USA 2001 34-cent James Madison Plate Block of 4 Postage Stamps, MNH
Mint plate block of four postage stamps. Issue Date: October 18, 2001. City: New York, NY.
MADISON, JAMES (1751-1836), fourth president of the United States, was born at Port Conway, in King George county, Virginia, on the 16th of March 1751. His first ancestor in America may possibly have been Captain Isaac Maddyson, a colonist of 1623 mentioned by John Smith as an excellent Indian fighter. His father, also named James Madison, was the owner of large estates in Orange county, Virginia. In 1769 the son entered the college of New Jersey (now Princeton University), where, in the same year, he founded the well-known literary club, “The American Whig Society.” He graduated in 1771, but remained for another year at Princeton studying, apparently for the ministry, under the direction of John Witherspoon (1722-1794). In 1772 he returned to Virginia, where he pursued his reading and studies, especially theology and Hebrew, and acted as a tutor to the younger children of the family. In 1775 he became chairman of the committee of public safety for Orange county, and wrote its response to Patrick Henry's call for the arming of a colonial militia, and in the spring of 1776 he was chosen a delegate to the new Virginia convention, where he was on the committee which drafted the constitution for the state, and proposed an amendment (not adopted) which declared that “all men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise” of religion, and was more radical than the similar one offered by George Mason. In 1777, largely, it seems, because he refused to treat the electors with rum and punch, after the custom of the time, he was not re-elected, but in November of the same year he was chosen a member of the privy council or council of state, in which he acted as interpreter for a few months, as secretary prepared papers for the governor, and in general took a prominent part from the 14th of January 1778 until the end of 1779, when he was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress.
He was in Congress during the final stages of the War of Independence, and in 1780 drafted instructions to Jay, then representing the United States at Madrid, that in negotiations with Spain he should insist upon the free navigation of the Mississippi and upon the principle that the United States succeeded to British rights affirmed by the treaty of Paris of 1763. When the confederation was almost in a state of collapse because of the failure of the states to respond to requisitions of Congress for supplies for the federal treasury, Madison was among the first to advocate the granting of additional powers to Congress, and urged that congress should forbid the states to issue more paper money. In 1781 he favored an amendment of the Articles of Confederation giving Congress power to enforce its requisitions, and in 1783, in spite of the open opposition of the Virginia legislature, which considered the Virginian delegates wholly subject to its instructions, he advocated that the states should grant to Congress for twenty-five years authority to levy an import duty, and suggested a scheme to provide for the interest on the debt not raised by the import duty — apportioning it among the states on the basis of population, counting three-fifths of the slaves, a ratio suggested by Madison himself. Accompanying this plan was an address to the states drawn up by Madison, and one of the ablest of his state papers. In the same year, with Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, Nathaniel Gorham of Massachusetts, Gunning Bedford of Delaware, and John Rutledge of South Carolina, he was a member of the committee which reported on the Virginia proposal as to the terms of cession to the Confederation of the “back lands,” or unoccupied Western territory, held by several of the states; the report was a skillful compromise made by Madison, which secured the approval of the rather exigent Virginia legislature.