George Madison (June 1763 – October 14, 1816) was the sixth Governor
of Kentucky. He was the first governor of
Kentucky to die in office,
serving only a few weeks in 1816. Little is known of Madison's early
life. He was a member of the influential Madison family of Virginia,
and was a second cousin to President James Madison. He served with
distinction in three wars – the Revolutionary War, Northwest Indian
War, and War of 1812. He was twice wounded in the Northwest Indian
War, and in the
War of 1812
War of 1812 he was taken prisoner following the Battle
of Frenchtown in Michigan.
Madison's political experience before becoming governor consisted of a
twenty-year tenure as state auditor. Although his military service
made him extremely popular in Kentucky, he sought no higher office
until the citizens insisted he run for governor in 1816. James
Johnson, his only challenger in the race, dropped out early due to
Madison's overwhelming popularity, and Madison was elected without
opposition. A few weeks later, he became the first
to die in office. Opponents of his lieutenant governor, Gabriel
Slaughter, mounted a popular but unsuccessful challenge to Slaughter's
succeeding Madison in office.
1 Early life
2 Service in the Northwest Indian War
3 Political career
4 Death and aftermath
5 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
George Madison was born in June 1763 in the portion of Augusta County,
Virginia that eventually became Rockingham County.[a] His parents were
John and Agatha (Strother) Madison. His brother James became the
Episcopal bishop of
Virginia and the president of the College of
William & Mary. Another brother was Captain Thomas Madison.
They were second cousins to President James Madison.
Madison was educated in the local schools and also received
instruction at home. Before he was legally old enough to enlist, he
Continental Army as a private during the Revolutionary
It is not known when Madison moved to Kentucky, but land records in
Lincoln County indicate he and his brother Gabriel were there by at
least 1784. He married Jane Smith and they had four children –
Agatha, William, Myra, and George.[b] Jane Smith-Madison died in
Service in the Northwest Indian War
Madison served with the
Kentucky militia during the Northwest Indian
War. He was a subaltern in Arthur St. Clair's army in the American
defeat at the Battle of the Wabash on November 4, 1791. During the
retreat, a soldier named William Kennan found Madison sitting on a
log. Kennan was being pursued by Indians and admonished Madison to
run, but Madison, who was already known to be of frail constitution,
stood to reveal that he had been badly wounded and was bleeding
profusely. Kennan quickly retrieved an abandoned horse he had seen; he
helped Madison astride the horse, and they both escaped.
Later in the war, Madison served under Major John Adair. On November
5, 1792, Adair's men were encamped near
Fort St. Clair
Fort St. Clair when they were
ambushed by an Indian force under the command of Little Turtle. Adair
ordered a retreat, then rallied his men and divided them into three
groups. He ordered those under Madison to turn the enemy's flank, but
they failed and Madison was wounded again in this battle. Following
this, Adair withdrew to Fort St. Clair. In Adair's report to
Brigadier General James Wilkinson, he wrote: "Madison's bravery and
conduct need no comment; they are well-known."
Isaac Shelby appointed Madison as Auditor of Public Accounts
on March 7, 1796. He served in this capacity in state government for
twenty years. He never sought a higher office but 19th-century
historian Lewis Collins said that "there was no office within the gift
of the people which he could not have easily attained, without the
slightest solicitation." In 1800, Madison was appointed as a
trustee of the
Kentucky Seminary in Franklin County. On December 5,
1806, he served on a grand jury in the case of Aaron Burr's conduct;
they did not find grounds for treason charges. Madison was appointed
director of the Bank of
Kentucky later that year.
During the War of 1812, Governor Shelby called for volunteers to serve
in the Army of the Northwest.
Colonel John Allen raised a regiment,
and Madison was commissioned as his second-in-command. The
regiment, known as the 1st Rifle Regiment of
James Winchester at the Battle of Frenchtown.
Winchester was captured by General Henry Procter, but about four
hundred men under Madison repelled several charges by the British.
Madison's men believed they had won the victory when they observed a
white flag in the midst of the British force, but the flag was being
waved by Winchester as an order for Madison's force to surrender.
