James Madison is best known as the “Father of the United States Constitution” and the fourth president of the United States. A Princeton alumnus, he was one of the cofounders of the American Whig Society, today known as the Whig-Cliosophic Society, the oldest college literary and debate club in the United States. After graduating in 1771, Madison began a formidable career in politics. At the age of twenty-nine, he became the youngest delegate at the Continental Congress; he was a member of the first United States Congress from Virginia as well as a writer of the Bill of Rights, and he served as Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson. In 1808 he was elected to serve two terms as President of the United States. After retiring from politics, Madison became the first president of the Princeton University Alumni Association, in 1826.
Madison’s beliefs on slavery differed greatly from his actions. He spoke out against slavery, describing it as “dishonorable to the National character” and calling it “that dreadful calamity which has so long afflicted our country.” However, Madison owned more than one hundred slaves, who worked for him at Montpelier; several served him during his tenure at the White House. While he spoke out regularly against the institution of slavery, Madison never freed any of the slaves that he owned.