The James Madison Papers

James Madison Timeline 1751-1836


The Colonial Period


James Madison born Port Conway, Virginia (March 16, 1751--March 5, Old Style)*, 1st of 12 children of James Madison and Nelly Conway Madison. The Madisons' considerable wealth in land, slaves, and tobacco provides for family home, Montpelier, in Virginia's Orange County, and for eldest son's education. James is an excellent student but a frail and sickly child.

*March 5 by Old (Julian) Calendar, March 16 by New (Gregorian) Calendar. New Calendar adopted by Great Britain and its colonies in 1752. To bring calendar in line with solar year, 11 days added; new year begins in January rather than March.


Enters College of New Jersey (now Princeton); graduates in 1771. Compiles books, collections of aphorisms, and other texts and, like most 18th-century students, commits parts of these texts to memory for future use. One such book, "A Brief System of Logick," appears to have been written by Madison during his years at College of New Jersey.


Returns to Virginia. Studies law. Becomes involved in local politics, particularly issue of religious freedom for nonconformist sects in Virginia.


Group of patriots, disguised as American Indians, raid British tea ships berthed in Boston Harbor and dump tea into harbor in protest (December 16).


James Madison's parents

James Madison Sr. and Nelly Conway Madison.
Image Credit: Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown, VA.
A historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Manuscript page

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon [Detail] Brief System of Logick.
Manuscript Division. Library of Congress.

Boston tea party

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon [Detail] "Boston tea-party." Three cargoes of tea destroyed. Dec. 16, 1773
photomechanical print (postcard) : color.
D. Berger. 1903.
Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.