Presidency of James Madison

Presidency of James Madison

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The presidency of James Madison was one which many people have disagreeing points of view on. Some historians think he was not one of our greater presidents because he let the United States fall into the conflict known as the war of 1812. Other historians think that Madison's presidency was a good one because he led America out of the war of 1812 and united the country. The presidency of James Madison while not being one of the greatest of all the presidents was still above average as a president because of Madison's administrative skills, international relations, and crisis leadership.
The administrative skills of Madison were one of his downfalls. The war of 1812 could have been avoided if Madison was not told misinformation that the United States could win it easily. He allowed himself to be lured into a false sense of security by both his cabinet and the senate which was full of the so called "war hawks" who boasted that Canada could be taken with only 1000 Kentucky riflemen. He did at first resist the temptation to go to war but eventually fell to declaring war with the British to attempt to gain more land and to retaliate against the impressment of American sailors that was taking place on the seas at that time to fill Britain's need for sailors with its was against the French and Napoleon which was going on at the same time. It is to Madison's credit though that even though he allowed the nation to fall into war that it was not prepared for he was able to, with help from the nation itself, to win the war and lead the nation to a new era of nationalism within America.

International relations are a important part of any presidency. James Madison, while not having the best skills in this department had sufficient knowledge to keep the nation much better off than it could have been if he made mistakes here. Madison's foreign policies keep America in good standing with the French and even though eventually there was a war, relations with the British were not that bad compared to what they could have been. Neither side was extremely wanting of a war between each other.
Before the two nations started the war, Madison had started policies to try to avoid it and to show the rest of the world that America was not to be taken lightly.

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One of these, and maybe the more important one of the many, was the embargo of all foreign trade. This led to the similar one of America only trading with the first country to renounce its policy of impressment of sailors from United States ships which were mostly merchantmen. France was the first country to take this offer which the U.S. agreed to even though the French were not a important factor with the impressment of U.S. sailors. The embargo with the British on the other hand which continued after the French and American agreement at first did not seem to be having any effect with the British was having an effect with them and the were in the process of sending a ship with a treaty saying that they were going to renounce their practice of impressment if the U.S. would start to trade with them. These things showed that Madison's foreign policies were important to the nation as a whole.

As a president of the United States there is usually some sort of crisis that occurs within the presidency. Madison's presidency was no different. With the War of 1812 Madison had to deal with Americas "second war for independence". He also had to learn of much what needed to happen to run the country on the spot because this was the nations first actual war that had happened since the nation was founded. He also needed to keep the nation together as whole while the war was going on even though not being able to be in the center of the nation, Washington D.C., being as it was burned down during the course of the war. He had succeeded in doing both because he kept the nation together throughout the war even though the nation was divided on the causes of the war and on wether or not Madison and America should have gone to war in the first place.
Even though not many historians have said that Madison was one of Americas greater presidents he showed the administrative skills, international relationships, and crisis leadership that makes him one of the better presidents that have been chosen to led the United States. He was not near being the greatest but he also was far away from being the worst president that America has had.

Benn, Carl. The War of 1812. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2002.

Stagg, J.C.A. Mr. Madison's War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.

Madison, James. Madison Writings. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999.

Rutland, Robert A. The Presidency of James Madison. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

Elliot, Ian, ed. James Madison 1751-1836. Dobbs Ferry: Oceana Publications, 1969.
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