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James Madison Sr.
Portrait by Charles Peale Polk, 1800
James Madison

(1723-03-27)March 27, 1723
DiedFebruary 27, 1801(1801-02-27) (aged 77)
Resting placeMadison Family Cemetery
Occupation(s)Tobacco planter and politician
SpouseEleanor Rose Conway
Children12, including James Madison and William Madison
Parent(s)Ambrose Madison (father)
Frances Taylor (mother)
RelativesJohn Madison Jr. (grandfather)
Lt. Col. John Madison Sr. (great-grandfather)
Richard Taylor (first cousin)
Military career
Service/branchVirginia Militia

James Madison Sr. (March 27, 1723 – February 27, 1801) was a prominent Virginia planter and politician who served as a colonel in the Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War. He inherited Mount Pleasant, later known as Montpelier, a large tobacco plantation in Orange County, Virginia and, with the acquisition of more property, had 5,000 acres and became the largest landowner in the county. He was the father of James Madison Jr., the 4th president of the United States, who inherited what he called Montpelier, and Lieutenant General William Taylor Madison, and great-grandfather of Confederate Brigadier General James Edwin Slaughter.

Early life

Madison's parents were planter and politician Ambrose Madison and his wife Frances Taylor (aunt of Richard Taylor), and was born in 1723 in Orange County, Virginia. When he was nine, his family moved to their new plantation of Mount Pleasant in 1732. His father had hired slaves and an overseer to clear it, work that had been going on for five years to establish cultivation. That summer (1732) his father died at age 36 in August after a short illness.

The family or the sheriff believed he was poisoned by slaves, and three were charged in the case and convicted by justices of the Commission of Peace.[1] Unusually, only one slave was executed; Dido and Turk, owned by the widow Frances Taylor Madison, were returned to her to serve as laborers after being punished by whipping.[1]

James was tutored and trained to be a planter and slaveholder, and member of the landed gentry. His widowed mother never remarried, which was unusual at that time for a woman her age; she had extensive Taylor family in the county.[2] As the eldest son, James Madison Sr. inherited Mount Pleasant when he came of age in 1744. He called the plantation Home House. Acquiring more land, he eventually owned 5,000 acres, making him the largest landowner in Orange County. By the time of his death, he owned 108 slaves.[3]

Marriage and family

Eleanor Rose "Nelly" Conway

Madison married Eleanor Rose "Nelly" Conway (Port Conway, King George, Virginia[4]), Virginia, January 9, 1731 – Montpelier, Orange County, Virginia, February 11, 1829), also of the planter class (her birthplace was named after her family). They had twelve children:

American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolution, Madison served as chairman of the Orange County Committee of Safety. He was commissioned as a colonel in the Virginia militia.


  1. ^ a b Chambers, Douglas B., Murder at Montpelier: Igbo Africans in Virginia, Oxford, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2005, pp. 5-9
  2. ^ Taylor (2012), "Slave in the White House", Chapter 1
  3. ^ Taylor, Elizabeth Dowling. (Jan. 2012), A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, Foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Chapter 1
  4. ^