This week I give another overview of the coins issued during the administrations of various presidents from George Washington to date with a small selection of illustrations. To include all of the design types—never mind different dates and varieties—would far exceed the space available. For that information see A Guide Book of United States Coins.
Today, James Madison is in the spotlight:
James Madison, 4th President (1809—1817)
Coinage: Changes in coin designs were far fewer under Madison than with his predecessor, Thomas Jefferson. However, modifications did occur:
Half cents were last minted in 1811, after which no more were struck during his administration. Copper cents of the Classic Head were made from 1809 to 1814, after which there was an interruption in the copper supply, and none were made in 1815. In 1816 the Matron Head type was introduced. Among cents of 1817 one interesting variety has 15 stars instead of the regulation 13.
No silver half dimes were minted at all. Dimes, last struck in 1807, reappeared in 1809 with the new Capped Bust design. Quarters, last coined in 1804, were again made in 1815, with the Capped Bust motif. Half dollars of the Capped Bust design were made continuously during Madison’s administration, except in 1816. No silver dollars were produced.
For gold coins, no quarter eagles or eagles were minted, and $5 gold half eagles were the only denomination made. Coinage was through 1815, the last being a rarity in the numismatic market today. None were made in 1816 or 1817.
Life dates: March 16, 1751 • June 28, 1836
Political party: Democratic-Republican
Vice-presidents: George Clinton (1809—1812), none (1812—1813), Elbridge Gerry (1813—1814), and none (1814—1817).
First lady: Married Dolley Payne Todd (1768-1849), on September 15, 1794. She was introduced to him by Aaron Burr. The couple had no children.
Especially remembered for: Madison made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing, with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the Federalist essays.
Nickname: “Father of the Constitution.” His wife Dolley became one of the best remembered first ladies.
James Madison was born in Port Conway, Virginia, son of James and Nelly Conway Madison. He spent his youth in the same state, then entered Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) and took his degree in 1771. Madison read law and studied history. When the Virginia Constitution was framed in 1776, he helped with its provisions. Small in stature (5’4”) he weighed less than 100 pounds. His friends called him “Jemmy.”
A student of history and government and well-read in law, Madison participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776. From 1780 to 1783 he was a member of the Continental Congress, followed by service in the Virginia Legislature 1784-1786, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. As a representative to Congress from 1789 to 1797, he helped frame the Bill of Rights and the first federal revenue bill. He was outspoken concerning Alexander Hamilton’s financial proposals, which he felt would concentrate wealth with northern interests. From this opposition, the Republican party arose. Under Thomas Jefferson, Madison was secretary of state from 1801 to 1809, a particularly trying time in international relations, especially after the 1807 Embargo Act became law.
Madison was elected president in 1808. Before he took office the Embargo Act was repealed. During the first year of his administration, the United States prohibited trade with Britain and France; then in May 1810, Congress authorized trade with both, directing the president, if either would accept America’s view of neutral rights, to forbid trade with the other nation. Napoleon acceded, and in late 1810, Madison proclaimed non-intercourse with Great Britain. Relations with the latter country worsened as British ships seized American cargoes and kidnapped (impressed) sailors. On June I, 1812, at Madison’s request, Congress declared war.
The War of 1812 saw military engagements at sea, on the Great Lakes, and the British invasion of Maryland and Washington, where the White House, Capitol, and other buildings were burned. Madison commanded an artillery unit for a brief time, then left in his carriage to avoid danger. The tide turned with the unsuccessful bombardment of Baltimore, and the enemy troops went home. Peace was declared in December 1814, but before the news reached America, the Battle of New Orleans was fought in January 1815, with General Andrew Jackson scoring a sound victory.
After his presidency, James Madison retired to his estate, Montpelier, in Virginia.