The James Madison Papers

James Madison Timeline 1751-1836


Second Term and The War of 1812


After four years of commercial warfare and economic depression for American merchants, and no shift in British policy, Madison seeks declaration of war.

Congress declares war against Great Britain. American forces launch series of invasions into Canada, ending in American surrender of Detroit and Michigan Territory (June).

Madison, with Elbridge Gerry as vice president, reelected to presidency (November).


Madison continues to manage war with Great Britain, but fails to achieve any real strategic goals. American naval forces more successful at such places as Lake Erie and the River Thames in Canada. American land forces capture York (present-day Toronto) and restore stability with victories at Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, and Fort Erie.


Madison and government evacuate Washington when British forces under command of General Cockburn defeat American forces in and around the city. Capitol building (including Library of Congress), White House, and other public buildings are torched by victorious British troops (August 24). Later that year, Madison vetoes National Bank law.

Conflict ends with treaty signed at Ghent (December), shortly before General Andrew Jackson defeats British army at New Orleans in January 1815.


Reversing earlier position, Madison signs law creating Second Bank of the United States.


Four days before presidential inauguration of James Monroe, Madison vetoes bill providing federal funding of roads and canals on grounds that no Constitutional clause allows for such improvements funded by federal government (March).

Retires from public service and returns to Montpelier (spring).


Political cartoon of King George III and James Madison boxing

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon A boxing match, or another bloody nose for John Bull.
print on wove paper: etching with watercolor; sheet 25 x 34.8 cm.
William Charles. 1813.
Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

Burning of Washington

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Capture and burning of Washington by the British, in 1814.
Wood engraving.
Richard Miller Devens. 1876.
Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.

Battle of New Orleans

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon The Battle of New Orleans.
Photomechanical print: halftone, color.
E. Percy Moran. c1910.
Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress.