NAME: James Madison, Jr. He was named after his father.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Madison, the shortest and slightest president, stood about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed just 100 pounds. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and a rather tawny complexion. His nose was scarred from once having been frostbitten. He wore a size 7.25 hat. Until his last years he always appeared young for his age. From his youth, he was sickly, weak, and nervous, though he toughened his constitution somewhat in later years through rigorous exercise. He suffered from what his principal biographer, Irving Brant, has called “epileptoid hysteria,” psychosomatic seizures similar to those of epilepsy that suspended the intellectual functions. Madison spoke in a thin, low voice. His speeches before deliberative bodies usually went unheard in the back benches. Even the recorder at the Virginia legislature complained that he could not always make out Madison’s words clearly. Neat in appearance, Madison dressed carefully, usually in black.
PERSONALITY: Madison was shy and reserved with strangers and never learned the politically useful art of small talk. Because of his shyness, as well as his small stature and weak voice, he made a very bad first impression. Contributing to his poor image was his deliberative nature. He deferred decisions whenever possible until all sides had been considered thoroughly. For this, some regarded him as weak and indecisive. But others agreed with Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, who said, “Mr. Madison is…slow in taking his ground, but firm when the storm rises.”
SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.
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