Tuesday, August 10, 2010

James Madison

Political Party: Democratic-Republican

Term: 1809-1817

Nickname: Father of the Constitution

Short (not really) Bio:
Madison is best known as stated above, as the father of the Constitution. Madison himself scoffed at the nickname and claimed that the Constitution was not made by a single mind, and that many had helped form it. Madison was with Jefferson in terms of how he felt about the strength of the government, which was he feared a centralized federal power. After Washington, Adams, and Jefferson had refused to take sides on the war between France and Britain, Madison chose to favor the French. Parts of Jefferson's embargo were still intact for France and Britain, but Madison was willing to agree to terms with France to get trade going again. Why choose France over Britain? Madison and America were a little pissed off that Britain was stopping our ships, taking our supplies, and then impressing our sailors. Impressment meant that our sailors now had to serve on the British ships and fight their war. France did it too, but not as much, and stopped to resume trade.

Pressure to go to war with Britain was high, and not only from citizens. Enter the War Hawks, John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. They, along with other War Hawks, entered Congress and demanded that Madison deal with Britain. The War Hawks were also convinced that the British had the Native Americans attack our western settlements (The west in that time was our Midwest today). Britain realizes that the hammer is about to come down from both sides, and says they will stop. But, too bad the telegram or any faster mode of communication hasn't been invented yet! The U.S. declares war on Britain while the message is being sent. Madison receives word, and is like, "oh well". Britain now has to fight two countries. Though to their benefit, the Shawnee, led by Tecumseh decide to support Britain and fight the U.S. Tecumseh is widely considered one of the best warriors and generals of all time for his cunning and knowledge of the enemy. Tecumseh was a thorn in the side of Madison and Commander William Henry Harrison. Tecumseh represents the last hope that the Shawnee, and any Native American tribe has at staving off westward expansion of whites.

To make this section about the war itself shorter, I'm going to summarize. The War of 1812 had two parts: Our battles in Canada and around Detroit, and on the east coast. The second part of the war starts when France agrees to a treaty with Britain. Madison runs again for president, wins against Anti-War candidate Clinton, and drives to end the war. Tecumseh is killed in battle, essentially killing the biggest Native American coalition against the whites. Many Native American tribes throw their hats in with the Americans after that, including the Shawnee. The British land in the Eastern U.S. and torch the capitol and the white house. Bad day. Madison and the American forces are finally able to beat the British into a stalemate. Both sides are tired of fighting and sign the Treaty of Ghent. Word doesn't reach New Orleans in time and General Andrew Jackson takes heavy losses, but wins against British forces after the war had already ended. Fun Fact: Our national anthem comes from the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was captured at Fort McHenry and watched the fort stave off the British forces.

With the war finally over, Madison's popularity grew. America had just shown that it could hold it's own for the second time against one of the world's superpowers. The British never attacked the Americans again after that war. The economy also improves with the creation of the Second National Bank, though it's existence will be snuffed out by a future president. Madison was not big on immigrants into the U.S. He blocked a bill on naturalization, and had all illegal immigrants kicked out of the U.S. Funny how some issues never go away. Madison goes out on a high note and ushers in the Era of Good Feelings.

Madison went to war with a major power and wore them out. That's pretty impressive, though reckless, as Britain had agreed not to impress their sailors anymore. Madison, like Jefferson is more well known for his contributions outside of his presidency. Madison's policy on immigrants could also be seen as harsh by some. Madison also supports the continued expansion of citizens into Native American land. All in all, not a bad presidency.

Yes I realize that this was also a War of 1812 entry too.

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