The fourth president of the United States, James Madison (1751–1836), was a small unassuming man with a great mind. He had significant influence on the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and securing adoption of the Bill of Rights. He served as Thomas Jefferson’s secretary of state and served two terms as president of the United States, 1809 to 1817.
While the War of 1812 was sometimes derisively called “Mr. Madison’s War,” Madison was not quick to declare war on Great Britain and was not a strong leader as the nation’s wartime president.
Nevertheless, the United States and its fragile economy weathered the War of 1812 and emerged with new national pride and powerful national symbols. Although disappointed by the terms of the Treaty of Ghent, which on paper meant the war had accomplished little, Madison had reason to celebrate the treaty’s ratification and end to the war. The United States had survived against formidable odds.
On the night of February 17, 1815, President Madison and First Lady Dolley Madison hosted a celebration of peace that brought together members of opposite political parties, both those who had supported and opposed the war. The Era of Good Feelings that followed the War of 1812 had begun.