James Madison (1751–1836), the nation’s fourth president, is pictured on the 2-dollar stamp. Madison was born in Virginia and attended the College of New Jersey (Princeton University). A leader in the Virginia Assembly, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776. At age thirty-six, he was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enact the nation’s first revenue legislation.
As secretary of state under President Jefferson, Madison protested the seizure of American ships by warring France and Britain as contrary to international law, and he supported the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807. Madison was elected president in 1808. The British impressments of American seamen and the seizure of cargoes impelled Madison to ask Congress to declare war on Great Britain on June 1, 1812.
The young nation was not prepared to fight England’s army, fresh from victories against Napoleon on the continent. The British entered Washington and set fire to the White House and the Capitol, and battles raged both along the Canadian border and in the South. Gen. Andrew Jackson's triumph at New Orleans brought the War of 1812 to a conclusion in 1814.
The dark blue 2-dollar stamp was issued June 5, 1903, as a sheet stamp printed from plates of two hundred and sold in panes of one hundred stamps with gauge 12 perforations. The stamp was designed by R. Ostrander Smith from a painting by an unknown artist. It was engraved by George F. C. Smillie (portrait), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and George U. Rose, Jr. (lettering and numerals).
The 2-dollar Madison stamp was frequently used to pay intra-Post Office Department funds transfers. The stamp also franked large, foreign, letter rate parcels. In 1917 the 2-dollar Madison stamp was reprinted in a lighter blue with the then-used gauge 10 perforations. These stamps met a sudden demand for high-value postage to mail machine parts to Russia by parcel post as well as valuable shipments of Liberty Bonds in connection with World War I hostilities.