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After long hours of study that may have compromised his health, Madison graduated in 1771.

After graduation, he remained at Princeton to study Hebrew and political philosophy under the university president, John Witherspoon.

He returned to Montpelier in early 1772, still unsure of his future career.

In the early 1770s the relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain deteriorated over the issue of British taxation, culminating in the American Revolutionary War, which began in 1775.

While simultaneously serving as a close adviser to President George Washington, Madison emerged as one of the most prominent members of the 1st Congress, helping to pass several bills establishing the new government.

For his role in drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution during the 1st Congress, Madison is known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights." Though he had played a major role in the enactment of a new constitution that created a stronger federal government, Madison opposed the centralization of power sought by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton during Washington's presidency.

Madison succeeded Jefferson with a victory in the 1808 presidential election, and he won re-election in 1812. The war was an administrative morass, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system.To oppose Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party, which became one of the nation's two first major political parties alongside Hamilton's Federalist Party.After Jefferson won the 1800 presidential election, Madison served as Jefferson's Secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.James Jr.'s mother, Nelly Conway Madison (1731–1829), was born at Port Conway, the daughter of a prominent planter and tobacco merchant.From age 11 to 16, Madison was sent to study under Donald Robertson, a Scottish instructor who served as a tutor for a number of prominent plantation families in the South.

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