James Madison Birthday

Gay Lynn HillStudy Break

Happy 267th Birthday, James Madison! While you know Madison to be the fourth president and Father of the Constitution, celebrate his March 16 birthday and read about some of his little known facts.

Yes, he was that small – Madison was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and tipped the scale at 100 lbs., making him the smallest chief executive in U.S. history.

He was the stereotypical overachieving eldest childSon of a wealthy tobacco farmer, Madison was the oldest of 12 children. Madison had a comfortable upbringing and received education in a variety of subjects such as law, Latin, Greek, science, geography, mathematics, and philosophy. He also graduated from Princeton in two years.

Madison might have had epilepsy – On July 28, 1775 (age 24) he collapsed during a military drill.  Abrupt spells would continue to afflict him the rest of his life. Madison wrote that he had “a constitutional tendency to sudden attacks somewhat resembling epilepsy which suspended all intellectual function…they continued throughout my life with prolonged intensity.”

Orator Patrick Henry lost a debate to Madison – Madison had a quiet voice and little talent for theatrics. In 1788, during the Virginia ratifying convention, Henry staunchly opposed the Constitution and loudly argued that it leaned “towards monarchy.” While several people in attendance complained of Madison’s mumbling, he offered concise, well-articulated rebuttals to every argument. When the dust settled, his slow and steady approach paid off big-time: Virginia’s representatives voted 89 to 79 in favor of .

Madison declined an offer to prolong his life until July 4 – When the 85-year-old was on his deathbed in the summer of 1836, his doctor suggested that Madison take stimulants so he would  stay alive until July 4, the same historic date that Jefferson and Adams had died.  Madison turned down the offer and died on June 28 – six days before the 60th anniversary of our nation’s birth.

What was Madison’s greatest contribution to our country? Does he get enough credit in his role of founding the United States, or too much? Take this discussion to our Facebook page.