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Dolley Madison

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dolley Madison
Dolley Madison.jpg
First Lady of the United States
In role
March 4, 1809 – March 4, 1817
PresidentJames Madison
Preceded byMartha Randolph (Acting)
Succeeded byElizabeth Monroe
Personal details
Dolley Payne[1]

(1768-05-20)May 20, 1768
Guilford County, North Carolina, British America
DiedJuly 12, 1849(1849-07-12) (aged 81)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeMontpelier, Orange, Virginia
John Todd
(m. 1790; died 1793)

James Madison
(m. 1794; died 1836)

Dolley Payne Todd Madison (May 20, 1768 – July 12, 1849) was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. She was noted for holding Washington social functions in which she invited members of both political parties, essentially spearheading the concept of bipartisan cooperation, albeit before that term was in use, in the United States. While previously, founders such as Thomas Jefferson would only meet with members of one party at a time, and politics could often be a violent affair resulting in physical altercations and even duels, Madison helped to create the idea that members of each party could amicably socialize, network, and negotiate with each other without resulting in violence.[2] By innovating political institutions as the wife of James Madison, Dolley Madison did much to define the role of the President's spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady—a function she had sometimes performed earlier for the widowed Thomas Jefferson.[3]

Dolley also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set fire to it in 1814, she was credited with saving the classic portrait of George Washington. In widowhood, she often lived in poverty, partially relieved by the sale of her late husband's papers.

