How Did James Madison Become President?

James Madison became president of the United States when he won the 1808 election, defeating Charles C. Pinckney and George Clinton. He won almost 70 percent of the electoral votes.

Before James Madison became president, he was very involved in the government of the United States. He came up with many of the ideas for the U.S. Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation. After the Constitution was ratified, he was elected to the House of Representatives and worked to pass the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, writing several essays promoting their ratification.

When Thomas Jefferson was elected to be the third president of the United States, he asked Madison to serve as his secretary of state. As secretary of state, Madison helped oversee the Louisiana Purchase, as well as Lewis and Clark's exploration of the West.

When Great Britain and France went to war again, U.S. ships were caught in the middle and were attacked regularly. As secretary of state, Madison attempted to resolve this problem diplomatically. When that failed, he pushed for the creation of the Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibited American vessels from trading with European countries. This was unsuccessful and very unpopular.

Despite the unpopularity of the Embargo Act, when Jefferson did not run for president again in 1808, Madison overwhelmingly won the presidential election.