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Madison, James°


MADISON, JAMES ° (1750–1836), fourth president of the United States. The son of a prominent Episcopalian family, Madison graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1771. Because he was then considering a career in the ministry, he spent an additional year studying theology and Hebrew. Throughout his political career, he contended that complete religious liberty was essential for a harmonious society and that religious institutions established by the state engendered "ignorance and corruption." During the Virginia constitutional convention in 1776, he opposed a provision for full religious "toleration," proposing instead that the law declare "the full and free exercise of it [religion] according to the dictates of conscience." In 1784 he successfully led the opposition to a resolution in the Virginia House of Delegates for a tax in "support of the Christian religion, or of some Christian church" and warned that "Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution." As president he vetoed two bills in 1811 which would have granted legal prerogatives to certain churches.

While serving as a congressman from 1780 to 1783, Madison borrowed money from the Jewish broker Haym *Salomon, whom he later referred to gratefully in a letter. Writing to Mordecai M. *Noah in 1818, he expressed delight at the blessings conferred upon Jews by religious liberty in America, while in 1820 he wrote to Jacob *De La Motta that while being little known, "the history of the Jews must be forever interesting." During his presidency he appointed several Jews to government posts, including John *Hays as collector for the Indian Territory in 1814, Mordecai Noah as consul general at Tunis in 1813, and Joel *Hart as consul at Leith, Scotland, in 1817.


G. Hunt, The Life of James Madison (1902), 8–12, 77–86; S.K. Padover (ed.), The Complete Madison (1953), 298–312; Kohler, in: ajhsp, 11 (1903), 60–65.

[Edward L. Greenstein]

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