Madison Rejected Measures to Delay His Death Until July 4th

President James Madison

Many Americans viewed the deaths of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — the second and third US presidents respectively — on Independence Day, 1826, as a sign of the new nation’s divinity. The death of James Monroe — the fifth US president — on Independence Day, 1831, seemed to provide confirmation.

As James Madison – the fourth US president – lay dying in June 1836, his doctors suggested that he take stimulants to delay the inevitable until 4th July. Madison refused the offer and died on 28th June, six days early.

This raises an obvious question: if Madison’s life had been successfully prolonged, what further measures were his doctors prepared to take to make certain Madison died on Independence Day?

Who was James Madison?

James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, in Port Conway, Virginia. He attended Princeton University and became a prominent politician and statesman. He served a as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He was also a significant force behind the drafting of the US Constitution and later served as Secretary of State before being elected president himself in 1808.

Madison's Death

James Madison died on June 28, 1836, at 85. His death occurred just six days before the 60th anniversary of the nation’s birth. Madison’s death was not unexpected – he had been in declining health for several years and was suffering from congestive heart failure. However, rumours soon began to circulate that Madison had refused measures to prolong his life so that he could die on July 4th, the anniversary of the nation’s birth.


  1. Marx M.D., R. (2019) health of the president: James Madison, Available at: (Accessed: February 19, 2023).
  2. James Madison (2023) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: February 19, 2023).

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