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>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. >> Pam Jackson: Hi, I'm Pam Jackson. I'm Director of the Center for the Book her eat the Library of Congress, and I'd like to welcome you to this afternoon's talk with the Books and Beyond program that we have. We are very excited to have today's conversation and thrilled that you're here with us. As some of you may know, the Center for the Book is a unit that is in the National and International Outreach Unit of the Library of Congress, and it's our mission -- the Library's mission is to provide the American people with a very rich, diverse, and enduring source of knowledge, one that can be relied upon to support people in their creative and intellectual endeavors. So we're glad for you to join us as part of today's intellectual endeavor. At the Center for the Book, which includes the Young Readers' Center and the Poetry and Literature Center, we promote books and reading, literacy and libraries, poetry and literature, knowing that they are the best tools to create, and sustain, for form societies, and the best weapons against ignorance and intolerance. And our mission is carried out through a national affiliation with several groups of organizations. There is a Center for the Book in every state in the country, and the District of Colombia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. And we also have a partnership of reading and literacy promotion, organizations throughout both the country and the world, in part because the Center for the Book administers the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program that annually awards more than $250,000 to organizations around the country and the world in support of their endeavors to advance the cause of literacy in a variety of ways, both innovative, sustainable, replicable. Now today we're here for a particular kind of talk that does promote the Library's mission and focus on literacy and literature. But before we get started, and to avoid unnecessary distraction, I do want to ask that you take a moment to make sure that your electronic devices are silent. Also, we are recording today's event, and if you ask a question, you should know that you'll become a part of our webcast. The Books and Beyond talks are -- and all of our webcasts and live events -- are available online at We do have more than 250 talks from authors of all kinds of genres and experiences available for your viewing pleasure there. We should mention today also that the author's book is available for sale at the entrance to this room, and following the presentation there will be a book signing. And you'll have a little more chance to talk with our author today. The chief criterion for deciding which books to feature in the Books and Beyond series is that there must be a strong connection to the Library of Congress. Either the books are about the Library of Congress, or the author did research here and used one of our many reading rooms research facilities and resources available. So we encourage that, and we celebrate that. And today is another example of that. And we also have the special pleasure of partnering with the Law Library as our cosponsor for today's event, which is actually where our author did much of his research. The Law Librarian of Congress is Roberta Shaffer. And as Law Librarian, Roberta oversees the largest of legal materials -- collection of legal materials in the world. She was the driving force behind the successful Magna Carta exhibition just of last year in 2015. And just to mention, Roberta has a very long and successful career here at the Library, including being Associate Librarian for Library Services, where she managed 53 division and over 2000 employees. I -- you know, I count you as my friend. I honor you and celebrate you for your contribution to the library, for your expertise, and your extraordinary knowledge and commitment. And I'd like to bring forth Roberta to introduce our -- today's author. Thank you. >> Roberta Shaffer: Well, thank you so much for that, Pam. So totally unexpected, and particularly today when we're honoring such accomplished people, our author and the subject of his book. And so we in the Law Library really enjoy these collaborations with the Center for the Book. We recently did one on poetry in law, and we hope you'll look at that video. Sorry if you missed it. We're celebrating -- we were celebrating James Madison's exact 265th birthday on March 16th. And Michael was supposed to join a panel at that time. But you may or may not remember that that was the day Metro unexpectedly decided to close down for something like 72 hours. And we all could not envision what traffic would be like driving from Charlottesville that morning. So we thought we would continue with the other two panelists, Mary Sarah Bilder and David O. Stewart, and that we would save Michael for a later date. And in doing that, we decided that that would mean we would continue celebrating James Madison's birthday. We weren't really sure if James Madison would approve, but according to what David told us that day about Dolly Madison, a real party girl, she would be fine with the fact that we've now celebrated for 10 months the 265th birthday of James Madison. But actually, at the Library of Congress, and indeed, specifically the Law Library that lives in the James Madison Memorial Building, we should be -- and I hope we are -- celebrating James Madison every day of the year, whether it's his birthday or not, because he set so many important precedents for us in terms of our own legal system. But he reflected in many ways some of the values that the Law Library holds today. On the very basic level, he was an amazing linguist. I recently -- in studying on Sunday night for Michael's talk -- learned that he was entirely fluent in both Latin and Hebrew. And of course, you know he served as Secretary of State and had an immense interest both in the development of the United States as its own nation-state, but in our relationships with foreign nations. And of course, that is a key aspect of the Law Library's mission and function within the Library of Congress. But looking at James Madison a little bit in more detail, and then getting to know Michael at least on paper in a little more detail, I realize that there are a number of similarities between them. And so I'll just point out the ones that I could easily glean without really knowing Michael, and of course, only knowing Madison through his legacy and not personally. And the first one that I would like to point out is that they both were married to -- or are in one case -- extraordinary women. So we, of course, know all about Dolly Madison and her many, many attributes that sort of set the standard for first ladies going forward. But we have Emily Blout on the Michael side, and she is an accomplished scholar in her own right. I think she could be in the room. If you are, Emily, would you mind just giving us the Queen's wave? She might not be, but she will be here in and out during the morning. And she is an accomplished scholar and professor in the Communications School at American University. Her area of expertise is in Middle East Relations. Both Michael and James Madison grew up in Virginia. I can't say the Commonwealth in the case of James Madison, but I can say that in the case of Michael. They both are graduates of Princeton. Now James Madison, as you all know, went to the College of New Jersey. It didn't become Princeton until a little bit later. Both extremely scholarly. Michael Signer has a PhD from Berkeley. And I think because we assume from history that James Madison did read all the books that Jefferson sent him from Paris, boxes and boxes of them, that he at least would have qualified for his oral exam under any PhD committee today. Both have strong connections to the University of Virginia. Michael is a graduate of its Law School. Madison was very involved in the founding of it, and then ultimately too a very strong leadership role in -- at the University of Virginia. Both were and are active in politics on the state, national, and local levels. Michael is the current Mayor of Charlottesville. Both -- and both actually -- and this is plug or buying the book -- both depend, or depended, in some way on revenues from their writings. Madison, of course, as you know, near the end of his life faced some financial challenges and hoped that he would be leaving some money for his stepson and Dolly by selling his writings. I think Michael just wants to share his knowledge and inspire conversation, but it will not hurt today if you buy the book [laughter]. So they share that. But to stop being glib and to say that they've both proved in their writings -- many writings in newspapers in the case of both of them, but in Michael's case very interesting book not only on Madison, but on demagogues and democracy, that they are very deep thinkers about the country and about the future of the country, and that they are also great patriots. And so with that, I would love to welcome Michael Signer to the podium [applause]. >> Michael Signer: Well, thank you so much, the Library of Congress. Thank you, Roberta for that very -- I mean, we could just stop now [laughter]. I think that for most authors this really would be -- this is kind of a pinnacle. It's a real honor to be here. And you all do provide a critical national resource for scholars, for people working on, you know, off parts of our history. My father, who is a retired journalist, Bob Signer, has been working at the Library of Congress of years on the history of the New York World newspaper, so comes here regularly. And you all provide that sort of resource for scholars and practitioners around the country. And so we really -- I really appreciate it. So I was going to do a kind of conventional book talk today, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to do a -- more of a talk that connects both of my books -- this is on request -- and some current challenges that we have as a country. So I think that that -- we're in Washington. We're at a really unique moment in our history, and I would like to kind of go for the -- go for something a little deeper with this talk. So -- and I'm really appreciative to the Library of Congress for creating that opportunity. So thank you very much. All right, why write a book about Madison for five years? There's other books out there. This particular book to me beckoned for a couple different reasons. The first was I do feel, being in Charlottesville, that Jefferson overshadow Madison to our peril. We do have a section of the Virginia code, which requires us to quote Thomas Jefferson anytime we start speaking in public [laughter]. I throw people in jail for it all the time if they don't. No, I'm just kidding. But Madison is overshadowed, to our peril. There are significant parts about his legacy and his thinking that do get overshadowed. So in writing the book I wanted to sort of crack his legacy in a different way, and that was one of the reasons for focusing on his youth in a more empathetic narrative structure of the book. The second one is he, just as a thinker and as a person of note in our history, had a way of marrying both the hope and the aspirational potential of human beings with a very realistic and almost pessimistic take on our worst sides. And the marriage of hope and pessimism, of idealism and realism is, I think, unmatched with our founding characters. And I think it helps explain a lot of why we lasted to today. So the book tries to get at that. Another reason was we really are in a crisis today in thinking about, much less realizing, statesmanship. And this book really is about Madison as the key architect of a statesmanship ethos in our country. Another reason for writing the book was sort of in noodling on those big ideas. I tripped into what I think is one of the great untold stories of our founding period, which is this incredible rivalry he had with Patrick Henry where they had this -- they were very close, then they were knock-down-drag-out enemies. And they had this battle royale over the future of the country when they had a fight about passing the Constitution in Richmond. And that's the climax of the book. Finally, there was this kind of puzzle about how somebody who was 5'4", and 100 pounds, and incredibly hypersensitive, and