Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence

Portrait of President James Madison, c. 1800

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Expansion and Reform (1801 - 1861)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Portrait of President James Madison, c. 1800 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A portrait of James Madison (1751-1836) by Gilbert Stuart, circa 1800.
Historical Context
The Louisiana Purchase has been called the greatest real estate venture in history. On April 30, 1803, the United States acquired from France 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. This land stretched north from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada and west from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. This new land nearly doubled the size of the United States!

James Madison, who was Secretary of State at the time, supported the Louisiana Purchase and worked with President Thomas Jefferson to acquire the land from France.  Madison later became the fourth President of the United States.

Essential Question
How do individuals influence national and global events?
Check for Understanding
Describe the individual in the portrait and explain the role of James Madison in westward expansion.
Historical Challenges
Research the political parties in the United States at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. To which parties did Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, James Monroe, and Robert Livingston belong? What did members of the different political parties think about the Louisiana Purchase? What is an issue that the current political parties in the United States have different opinions about?