VOA新闻杂志2023--James Madison: Scholar

时间:2023-03-20 01:22:55



James Madison: Scholar

VOA Learning English presents America's Presidents.

James Madison was elected in 1808. He was a capable president who served two terms. But most Americans do not remember Madison for his presidency1. They remember him for work he did earlier.

After the Revolutionary War, in which the American colonists2 separated from Britain, Madison proposed that the new United States form a stronger national government.

Madison's vision for a three-part government – with an executive, a legislature, and an independent Supreme3 Court – became the basis for the Constitution we still use today.

Madison went on to persuade voters to accept the proposed Constitution. He explained how a system of checks and balances would prevent any one part of government from becoming too powerful.

And, when voters demanded more protection for individual liberties, Madison wrote the amendments4 that became the Bill of Rights.

These actions earned Madison the name "Father of the Constitution."

Opposites attract

Madison did not have the appearance of most politicians. He was a short man with a soft voice who had been sick often as a child.

He grew up in a wealthy family in Virginia. He liked to read books, and to study. He went to college at the school that later became Princeton University in New Jersey5.

When the Revolutionary War started, Madison's intelligence and knowledge – as well as family money – helped him participate in debates about independence.

Madison also held positions in the new American government he helped create, including as secretary of state under President Thomas Jefferson.

Madison did not have much of a personal life. Many people were surprised when he married a young widow named Dolley Payne Todd. She was 26; he was 43. The couple did not have children, but they raised Mrs. Madison's surviving son together.

Stories suggest the two were very happy, although they had different personalities6. Dolley Madison was energetic, warm, and social. She loved to throw parties – and her guests loved to attend them.

Historian Catherine Allgor notes Dolley Madison often dressed dramatically – including wearing turbans covered with peacock feathers. Her weekly gatherings7 at the president's house were so crowded that they became known as "squeezes."

As first lady, Dolley Madison did not follow her husband's idea of a strict separation of powers. She invited officials from all parts of the government to her parties, as well as people from opposing political groups.

Allgor says Dolley Madison succeeded in making the president's house a symbol of unity8 and glamor9. She remains10 one of the best- known and most-loved first ladies in U.S. history.

But his wife's popularity could not prevent Madison from facing a difficult presidency.

Conflict abroad and at home

During his first term, the U.S. faced increasingly tense relations with Britain. Madison accused the British of interfering11 with international trade and seizing American sailors.

At the same time, European-American settlers blamed the British for helping12 native tribes fight against them. But, the settlers had violated treaties between the U.S. government and the Native Americans. In 1811, native warriors13 attacked U.S. soldiers at the Battle of Tippecanoe in today's state of Indiana. A U.S. general named William Henry Harrison led his troops to fight back. The result was not clear, but Harrison declared victory.

The following year, Madison proposed war against Britain. Congress approved. The War of 1812 began.

War of 1812

For most of the war, American forces failed.

But in 1813, they had two notable victories in Canada. They captured and burned the city of York, in Toronto.

And General Harrison had another major fight with native warriors at the Battle of the Thames. The Native Americans were defeated. The leader of the tribal14 alliance, Tecumseh, died from the wounds he received there.

That loss ended, for the most part, the efforts of eastern Native American tribes to push back white settlers.

In 1814, the war turned again. British soldiers took the U.S. capital of Washington, DC.

Madison had already left the president's house to meet with generals in the field. Dolley Madison remained. But when she learned the British were approaching quickly, she acted. She famously ordered her servants, as well as a 15-year-old house slave named Paul Jennings, to take down a painting of George Washington. The servants, slaves, first lady, and painting all escaped to safety.

Commanders of the British force took a group of men to the Capitol building and set it on fire. Then, they went to the president's house. They found the table set for dinner. The British commanders stopped to toast the president before they burned his home.

By the time Washington, D.C. burned, American and British officials were already in peace talks.

But in the U.S., one more major battle was being fought. A militia15 general named Andrew Jackson led a ragtag army against a British attack in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Americans' rain of bullets and shells was so deadly that only one British soldier reached the top of the American defenses.

When the British finally withdrew, they left behind more than 2,000 dead and wounded. Five hundred other British soldiers had been captured.

Thirteen Americans were killed.

The Battle of New Orleans was considered a great victory for the U.S; however, it was not necessary. The war had ended, by treaty, two weeks earlier.


The War of 1812 almost bankrupted the U.S. government and cost the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers. It was devastating17 for many Native Americans. It did provide a chance for several thousand slaves to escape to freedom by serving in the British military. But it did nothing to improve the lives of most of 1 million enslaved people in the U.S. at the time.

Despite all this, the war united most of the country.

Albert Gallatin, Madison's treasury18 secretary, said people felt "more American" after the war. They acted more like a nation, he said.

The song that would become the country's national anthem19, "The Star-Spangled Banner," was written during the War of 1812.

Madison benefited from most people's belief that the war was a success. The end of his second term began what historians call the "Era of Good Feelings." Madison left the presidency more popular than when he had started it.

After he retired20, Madison lived on his Virginia estate for nearly another 20 years. He died in his bed at age 85. A niece was in the room. She says that a strange look passed her uncle's face. She asked him what was wrong.

Madison's last words were: "Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear. I always talk better lying down."