hypochondriacal, and very shy, how could he become so dominant? It's just kind of in interesting puzzle about what was it about him that allowed him to overcome so many obstacles and become so powerful and influential, not just in his time, but over the course of modern human history. And then the last reason was I needed a sequel to my first book [laughter], which is called, "Demagogue." So with your indulgence, I'm going to talk a little bit about "Demagogue" here, and that's at the request of some people. It's been a lot in the news recently. I've written pieces for the Washington Post, and "Time," and VOX, and New Republic, and a few other places sort of linking up some of the arguments with the time that we're in. And it is relevant in, and it does connect to the book "Becoming Madison." So this was "Demagogue, the Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies." It came out in 2009. I would be the first to admit it had a fallow period as a book. But "Demagogue" presents six instances of great political thinkers confronting in very different ways what I describe as the demagogue problem in democracy. Plato, who after Socrates, his mentor, was murdered by a democratic mob, sought to crush and control democracy through his various writings and thinking. Aristotle, Plato's student -- and rebellious student who saw demagogues as pernicious, but as controllable through an educated and responsible middle class. Thomas Jefferson who sought to inculcate what I described as a constitutional conscience among the electorate, including through institutions like the University of Virginia that would educate kind of citizen statesman Alexis de Tocqueville, who thought that American-style democratic mores or a culture about these values could help prevent democracy in its second trip through Europe -- the first one ended up in the guillotine, and Robespierre and Napoleon -- could help prevent democracy from turning, and slipping, and becoming tyranny. Hannah Arendt, who thought a heightened constitutional awareness that began in the founding period was central to understanding American democracy success. And Leo Strauss, the sort of founder of neoconservative thinking, who saw democracy as structural, self-fulfilling. He thought it should be run by sort of a lead gentleman and whose neocon adherence created on those premises, a very ruinous and fragile democracy in Iraq, vulnerable to demagogues. So this book that I'm speaking about mostly today, "Becoming Madison," is a sequel to "Demagogue." "Becoming Madison" tracks both the political thought and the political action of James Madison in the years leading up to the ratification of the Constitution. The book has a narrative structure that concentrates on the rivalry between Madison and his former friend and boss Patrick Henry. But in my mind it is through and through -- I trained as a political theorist and a political scientist, not primarily as a historian. And there is a book by Hannah Arendt called "Rahel Varnhagen." This will be somewhat obscure but she focuses basically an entire book as a biography on the life and thought of a prolific German Jewish woman and hostess in Berlin in -- before the Nazi period. And it was sort of a deep dive through the life of one woman into the thought and thinking of civilization before nihilism took over in Germany. So it's sort of a lens into a deeper world. And in "Becoming Madison," similarly I wanted to go into basically what is a case study of the normative ethos of statesmanship that is core to -- I don't know -- successful American democracy, and where leaders seem to challenge and educate the public and to embrace long-term complex policy, and above all, to govern the passions. In both respects, "Demagogue" and "Becoming Madison" are about pathologies of democracy, when democracy becomes ill or unhealthy in some respect. "Demagogue" is about a bottom-up problem, which is when democracy's masses, or the large groups of people, begin turning against the system itself, begin giving over their freedom to dangerous impulses that could turn against the system. "Becoming Madison" is about another pathology, which is top-down, which is the sickness of when a democracy's leadership classes give up on their leadership role. Both of these are, of course, intensely relevant in this time when we've seen high levels of dysfunction among our leadership classes here in this very town, and when we've seen a lot of people among the regular ranks of regular Americans giving up on what we have always thought are the basic norms and ethic of democratic citizenship, and checks and balances. With those notes, let me go a little bit more into each of the ideas on each work. The word demagogue has always fascinated people. In 1649 the poet John Milton called it a goblin word. The term is often deployed as a blunt instrument, and it's lost a lot of its power through repetition and through kind of deployment as an attack. But it would surprise a lot of people that the original word of -- use of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary is actually positive. That shocks people, but it makes sense when you examine objectively how demagogues work. So in my book I employ a four-part definition, which is drawn in part from an 1838 essay by James Fenimore Cooper called "On Demagogues." First the demagogue presents himself as a mirror of the masses, usually in the process attacking elites. So kind of being a regular person, and avatar of regular folks. Demagogues, for that reason, are often vulgar. They often attack the upper classes intentionally. Second, the demagogue triggers great waves of emotion, usually through charisma, flattery, propaganda, any combination of those. They use that third emotion for political benefit, which distinguishes them from an entertainment, or religious, or commercial figure. And finally, and this is the most important they threaten or break established rules of governance. When you put those four elements together, you get a political figure who essentially creates a state within a state that is accountable to him or her alone. And that's why demagogues can pose an existential to democracies themselves. Aristotle wrote that the most dangerous form of democracy is the one in which not the law but the multitude have the supreme power and supersede the law by their decrees. This is the state of affairs brought on by demagogues. The ancients saw demagogues as the central trigger in what they called the cycled regimes. In the "Republic," Plato described, "Democracy's insatiable desire for what it defines as the good is also what destroys it." This happens through the demagogue who he said was, quote, "The ruler who behaves like a subject." Two centuries later, Polybius in Rome described the cycle of constitutional revolutions where rule disintegrates into its base forms. So this idea that demagogues will convert democracy into tyranny is grounded in a kind of pessimism about the human condition itself. Polybius described the lawless ferocity of democracy as like a natural dissolvent which rotted democracy from within, inevitably. It turned on the demagogue who Polybius said needed to be sufficiently ambitious and daring to serve as, quote, both a master and a despot of the people. The cycle of regimes played out most vividly in the last century in Weimar, Germany where a very hopeful constitutional democracy was taken over from within by Adolf Hitler. But we've seen many other examples, including in Venezuela where Hugo Chavez rising from within a fairly healthy Venezuelan democracy converted it into more of an autocratic system through demagogic means. The entire American experiment sought to arrest the cycle of regimes through a new sort of constitutional democracy premised on the self-salvation of the people, by the people, through an agency and choice which was enabled by democracy itself. "The Federalist Papers" begin with Alexander Hamilton worrying about, quote, "The military despotism of a victorious demagogue." The question we face in a democracy is what to do about demagogues. History is littered with frustrations about them. Some of our best writing about demagogues in ancient Athens came from the playwright Aristophanes who squared off with a man named Cleon, who was the general who deposed Pericles, the great statesman, on trumped-up charges of corruption and later went on to propose mass slaughter in the Mytilenian Debate. Aristophanes brutally mocked Cleon as a plunder and a flatterer in a series of very public plays where thousands of people attended. But the satire had no effect. It only empowered Cleon to go on to become more powerful and more dangerous. Based on examples like that, I've long believed that satire is of limited use when confronting a demagogue. If the demagogue depends on the passions for his rise, satire that amplifies the passions in any direction perversely can end up increasing the demagogue's centrality and power in ways that can only confirm rather than deny their appeal among the people. Demagogues also, because of that, can storm across formal checks and balances. We saw that with Joseph McCarthy using an obscure Senate subcommittee as the mechanism to create an entirely new power center. We saw it with Huey Long exploiting radio to become what FDR called "the most dangerous man in America." The key site from Athens thinking about this and confronting demagogues was the agency of the masses. There is an underlying problem here that goes through democracy itself, which is are the collective people individually responsible for the choices they make in selecting demagogues? Or put another way, is there a counterfactual scenario where the people -- where demagogues do not succeed? And if there is, can you, therefore, blame large groups of people collectively for the demagogue's rise? That back and forth between agency and determinism is at the heart of many studies of demagogues. In "Hitler's Willing Executioners," Daniel Goldhagen blamed individual Germans acting as a group for their agency, for their choices in enabling Hitler's rise. He placed moral weight, and therefore, blame on them, meaning that they chose immorally. Whereas in Hannah Arendt's "The Origins of Totalitarianism" there is a much more mixed picture. She assigns plenty of agency to Nazis, but when she describes why the German people chose the Nazis, she focuses more on structural variables, alienation, and loneliness that operated like a wave rushing through them. And that means that demagogues -- and I'm getting to Madison -- raise a fundamental question of optimism and of the arc of history itself. It's not overstating things to say that the demagogue is a proxy for the very question of humans' ability to decide to save themselves from themselves. The answer that unites agency and what I believe is an optimistic model of history is constitutionalism. Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, "I am convinced that the happiest situation and the best laws cannot maintain a constitution, despite mores. Whereas the latter turn even the most unfavorable positions and the worst laws to good account." Mores were our habits, our attitudes, our values, our culture about the democratic system itself and our responsibilities within it. De Tocqueville said that our goal was "to instruct democracy to purify its mores, to substitute little by little the science of affairs for its inexperience." Jefferson wrote -- here's my Jefferson quote, even though I'm not in Virginia -- "Where is our republicanism to be found? Where is our republicanism to be found? Not in the constitution, but merely in the spirit of the people." And in Federalist 57, James Madison said, "If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of society, I answer the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit" -- it's gendered language -- "the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom and in return is nourished by it." In other words, this is on us. That observation brings me to "Becoming Madison." Formally, "Becoming Madison" is an intellectual and psychological biography of young James Madison. But Nietzsche observed that, "Philosophy is often the personal confession of its author, and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir." And in this case, as you so persuasively saw, that is certainly the case for me. I have been deeply troubled both as a scholar and as a practitioner. I am the Mayor of Charlottesville so, you know, shifting gears can sometime be a little sudden for me. Last night I was just dealing with whether we change a natural -- whether we allow mountain biking in a natural area that we have, which it was an hour-and-a-half long hearing in our city council meeting last night. So I'm working on very practical issues at the local level all the time. Both in my scholarly and my practical life, I am deeply troubled by the state of thought in contemporary American democracy about leadership itself and the vacuum around statesmanship, whatever that is. If we even talk about statesmanship anymore, which we don't very often. The root of this book began in a conversation I had with my friend Tom Perriello, who's a former Congressman from the Charlottesville area. Soon after he arrived in Congress, where he frequently observed what he described as an abandonment of responsibility by the nation's leadership classes over our most fundamental problems. We have seen this in recent scholarship about a Congress that seems beyond broken. In the scholarly thinking about leadership there's more focus on horizontal, or leaderless, or quote, unquote cellular movements, whether the Occupy movement or the Tea Party. And in the collapse of traditional vertical leadership under a great deal of very harsh skepticism about what used to be called the great man theory of leadership. James Madison, it might surprise folks, faced a similar set of issues. In the late 1770s, after the Revolution, when he was in Richmond working as a senior advisor to Governor Patrick Henry, in his mid-20s, Philadelphia -- which was where the Confederated States we meeting -- was broken. George Washington was writing letters back to people in Virginia describing the, quote, "idleness, dissipation, and extravagance" in the capital city, how men were infected by what he said was "an insatiable thirst for riches." The delegates were distracted by the indulgences of the capital city, the decadence did not, quote, "only take men off from acting in, but even from thinking of the business before them. Party disputes and personal squirrels -- quarrels," he said, "had become the great business of the day." Sounds familiar. >> Amen. >> Michael Signer: The custom was for congressmen to leave for Philadelphia after their election before the winter to avoid the roads. In 1779 when Madison was elected to Congress, he could have done that. But he instead chose to stay home on Orange County, where he was living with his parents, and to spend the winter on a private project which was analyzing the nation's hyperinflation problem. At this point you had several different kinds of currency. They were -- all of the states were printing their own currency. The federal government had a couple different kinds. They were seeking to replace their old currency with a new one. But it was -- none of it was working, and there are records of him getting to Congress and spending thousands of dollars on haircuts, for instance. It was -- so you had a galloping inflation problem. So Madison stayed at home and wrote this kind of private essay. He didn't publish it for over a decade later, but he analyzed the problem that the country was experiencing as not one about the money supply itself, but about the confidence that people had in the entity that would redeem the money -- basically the federal government. That seems obvious now, but when you have 13 separate states that were just figuring out their life together, it was not obvious. So it was sort of the first lightbulb that clicked on when he stared understanding that he was going to need to be the prime driver under the effort for a -- what he described as a coercive federal government. So Madison wrote this essay, stayed back, came back to -- came to Philadelphia after the roads had improved, and kind of had his mission and his blueprint for what he was going to work on. After arriving in Philadelphia, he took a look around him -- at the folks around him, and he saw the same lack of leadership that Washington had observed. And the first letter Madison wrote back after writing to his father was to Jefferson. And he said, "Whereas the country required," quote, "the most mature and systematic measures." Instead they were getting hasty and half-baked ideas like exchanging 40 of the old dollars for one of the new money called specie. And here is what he wrote, "Congress from a defect of adequate statesmen," word for word, "was, quote, more likely to fall into wrong measures and of less weight to enforce right ones." That was so controversial that he would describe his peers that way that that language was omitted from his -- from both the 1840 and the 1900 versions of Madison's official papers. And what's amazing to me about it was if you actually look at these, he wasn't even saying we needed extraordinary statesmen. Adequate [laughter] would be fine. And that gets us into the question of what statesmen were to Madison. What was he talking about? We tend to use that word today in a narrow sense to think about state-on-state diplomats, foreign policymakers, people traveling to foreign capitals, statesmen. But he was talking about going to the nation's capital, and dealing with domestic issues, and just being an adequate statesman. So what was he talking about? The great theme of Madison's political theory was platonic. It was drawn from a very old strain of thinking about governing the passions that we still see today. We are still laboring under a misunderstanding that Madison himself was passionless, and cold, and calculating. One book a number of years ago was titled, "James Madison and the Heartless Empire of Reason." To give you a sense of where I'm coming from, the original title of this book before my wife convinced me otherwise was, "The Passions of James Madison," which is not a bad title. But "Becoming Madison" was better. That was Emily's insight. In his dialogue "Phaedrus," Plato described the passions as two steeds, as these mighty horses. One was good, and one was bad. The horse that was the follower of true glory he described as this beautiful and dignified grand horse. The other one was surly, and it had this blood-red complexion. This is a very vivid dialogue. And when the passions take control, he said that the dark steed would suddenly gallop away from the charioteer. And he said that we can only control the dark steed by yanking at his bit so violently that it wrenches from his mouth, and then forcing these dark passions to the ground, and then whipping them. It's an extremely violent and intense dialogue to read. Only then, Plato said, would the passions be tamed. But he described an alternative. He said, "When opinion by the help of reason leads us to the best, we could conquer the steed through temperance instead, through a habit of governing ourselves. In other words, the violence could be avoided by training that dark steed not to bolt away through moderation, through reason, and through politics, through political habits. So Madison built a country that was meant to be governed and supported by population committed to mastering the passions for the sake of the common good. A clue lies in a lecture delivered just before the American Revolution in 1775 by -- and I -- one of the major characters in the book is John Witherspoon who is this magnificent character in the founding of America, very larger-than-life, sardonic, dark kind of -- just a big personality. He was described as having more presence than anybody else in the founding period. He became the President of Princeton University, a mentor to Madison, and a cosigner of the major documents they served together in the Congress. Witherspoon was a Scottish-born cleric, President of Princeton. He delivered a sermon in 1775 -- it was the first political time that he ever decided to be political in front of his congregation -- titled "The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men." And in that he called for a revolution against Great Britain that would at once be morally inspired, deeply conscientious, and humble. He said, "Every good man should take a deep concern in promoting public virtue and bearing down on impiety advice. He described the new democracy that was coming after the revolution would require certain classes of me who would be under peculiar obligations to discharge that duty. He said those certain classes would include magistrates, ministers, parents, heads of families, commanding military officers, and those whom age has rendered venerable. In colonial America those groups shared the following characteristics. They were educated. They held the leadership roles in crucial spheres of American society, family, the church, military, towns. And they often had relationships at least with those in power. And all those played into their capacity or their requirement to discharge their duty to promote pubic virtue. Madison was taught by this man. This is through and through his own action, and his own thought, and what he did in the country. And he believed that there should be a structural social role for people who would challenge the system to live up to its better angels. When Madison was a teenager he first wrote about the Socratic Method -- are there any lawyers here? Couple, okay. It's incredible insight. In the book I spend a lot of time -- one of the luxuries of kind of slowing down and focusing on his youth was I could focus in more detail and slower on passages from when he was younger. And this is when he's a teenager and in boarding school. And he's taking notes on the Socratic Method. And he comes up with an insight into it that is more profound than a lot of people who spend their life studying this. Socrates was murdered by a mob under these trumped-up charges, as I said, which frustrated Plato for the rest of his life. He said -- the Socratic Method was basically when you led somebody down the garden path where you know the answer, and they don't And Socrates would do it all the time. And Madison describes it as very -- this is his words, 14 years old, about, "Very captitious [sic] and insidious," and said, "It probably helped to kindle and blow up that hatred against Socrates which helped put a violent period to his life." So I believe that Madison developed what I describe in the book as a different, quote, unquote, method -- I call it Madison's Method -- that he used to confront differing opinions and to challenge, to become a statesman, to create an entirely different politics around reason, around governing the passions that he actually embodied and that he used to great effect. And that helps explain why this 5'4", 100-pound weakling could be some dominant. I come up with nine instances when he employed this way of being in public dealing with the nation's inflation crisis right after arriving in Congress, arguing for the federal impost which was a requirement that the states fund the federal government beginning in 1783, confronting Patrick Henry's proposed religious assessment which was a tax to fund Christian churches beginning in 1785. This was what led to Madison's very famous "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," which was this lecture that he delivered, and later a petition; when arguing for the Virginia Plan in the Constitutional Convention in 1787; and finally, when he fought to ratify the Constitution itself in 1788. It had nine key elements. First, find passion in your conscience. Conscience comes up everywhere, in Madison's thought, in the thought of the people around him. And it was not abstract. It was not even Jiminy Cricket. It was something that he believed -- these folks believed that you had a voice in you that was part of you that could be educated or that could be ignored, but you needed to pray and derive counsel from your conscience. And if you did, other people would trust that you were operating in the right vein. They might disagree with you, but this is where the idea of conscientious objectors, conscientious this, that, and the other thing. It's a different ground for coming into public life with. Second, focus on the idea, not the man. Madison would go to pains never to engage in ad hominem debate or attack. He always was focused on the idea behind individual personalities, and that wasn't because he was afraid of conflict. It's