Orange County celebrates the 262nd birthday of the Father of the Constitution today on the grounds of his lifelong home.
Admission to James Madison's Montpelier property is free all day in celebration of the fourth U.S. President, born March 16, 1751 in Port Conway, Va. Birthday acknowledgments will include a wreath-laying ceremony at 1:30 p.m. in the Madison family cemetery by the U.S. Marines by order of President Barack Obama.
In addition, Jonathan Alger, the brand new president of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, will speak at the wreath-laying ceremony on the Montpelier grounds, calling for a "Return to Madison" in honor of the legacy of the former president and signaling a new partnership between JMU and the Madison family estate
"While Americans today are professing respect for the Constitution, too often public discourse on the important challenges we face degenerates into shouting matches, name-calling and a cry for the elimination of opposing views on political, social, economic and cultural issues. Alger's 'Return to Madison' initiative will shine a light on Madison's belief that the strength of our republic relies on the existence of different ideas and perspectives," according to a news release from James Madison's Montpelier.
Re-enactors portraying Mr. and Mrs. Madison will be present at Montpelier today along with Montpelier Foundation President Kat Imhoff.
James Madison spent his childhood at Montpelier, where he retired with First Lady Dolley Madison in 1817. In retirement, the presidential couple managed the large, slave-run plantation, entertained hundreds of visitors and jointly edited Madison's significant political papers, including his notes on the Constitutional Convention.
He read for the law at Montpelier in 1772, the start of his life-long support to the cause of religious freedom, according to jamesmadisonmuseum.org. In 1774, Madison was appointed to the Orange Safety Committee and passionately entered into the Independence movement, according to the Caroline Street museum in the town of Orange that bears his name.
Madison was a colonel in the Orange militia in 1775, though his health prevented any service in the field. He was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1776, serving also in the Virginia General Assembly, and met Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third U.S. President with whom he would have a 50-year friendship.
Madison served as president from 1809-1817 and while in Congress helped frame the Bill of Rights.