sold at her death and the purchase money to be divided as before directed in regard to the proceeds of the tract whereon I live.
I devise to my Niece Nelly C. Willis and her heirs a lot of land lying in Orange county, purchased of Boswell Thornton on which is a limestone quarry, and also my interest in a tract of land lying in Louisa county, reputed to contain two hundred acres and not far from the said limestone quarry.
I devise my house and lot or lots in the city of Washington to my beloved wife and her heirs.
I give and bequeath my ownership in the negroes and people of color held by me to my dear Wife, but it is my desire that none of them should be sold without his or her consent or in the case of their misbehavior, except that infant children may be sold with their Parent who consents for them to be sold with him or her, and who consents to be sold.
I give all my personal estate of every description, ornamental as well as useful, except as hereinafter otherwise given, to my dear Wife, And I also give her all my manuscript papers, having entire confidence in her discreet and proper use of them, but subject to the qualification in the succeeding clauses.
Considering the peculiarity and magnitude of the occasion which produced the Convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the Characters who composed it, the Constitution which resulted from their deliberations, its effects during a trial of so many years on the prosperity of the people living under it, and the interest it has inspired among the friends of free Government, it is not an unreasonable inference that a careful and extended report of the proceedings and discussions of that body, which were with closed doors, by a member who was constant in his attendance, will be particularly gratifying to the people of the United States, and to all who take an interest in the progress of political science and the cause of true liberty, It is my desire that the Report as made by me should be published under her authority and direction, and as the publication may yield a considerable amount beyond the necessary expenses thereof; I give the net proceeds thereof to my Wife charged with the following legacies to be paid out of that fund only-first I give to Ralph Randolph Gurley Secretary of the American Colonization Society to his executors and administrators the sum of two thousand dollars, in trust nevertheless that he shall appropriate the same to the use and purposes of the said Society whether the same be incorporated by law or not.
I give fifteen hundred dollars to the University of Virginia, one thousand dollars to the College of Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey, and one thousand dollars to the College at Uniontown, Pennsylvania, for the benefit of their respective libraries; and it is my Will that if the said fund should not be sufficient to pay the whole of the three last legacies that they abate in proportion.
I further direct that there be paid out of the same fund to the guardian of the three sons of my deceased Nephew Robert L. Madison, the sum of three thousand dollars to be applied to their education in such proportions as their guardian may think right. I also give out of the same fund to my Nephew Ambrose Madison two thousand dollars to be applied by him to the education of his sons in such proportions as he may think right, and I also give out of the same fund the sum of five hundred dollars to each of the daughters of my deceased Niece Nelly Baldwin, and if the said fund shall not be sufficient to pay the whole of the legacies for the educations of my great Nephews as aforesaid and the said legacies to my great Nieces then they are to abate in proportion.
I give to the University of Virginia all that portion of my Library of which it has not copies of the same editions and which may be thought by the Board of Visitors not unworthy of a place in its Library, reserving to my wife the right first to select such particular books & pamphlets as she shall choose not exceeding three hundred volumes.
In consideration of the particular and valuable aids received from my brother-in-law John C. Payne and the affection which I bear him, I devise to him and his heirs two hundred and forty acres of land on which he lives, including the improvements on some of which he has bestowed considerable expense, to be laid off adjoining the lands of Reuben & James Newman in a convenient form for a farm so as to include woodland and by the said Mr. Newmans.
I bequeath to my Stepson John Payne Todd, the case of Medals presented to me by my friend George W Erving and the walking staff made from a timber of the Frigate Constitution and presented to me by Commodore Elliot, her present commander.
I desire the gold-mounted walking staff bequeathed to me by my late friend Thomas Jefferson to be delivered to Thomas J. Randolph as well in testimony of the esteem I have for him as from the knowledge I have of the place he held in the affections of his Grandfather.
To remove every doubt of what is meant by the terms of a tract of land whereon I live, I here declare it to comprehend all land owned by me and not herein otherwise devised away.
I hereby appoint my dear Wife to be sole executrix of this my Will and desire that she may not be required to give security for the execution thereof and that my estate be not appraised. In testimony hereof, I have this fifteenth day of April one thousand eight hundred and thirty-five signed, sealed, published, and declared this to be my last Will & Testament. We have signed the presence of the testator and of each other
Reuben Newman Senor
Reuben Newman Jun:
I, James Madison, do annex this Codicil to my last will as above & to be taken as part thereof. It is my Will that the nine thousand dollars to be paid by my wife and distributed among my Nephews & nieces may be paid into the Bank of Virginia or into the Circuit Superior Court of Chancery for Orange within three years after my death.
I direct that the proceeds from the sale of my Grist Mill & the land annexed sold at the death of my Wife shall be paid to Ralph Randolph Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization Society, and to his Executors & administrators, in trust and for the purposes of the said Society, whether the same be incorporated by law or not.
This Codicil is written wholly by and signed with my own hand, this nineteenth day of April 1835.