because he knew that that was a much more powerful grounds to engage in changing the country on. Third develop multiple and independent lines of engagement and of attack. We are very stuck on coming up with a silver-bullet argument or a good idea. Madison, when you read most of the times that he would engage, he would have 12 or 15 different grounds that he was trying to convince you on, and they were all well-informed. And he wasn't infatuated with kind of coming up with a silver bullet. He would employ logic, history, moral argument, law, anything and everything -- if he knew what he was talking about -- to try and win his points and change the politics. Fourth, embrace impatience. Again, got this character, this minute sort of shy individual. Not at all. He wanted to be a change agent eminently when he could affect change. And he did it, and he changed the country around him as a result. Fifth, establish a competitive advantage through preparation. Again, how does somebody so -- like with his debilities become so powerful? And it was because he out-prepared everybody. He knew much more than anybody else around him, and they knew it, too. Conquer bad ideas by dividing them, sixth. Very frustrating thing for people who are married to lawyers, I can say, is that we're always dividing things into one or the other. But Madison did that to the Nth degree. There are but two causes of faction latent in the nature of man. He was controlling and thinking about how do you split any policy option, anything that we're faced with, into one or the other. And so he was basically designing and plowing ahead on a path that he had envisioned. And the country ended up where it did in part because he was so successful at that. Eighth, push the state to the highest version of itself. He was pushing a lot of nihilism about state, the government itself, just like today. This is 10 generations ago. It's not a long time ago. So the antifederalist forces were basically wanting to destroy a new federal government that would be set up by the conclave in Philadelphia. He was on the other side, fascinated by how do you refine, and develop, and invent a more accomplished form of government itself? Government was the art form. Government was statecraft. Ninth, and finally, govern the passions. And I've spoken about that. "To an adversary" -- this is a passage from the book -- "Madison's Method was maddening at best and infuriating at worst. He always knew more than his adversaries. He had anticipated most of their moves and seemed to have planned out everything he would say. He would drag his audience toward -- through a series of choices they had no option but to make toward conclusions they had no choice but to accept. It was a Socratic dialogue without the question marks, a symphony of precision, preparation, discipline, and control. If you responded to one point, there were always countless others to deal with as well. As slight as he was physically, he seemed indefatigable, almost to burn with an inner resourcefulness and conscience in every attempt you made to bait him, to trick him, or play to his ego would be avoided by a return to the plan. And most importantly, if you ever revealed yourself to be combatting for any selfish or special interest, that fact would become garish in contrast to his self-evident conscience, in contrast to the fact that he really did have the best interest of the public at heart. Statesmen who would abjure the lowest common denominator where demagogues flourish and who would so challenge and uplift public opinion were key to his [inaudible] democracy and to the optimism that he felt would lift this particular brand-new nation, very fragile one, out from the cycle of regimes. So he did famously observe in Federalist Number 10 that, "Men are not angels." But he also wrote that, "Human beings' basic qualities deserved," what he said, "Esteem and confidence." For him the very goal of the constitution was to enable leaders with what he said was "the most wisdom to discern and most virtue to pursue the common good of the society." In a memo titled "Vices of the Political System of the United States," which was completed in April just before the Constitutional Convention, he argued that Americans should, quote, "certainly extract from the mass of the society the purest and noblest characters which it contains." The climax of this book is the ratifying convention in 1788 in Richmond where Madison and Patrick Henry, who he had worked for before, been an aide to, had this real battle royale for three weeks as the leader of their respective forces, the Federalists and the Antifederalists. At the ratifying convention, Madison sought -- and it's the last 1/3 of the book, blow for blow -- he sought, to borrow a later phrase, to become the change he wanted to see in the world. He hurled himself into this ring again and again to take on Henry and the Antifederalists. Over those three weeks he refused to allow Henry and his blustering, nihilistic attacks against anything Federal to stand. And he subjected them through this steady, fierce method to withering assault by logic and by history. Just as an example, one day the topic was the congressional power to appoint federal judges. Madison saw a window to deliver his vision of republicanism. He began by conceding that many gentlemen around him supposed the new Congress would do every mischief they possibly could. While he admitted that he did not expect the most exalted integrity and sublime virtue from the men in the new government, he proudly declared his faith in what he said was this great republican principle, that the people -- the people would have, quote, "virtue and intelligence" to select men of virtue and wisdom. And he challenged the Antifederalists and Henry, who opposed the constitution on those grounds. He said, "Is there no virtue among us? Without virtue," he said, "we are in a retched situation." No theoretical checks could save the country. Without, quote, "virtue in the people," even liberty itself would be, what he said, "a chimerical idea," a fiction. He believed that the Antifederalists were not only weakening the new nation's politics and economics, they were actually hastening defeat. He reminded them that the Constitution required confidence for Americans, and then he proceeded to use that word four times in four sentences. "Confidence," he said, "was better than the circulation of money. Confidence produces the best effects in justice." It would even raise the value of property. He was talking about confidence in the federal government and in statesmen themselves. That was the constitution. Patrick Henry then rose to attack the notion that federal representatives would mend every deed. Of the idea that the nation could rely on the wisdom and virtue of our rulers, he snapped, quote, "I can find no consolation in it." But Madison won. Optimism and the people's self-salvation became the basis of the Constitution. At the end of the convention a man named Zachariah Johnson -- one of the cool things about doing this research and spending so much time was getting to know these characters. He's not written really about anywhere else. He was a soldier who was quiet otherwise during the ratifying convention. He rose to praise Madison's Method. He criticized the Antifederalists and Henry for, quote, "The strained construction which has been put on every word and syllable, and for endeavoring to prove oppressions which can never possibly happen." And he said that he would vote for the Constitution. In the end it was thousands of Zachariah Johnsons who stood with Madison, who were persuaded by conviction, by fact, by history, by reason itself to cast their lot with a radical new plan for the country rather than prejudices, and political attacks, and the fear of the unknown. And victories like that, I believe, give us empirical grounds for the aspirational optimism and the statesman ethos that is woven into and is essential to the American democracy working as planned and as designed by Madison. In closing, Madison wrote to the United States that, "The people who are the authors of this blessing must also be its guardians." In other words, the ultimate checks and balances are not the institutions, but the people themselves, who Madison called "the highest authority." Those are my thoughts from the book. That's where the book ends. I will say that recent events have shaken my faith in this optimism being self-fulfilling. My book "Demagogue" has as its root and its branch a very factual argument that American democracy always ultimately repudiates and rises above the demagogues who have challenged us. We are right now in the thick of a profound test. I've written many places, so there's no secret that I do believe Donald Trump, our President-Elect right now -- although that term has no legal meaning because the Electoral College has not met -- is -- has chosen to be a demagogue in very strict conformance with that term and what demagogues have done. That's a choice that he's made. He has done a lot of other -- has created a lot of other threats to our norms, and our values, and our checks and balances, and this fabric that I've spoken about, and has taken advantage of a faltering and a lack of confidence in both the lower and the upper parts of this healthy constitutional democracy. It's a dangerous moment. It's a threatening moment. It's going to fall to these people -- that's why I went through the Witherspoon quote. It's going to all to all of us, anybody who cares very deeply about what the country actually, factually is built on. So these stories, I think, have become more crucial than ever. But they're not stories. They are the fabric, and the ethos, and the ethic, and they are something that we live every day in our lives as citizens of this republic. So thank you very much. [ Applause ] We can do questions? Of course. Yeah, we can do questions for as long as we're allowed. Yes, ma'am? >> You said something about satire and demagogues, that it actually helps -- that it helps -- >> Michael Signer: Yeah. >> -- the demagogue. So I think about "Saturday Night Live." So you're telling me that that [inaudible] help Donald Trump? >> Michael Signer: Do you think it's hurt him? >> I don't -- >> Michael Signer: I'll tell you what, I would rather have one Walter Cronkite or Tim Russert do a 45-minute long informed, tough, unrelenting confrontation at some point early in the campaign with this particular candidate -- if I could choose, I'd rather have that and watch that than have "The New Yorker" print -- you know, there's one issue where they had 45 cartoons of Donald Trump, or the "Saturday Night Live." I think on two levels, I think one, it does what I said. It highlights the passions in this character. These are entertainment figures who are operating on the plane of what they used to call the appetites. This is Trump's comfort zone. So it doesn't distract. It only adds to that fundamental gut connection. It doubles it. It triples it. And the other thing is, it distracts people who might otherwise be very capable, serious critics, from the work that they need to do if they think that's actually doing the work of confrontation, which it's not. So it's distracting. So I don't have any -- I'm not -- I don't have any problem with people doing satire. I just think that it can actually backfire and be distracting. >> Thank you. >> Michael Signer: Yeah? >> How is your research and your study of [inaudible] figures changed or impacted your [inaudible] your job as Mayor -- >> Michael Signer: well, you know, these are very practical questions for me. Last night we had a very difficult situation in Charlottesville where we -- the Vice Mayor of the city had -- about a week and a half ago there were -- he's done hundreds of thousands tweets. He's a 30-year-old guy. There were tweets, several dozen of them, from up to four years ago that are highly offensive, that include, you know, a lot of race, and gender, and misogynistic speak, and upset a lot of people. He resigned from the State Board of Education. There were -- there's a lot of -- there were some Alt-Right kind of white, racists who were doing a lot of attacks on him. And last night we had a city council meeting where there was -- there -- at the beginning there was almost some physical altercations. It was a very challenging -- after being Mayor, this is