Words in This Story

capable - adj. skilled at doing something or able to do something well

participate - v. to be involved with others in doing something

widow - n. a woman whose husband has died

dramatic - adj. attracting attention or causing people to carefully listen and look

turban - n. a head covering made of a long cloth wrapped around the head

feather - n. any one of the light growths that make up the outer covering of the body of a bird

squeeze - n. a small or crowded space

glamor - n. a very exciting and attractive quality

approach - v. to move or become near or nearer to something or someone

toast - v. to drink and say or agree to words that honor someone or express good wishes

ragtag - adj. made up of different people or things and not organized or put together well

devastating - adj. causing great damage or harm



1 presidency J1HzD     
  • Roosevelt was elected four times to the presidency of the United States.罗斯福连续当选四届美国总统。
  • Two candidates are emerging as contestants for the presidency.两位候选人最终成为总统职位竞争者。
2 colonists 4afd0fece453e55f3721623f335e6c6f     
n.殖民地开拓者,移民,殖民地居民( colonist的名词复数 )
  • Colonists from Europe populated many parts of the Americas. 欧洲的殖民者移居到了美洲的许多地方。 来自《简明英汉词典》
  • Some of the early colonists were cruel to the native population. 有些早期移居殖民地的人对当地居民很残忍。 来自《简明英汉词典》
3 supreme PHqzc     
  • It was the supreme moment in his life.那是他一生中最重要的时刻。
  • He handed up the indictment to the supreme court.他把起诉书送交最高法院。
4 amendments 39576081718792f25ceae20f3bb99b43     
(法律、文件的)改动( amendment的名词复数 ); 修正案; 修改; (美国宪法的)修正案
  • The committee does not adequately consult others when drafting amendments. 委员会在起草修正案时没有充分征求他人的意见。
  • Please propose amendments and addenda to the first draft of the document. 请对这个文件的初稿提出修改和补充意见。
5 jersey Lp5zzo     
  • He wears a cotton jersey when he plays football.他穿运动衫踢足球。
  • They were dressed alike in blue jersey and knickers.他们穿着一致,都是蓝色的运动衫和灯笼短裤。
6 personalities ylOzsg     
n. 诽谤,(对某人容貌、性格等所进行的)人身攻击; 人身攻击;人格, 个性, 名人( personality的名词复数 )
  • There seemed to be a degree of personalities in her remarks.她话里有些人身攻击的成分。
  • Personalities are not in good taste in general conversation.在一般的谈话中诽谤他人是不高尚的。
7 gatherings 400b026348cc2270e0046708acff2352     
聚集( gathering的名词复数 ); 收集; 采集; 搜集
  • His conduct at social gatherings created a lot of comment. 他在社交聚会上的表现引起许多闲话。
  • During one of these gatherings a pupil caught stealing. 有一次,其中一名弟子偷窃被抓住。
8 unity 4kQwT     
  • When we speak of unity,we do not mean unprincipled peace.所谓团结,并非一团和气。
  • We must strengthen our unity in the face of powerful enemies.大敌当前,我们必须加强团结。
9 glamor feSzv     
  • His performance fully displayed the infinite glamor of Chinese dance.他的表演充分展示了中华舞蹈的无穷魅力。
  • The glamor of the East was brought to international prominence by the Russion national school.俄罗斯民族学派使东方的魅力产生了国际性的影响。
10 remains 1kMzTy     
  • He ate the remains of food hungrily.他狼吞虎咽地吃剩余的食物。
  • The remains of the meal were fed to the dog.残羹剩饭喂狗了。
11 interfering interfering     
adj. 妨碍的 动词interfere的现在分词
  • He's an interfering old busybody! 他老爱管闲事!
  • I wish my mother would stop interfering and let me make my own decisions. 我希望我母亲不再干预,让我自己拿主意。
12 helping 2rGzDc     
  • The poor children regularly pony up for a second helping of my hamburger. 那些可怜的孩子们总是要求我把我的汉堡包再给他们一份。
  • By doing this, they may at times be helping to restore competition. 这样一来, 他在某些时候,有助于竞争的加强。
13 warriors 3116036b00d464eee673b3a18dfe1155     
武士,勇士,战士( warrior的名词复数 )
  • I like reading the stories ofancient warriors. 我喜欢读有关古代武士的故事。
  • The warriors speared the man to death. 武士们把那个男子戳死了。
14 tribal ifwzzw     
  • He became skilled in several tribal lingoes.他精通几种部族的语言。
  • The country was torn apart by fierce tribal hostilities.那个国家被部落间的激烈冲突弄得四分五裂。
15 militia 375zN     
  • First came the PLA men,then the people's militia.人民解放军走在前面,其次是民兵。
  • There's a building guarded by the local militia at the corner of the street.街道拐角处有一幢由当地民兵团守卫的大楼。
16 legacy 59YzD     
  • They are the most precious cultural legacy our forefathers left.它们是我们祖先留下来的最宝贵的文化遗产。
  • He thinks the legacy is a gift from the Gods.他认为这笔遗产是天赐之物。
17 devastating muOzlG     
  • It is the most devastating storm in 20 years.这是20年来破坏性最大的风暴。
  • Affairs do have a devastating effect on marriages.婚外情确实会对婚姻造成毁灭性的影响。
18 treasury 7GeyP     
  • The Treasury was opposed in principle to the proposals.财政部原则上反对这些提案。
  • This book is a treasury of useful information.这本书是有价值的信息宝库。
19 anthem vMRyj     
  • All those present were standing solemnly when the national anthem was played.奏国歌时全场肃立。
  • As he stood on the winner's rostrum,he sang the words of the national anthem.他站在冠军领奖台上,唱起了国歌。
20 retired Njhzyv     
  • The old man retired to the country for rest.这位老人下乡休息去了。
  • Many retired people take up gardening as a hobby.许多退休的人都以从事园艺为嗜好。

本文本内容来源于互联网抓取和网友提交,仅供参考,部分栏目没有内容,如果您有更合适的内容,欢迎 点击提交 分享给大家。