When Madison discovered that Winchester was waving the flag, he
refused the order to surrender on grounds that, as a prisoner,
Winchester had no authority to issue it. Proctor demanded
Madison's unconditional surrender, but Madison insisted that the terms
of surrender include Proctor's protection of the American prisoners
from the Indian allies of the British. Proctor initially balked at
anything but an unconditional surrender, but after Madison's promise
that the Americans would "sell their lives as dearly as possible",
Proctor had taken as many prisoners as he had soldiers, and had little
power to enforce the terms he had agreed to. The American
non-commissioned officers were paroled to return home. Madison and
the other officers were taken to Fort Malden, then on to a prison in
Quebec. The American wounded who could not march were left under
the care of American physicians. Shortly after the battle, the
Indians looted the American provisions, which included a large
quantity of whiskey. Drunk and violent, they slaughtered many of
the American wounded in what became known as the Massacre of the River
Madison was freed from prison a year after his capture, as part of a
prisoner exchange. He returned to
Kentucky following his release
and was honored at a public dinner on September 6, 1814. In 1816,
he resigned as auditor of public accounts due to failing health. But,
submitting to public demand, he became a candidate for governor later
that year. James Johnson, the other candidate for office, withdrew
from the race due to Madison's popularity, thus the latter was elected
Death and aftermath
Madison traveled to Blue Lick Springs for his health soon after the
election, but was too weak to return to Frankfort for the
inauguration. A Bourbon County justice of the peace administered
the oath of office on September 5, 1816 at the springs. Madison's
only official act of office was the appointment of
Colonel Charles S.
Todd as secretary of state. He died on October 14, 1816, just weeks
into his term, the first governor of the state to die in office.
He is buried in Frankfort Cemetery.
Opponents of his lieutenant governor, Gabriel Slaughter, immediately
challenged his ascendancy to the governorship. They claimed that a
governor should not be allowed to serve without having been elected to
that office by the people. A measure calling for a special
gubernatorial election easily passed the state House of
Representatives, but failed in the senate by a vote of 18–14.
Slaughter was allowed to exercise the powers of the governor, but many
government officials and citizens of the state refused to call him by
that title, opting for "acting governor" or "lieutenant governor"
Wikimedia Commons has media related to George Madison.
History of Kentucky
Thomas S. Hinde, close friend of the Madison family, and neighbor in
^[a] Powell, Encyclopedia of Kentucky, and NGA give Madison's
birthplace as Augusta County. Harrison and Hopkins both give
^[b] Encyclopedia of
Kentucky names these four children. Powell names
only two: George and Myra. Hopkins references five children, but does
not name them.
^ a b Harrison, p. 601
^ Encyclopedia of Kentucky, p. 73
^ a b c d e f Powell, p. 22
^ a b c d e NGA Bio
^ a b c Hopkins, p. 20
^ McClung, p. 274
^ Gaff, pp. 85–86
^ a b c d Collins, p. 310
^ a b c Coles, p. 116
^ Young, p. 23
^ a b c d e Coles, p. 117
^ Collins, p. 311
^ Young, p. 26
^ a b Hopkins, p. 21
^ a b c Harrison, p. 602
^ Powell, p. 24
Coles, Harry L. (1966). The War of 1812. University of Chicago Press.
ISBN 0-226-11350-7. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
Collins, Lewis (1848). Historical Sketches of Kentucky. L. Collins.
Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers.
1987. ISBN 0-403-09981-1.
Gaff, Alan D. (2004). Bayonets in the Wilderness: Anthony Wayne's
Legion in the Old Northwest. University of Oklahoma Press.
ISBN 0-8061-3585-9. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
Harrison, Lowell H. (1992). Kleber, John E., ed. The Kentucky
Encyclopedia. Associate editors: Thomas D. Clark, Lowell H. Harrison,
and James C. Klotter. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of
Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
Hopkins, James F. (2004). Lowell Hayes Harrison, ed. Kentucky's
Governors. Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky.
Kentucky Governor George Madison". National Governors Association.
McClung, John Alexander; Henry Waller (1872). Sketches of Western
Adventure: Containing an Account of the Most Interesting Incidents
Connected with the Settlement of the West, from 1755 to 1794. Richard
H. Collins & Co. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
Powell, Robert A. (1976).
Kentucky Governors. Danville, Kentucky:
Bluegrass Printing Company. ASIN B0006CPOVM.
Young, Bennett Henderson (1903). Battle of the Thames: in which
Kentuckians defeated the British, French, and Indians, October 5,
1813, with a list of the officers and privates who won the victory.
J.P. Morton. Retrieved 2009-01-25.
Brown, Orlando (July 1951). "The Governors of Kentucky". The Register
Kentucky Historical Society. 49 (3): 202–212.
Lewis, William Terrell (1893). Genealogy of the Lewis Family in
America: From the Middle of the Seventeenth Century Down to the
Present Time. Courier-Journal Job Printing Company. p. 397.
Eli Smith, A Funeral Sermon on the Death of Governor Madison
(Frankfort: Gerard & Kendall), 1817.
George Madison at Find a Grave
Governor of Kentucky
Governors of Kentucky
Italics indicate Confederate governors
Book:Governors of Kentucky
Kentucky in the War of 1812
Benjamin Franklin Graves
Nathaniel G. S. Hart
Richard Mentor Johnson
Great Saltpetre Cave
Battle of Frenchtown
The Hunters of Kentucky