probably the most challenging governance thing I've had in terms of an actual thing in front of me. How do you run the meeting? I don't think it's a stretch to say that all these principles about prioritizing order, deliberation, fairness, equity, calming things down. I did a talk at the beginning about how we needed to be -- we could disagree without being disagreeable. We needed to have civil and civic debate. I had everybody look around at people next to them. We're all human beings, and we all have frailties. We've all made mistakes. This was me as a human being trying to figure out how with this particular very tumultuous thing in front of me, how do I try and convert this into a process where we're actually going to hear from people in our matters by the public and just order it? And I believe it was successful. It took a lot of thought beforehand. It -- there was no altercations. I got a bunch of, you know, comments afterward and emails from people saying, "That was a very well-run meeting in a very difficult situation." I had to -- I had to advert to our rules. I had to -- several times people were interrupting. They're not allowed to interrupt without being recognized by the chair of the meeting. It was myself under our rules. I had to say, "I'm going to shut the meeting down if you all can't stop, if you all can't let this proceed." But you know, as an example, I think that it was a very good -- I don't know about Madisonian -- but I think that he -- you know, there's a back and forth in the ratifying convention where Henry just -- they had agreed on a plan of debate of the provisions of the Constitution, and Henry -- this was true-to-form for him, very Donald Trump-like. He just said, "I'm going to ignore it." And he just started rampaging through the topics, as opposed -- and it made everybody -- but they couldn't control him. Madison succeeded in getting the convention to agree that the rule was you had to go topic, by topic, by topic. You didn't just set -- throw grenades and set fires. So running meetings, and the order, and the deliberate nature of a public -- and the person running the meeting, the leader I think matters an immense amount. I think that it gives people confidence, and it allows you to get to conclusions. That's just -- I could come up with many other examples. But I don't think I would have had that opinion and that approach to running this meeting last night if I hadn't worked on this book for five years. I really don't. Yeah? >> I want you to say something about how Madison in the broadest sense understood [inaudible] the role of the Electoral College. >> Michael Signer: Well, okay. So I've been -- Madison -- Madison initially favored popular election of the President. So the Electoral College, there's not a tremendous amount of evidence during the debates in Philadelphia -- there's not a huge amount. There's some. There are the notes that Madison was taking. So I haven't -- I've been writing a lot about the Electoral College recently -- that's actually the last 15 minutes of this talk that I chose to -- but I can condense it into a minute now. The best information on the Electoral College comes from Hamilton who wrote Federalist Paper 78, I believe it was, where he described the purpose of the Electoral College. The Electoral College, I mean, it's kind of the marriage of the two parts of this talk. It was put in place to stop the danger of a demagogue from becoming President. The electors were supposed to be in this statesman-like vein. They were really supposed to be prominent people who had thought about their role. The -- this Federalist 68 actually it is, it talks in great, specific detail about how the electors were supposed to stop before an interference in our councils. They were supposed to stop a candidate who was practiced in what they -- what he said was the low arts of popularity. There -- who might promise tumult and disorder. The -- so it -- and it's a -- it's kind of a lock-shut case. A lot of people have said, "Well, the 12th Amendment in the Constitution was passed in 1804, and that changed the process from the original Electoral College to now the -- it was a different setup for how the President and Vice President were nominated, because prior to that you didn't have political parties." But it didn't alter the fact that these were human beings who have this role. Why do they have this role? They get together on December 19th. What are they supposed to do? Why are they not automatically machines? Now 29 states have passed laws because of the danger of so-called faithless electors. Twenty-nine states have passed laws that require the electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote in that state. There was a Supreme Court case saying that those electors can be required to sign a pledge, but there's no enforceability. You can't coerce that person to sign the pledge. You can just give them a 500 or $1000 fine afterward. And to me and to a lot of other scholars, we have now in this moment faced the first real test in our country of somebody who -- I don't think the demagogue is a matter of opinion or -- I think it's a fairly objective test. But even setting that aside, you have absolutely a foreign government who attempted to interfere and influence the result of this campaign, Russia. And you have at least a set of facts that electors should be able to investigate and deliberate. In Federalist 68, it's very clear that electors should be able to investigate these questions as they chose. And I think that means that these electors -- there's two weeks left. They ought to be able, under court order, to ask for tax returns, for instance, which would show if there are entanglements. The Emoluments Clause is a whole other thing. We saw yesterday in the New York Times the first Republican elector to publicly say that he was not going to side with Donald Trump. And he cited this line of thinking. So this is why constitutional thinking matters. These institutions we have might get a little dusty over time, but that doesn't mean you can't take a brush and dust them off, and they're just as vital as they ever were, because we haven't really had this kind of a character come up this far before who has threatened freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, and political violence, and you know, a whole host of other -- you know, breaking treaties, and torture, and you know, this is what we've heard. It's not me making it up. It's what we've heard. So these should be cause for grave concern for electors as they are designed very specifically -- not me saying it, it's our constitutional history saying it. And so that's what I've been arguing. And I would just -- I would stay tuned. I think there will be a lot on this in the next two weeks. Yes, sir? >> Yeah, one of the questions that I have particularly around Madison, in 1812 Madison meets with a black sea captain [inaudible]. And [inaudible] I've been surprised at the relationship between the war -- the period of the War of 1812 and now. And your talk has really underlined some of the connections that I didn't see. So the question that I have in terms of Madison, was Madison more in favor of Africans leaving America to a foreign country, or east -- or rather west of the Mississippi? And as we look at the situation now, as most of the people point to Trump, it's actually the people behind him that voted for him. And he also now has or will have the ability to appoint a judge. And aside from whatever else [inaudible] say, to me, purely is did Madison have any questions about vested interests where for a billionaire to be able to appoint a Supreme Court judge. That on the face of it, to me, should be enough to be at least controversial if not disqualify the person. >> All right, let me just take -- it's a multipart question, and I want to make sure that I -- other -- let me just take the first part -- the -- about race and what he wanted to do with African Americans, which I think is a complicated enough question here. He had -- I spend a fair amount of time in the question of race, and his relationship to African Americans, and the slavery question. He had an incredibly complicated, unsatisfying picture on race. And I think that it's one -- I mean, I -- it's hard to come out of dealing with any Founding Father with a good feeling, or any aspect of our history, really -- you know, at least in many parts of the country. And this is one of them. So he -- in the 1820s -- he was an abstract -- as much as he was a practical political operative, he was also an abstract thinker who one of his weaknesses was he could dream schemes that might not work in practice. Some of the schemes did, but some of them didn't. He became the President in the 1820s of the American Colonization Society, which was the leading national organization for the establishment of Liberia and for moving -- what became Liberia, and for moving African Americans back to Africa. In his mind, that was a solution to this difficult problem for everyone of how do you reckon with what had happened? He also -- it's an incredibly frustrating legacy, dealing with Madison on race. On the one hand, he -- when he got to Philadelphia the first time as a Congressman, there was a slave who he owned -- his father had given him -- named Billy who he manumitted. He freed him because -- and he wrote back his father -- it was one of his first acts of defiance against his father who was a very powerful, controlling man who I talk about a lot in the book. And he said, "He's just not fit for this. He doesn't take to it." And he said, "I'm going to defy you and free him." He needed to go through a process in Pennsylvania at the time of freeing him, but he ultimately did. And then they ended up working with the man as a contractor with the family later on. On the other hand, he refused to free his slaves in his will. And he had this decade-long correspondence with a man named Edward Coles who was a Virginian who felt so powerfully about the slavery issue that he moved to Illinois with his slaves, freed them, and became the Governor of Illinois on an abolitionist platform. And he pleaded and pleaded, and he had been basically his chief aide when he was in the White House as a younger man -- and he pleaded with Madison over, and over, and over. He said, "You and Ms. Madison, this should be your legacy. You should free your slaves. You should." And Madison's responses are weak, and technical, and frustrating, and -- but they are as human as him in his worst side. He said, "I don't think they would succeed out in the world, out from Montpelier." He said, "We can't afford it," which was the most offensive thing, but he was a terrible businessman. I spend a lot of time in the book talking about his frustrations of finding a career. He really wasn't good at anything else other than being in public life. So you saw all of his frailties and failures come together in this unbelievably frustrating part of his career. But he did try and come up with a solution. Wasn't the right one. And he saw the Civil War coming. I mean, he had -- he saw every aspect of this. And one of the reasons that he wanted, you know, coercion was he wanted the federal government to have a stronger hold on dissenting states. So that's a very long-winded way of getting part of your question. The appointment of judge is a whole other thing. >> Roberta Shaffer: I wonder if I could insinuate myself. Unfortunately -- this is a great conversation -- but we are on a time limit, and we do want to have the opportunity to have everyone purchase books. So if you don't mind stopping at that moment and that thought, I will give you small gift from the Law Library -- >> Michael Signer: Thank you >> Roberta Shaffer: -- which is our famous gavel pencil. We felt that it was appropriate for your many roles. >> Michael Signer: Well, I will use this. I'll have this up in the [inaudible] with me. That's great. >> Roberta Shaffer: It's a pencil. You know that George [inaudible] said that [banging gavel] really we should -- the name of this city, because the pen is mightier than the sword, we should be called Madison, District of Columbia. But in any event, we thank you so much for this very, very -- >> Michael Signer: Thank you very much. >> Roberta Shaffer: -- fascinating -- >> Michael Signer: Thank you. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at


Early life and first marriage

The first girl in her family, Dolley Payne was born on May 20, 1768, in the Quaker settlement of New Garden, North Carolina, in Guilford County (now part of the city of Greensboro), to Mary Coles Payne and John Payne Jr., both Virginians who had moved to North Carolina in 1765.[4] Mary Coles, a Quaker, had married John Payne, a non-Quaker, in 1761. Three years later, he applied and was admitted to the Quaker Monthly Meeting in Hanover County, Virginia, where Coles' parents lived. He became a fervent follower and they reared their children in the Quaker faith.

In 1769, the Paynes had returned to Virginia[4] and young Dolley grew up at her parents' plantation in rural eastern Virginia and became deeply attached to her mother's family. Eventually she had three sisters (Lucy, Anna, and Mary) and four brothers (Walter, William Temple, Isaac, and John).[citation needed]

In 1783, following the American Revolutionary War, John Payne emancipated his slaves,[4] as did numerous slaveholders in the Upper South.[5] Some, like Payne, were Quakers, who had long encouraged manumission; others were inspired by revolutionary ideals. From 1782 to 1810, the proportion of free blacks to the total black population in Virginia increased from less than one percent to 7.2 percent, and more than 30,000 blacks were free.[6]

When Dolley was 15, Payne moved his family to Philadelphia, where he went into business as a starch merchant, but the business had failed by 1791. This was seen as a "weakness" at his Quaker meetings, for which he was expelled.[7] He died in October 1792 and Mary Payne initially made ends meet by opening a boardinghouse, but the next year she took her two youngest children, Mary and John, and moved to western Virginia to live with her daughter Lucy and her new husband, George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of George Washington.[citation needed]

Marriage and family

In January 1790, Dolley Payne had married John Todd, a Quaker lawyer in Philadelphia. They quickly had two sons, John Payne (called Payne) and William Temple (born July 4, 1793[8]). After Mary Payne left Philadelphia in 1793, Dolley's sister Anna Payne moved in with them to help with the children.

In August 1793, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in Philadelphia, killing 5,019 people in four months.[9] Dolley was hit particularly hard, as her husband, son William, mother-in-law, and father-in-law all died.[7]

In addition to her grief, Dolley experienced, as many women did, the compounding effects of coverture law – the legal system that strictly limited women's ability to own property and wages – to her time of mourning. While undergoing the loss of much of her family, she also had to take care of her surviving son without the monetary support of a husband and in the weakened financial position of being female under the coverture system. While her husband had left her money in his will, only men could be the executor of that money and, as such, her husband's brother was the executor. Like many women, Dolley experienced this injustice as her brother-in-law withheld the funds that her husband had left to her, so she had to sue him for the $19 she was owed. Dolley's loss of her early family, and the accumulating expenses of both caring for her child and paying for the funerals of lost relatives, highlights the weight of the difficulties many women faced during times of great grief and mourning.[7]

Second marriage

Engraving of Dolley, c. 1800
Engraving of Dolley, c. 1800

Despite Dolley's weakened position after the death of most of her male relatives, she was still considered a beautiful woman and was living in the temporary capital of the United States, Philadelphia. While her mother went to live with another married daughter, Dolley caught the eye of James Madison, who then represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. While remarrying would have been crucial for her, as keeping herself and her children alive on the means that a woman could bring in would have been challenging, it is reported that she did seem to genuinely care for James.[7] Some sources state that Aaron Burr, a longtime friend of Madison's since their student days at the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton University), stayed at a rooming house where Dolley also resided, and it was Aaron's idea to introduce the two. In May 1794, Burr made the formal introduction between the young widow and Madison, who at 43 was a longstanding bachelor 17 years her senior. A brisk courtship followed and, by August, Dolley accepted his marriage proposal. As he was not a Quaker, she was expelled from the Society of Friends for marrying outside her faith, after which Dolley began attending Episcopal services. Despite her Quaker upbringing, there is no evidence that she disapproved of James as a slaveholder.[7] They were married on September 15, 1794, and lived in Philadelphia for the next three years.[10]

In 1797, after eight years in the House of Representatives, James Madison retired from politics. He returned with his family to Montpelier, the Madison family plantation in Orange County, Virginia. There they expanded the house and settled in. When Thomas Jefferson was elected as the third president of the United States in 1800, he asked Madison to serve as his Secretary of State. Madison accepted and moved Dolley, her son Payne, her sister Anna, and their domestic slaves to Washington on F Street. They took a large house, as Dolley believed that entertaining would be important in the new capital.[11]

In Washington 1801–17

Dolley worked with the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe to furnish the White House, the first official residence built for the president of the United States. She sometimes served as widower Jefferson's hostess for official ceremonial functions.[12] Dolley would becme a crucial part of the Washington social circle, befriending the wives of numerous diplomats like Sarah Martinez de Yrujo, wife of the ambassador of Spain, and Marie-Angelique Turreau, the wife of the Frenchman ambassador. Her charm precipitated a diplomatic crisis, called the Merry Affair, after Jefferson escorted Dolley to the dining room instead of the wife of Anthony Merry, English diplomat to the U.S, in a major faux pas.

In the approach to the 1808 presidential election, with Thomas Jefferson ready to retire, the Democratic-Republican caucus nominated James Madison to succeed him. He was elected President, serving two terms from 1809 to 1817, and Dolley became the official First Lady.[clarification needed] Dolley helped to define the official functions, decorated the Executive Mansion, and welcomed visitors in her drawing room. She was renowned for her social graces and hospitality, and contributed to her husband's popularity as president. She was the only First Lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress, and the first First Lady (and first American) to respond to a telegraph message.[13] In 1812, James was re-elected. This was the year that the War of 1812 began with Great Britain. After sending diplomat and poet Joel Barlow to Europe to discuss the Berlin Decree and the controversial Orders-in-Council, James Madison would deliver his war request to Congress.

Burning of Washington, 1814

After the United States declared war in 1812 and attempted to invade Canada in 1813, a British force attacked Washington in 1814. As it approached and the White House staff hurriedly prepared to flee, Dolley ordered the Stuart painting, a copy of the Lansdowne portrait, to be saved, as she wrote in a letter to her sister at 3 o'clock in the afternoon of August 23:

Our kind friend Mr. Carroll has come to hasten my departure, and in a very bad humor with me, because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. The process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken and the canvas taken out ... It is done, and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen from New York for safe keeping. On handing the canvas to the gentlemen in question, Messrs. Barker and Depeyster, Mr. Sioussat cautioned them against rolling it up, saying that it would destroy the portrait. He was moved to this because Mr. Barker started to roll it up for greater convenience for carrying.[14][15]

Popular accounts during and after the war years tended to portray Dolley as the one who removed the painting, and she became a national heroine. Early twentieth-century historians noted that Jean Pierre Sioussat had directed the servants, many of whom were slaves, in the crisis, and that house slaves were the ones who actually preserved the painting.[16][17]

Dolley Madison hurried away in her waiting carriage, along with other families fleeing the city. They went to Georgetown and the next day they crossed over the Potomac into Virginia.[18] When the danger receded after the British left Washington a few days later, she returned to the capital to meet her husband. However, the rampant pillaging and systematic destruction had desolated much of the new city. As Congress began discussions over the construction of a new capital, Dolley and James moved into the The Octagon House. Dolley would establish the Washington City Female Orphan Asylum.

In Montpelier 1817–37

Dolley at the end of her tenure as First Lady in 1817
Dolley at the end of her tenure as First Lady in 1817

On April 6, 1817, a month after his retirement from the presidency, Dolley and James Madison returned to the Montpelier plantation in Orange County, Virginia.[19]

In 1830, Dolley's son Payne Todd, who had never found a career, went to debtors' prison in Philadelphia and the Madisons sold land in Kentucky and mortgaged half of the Montpelier plantation to pay his debts.[20]

James died at Montpelier on June 28, 1836. Dolley remained at Montpelier for a year. Her niece Anna Payne moved in with her, and Todd came for a lengthy stay. During this time, Dolley organized and copied her husband's papers. Congress authorized $55,000 as payment for editing and publishing seven volumes of the Madison papers, including his unique notes on the 1787 convention.[19]

In the fall of 1837, Dolley returned to Washington, charging Todd with the care of the plantation. She and her sister Anna moved into a house, bought by Anna and her husband Richard Cutts, on Lafayette Square. Madison took Paul Jennings with her as a butler, and he was forced to leave his family in Virginia.[21]

In Washington 1837–49

A daguerreotype of Dolley in 1848, by Mathew Brady
A daguerreotype of Dolley in 1848, by Mathew Brady

While Dolley Madison was living in Washington, Payne Todd was unable to manage the plantation, due to alcoholism and related illness. She tried to raise money by selling the rest of the president's papers. She agreed to sell Jennings to Daniel Webster, who allowed him to gain his freedom by paying him through work.

Unable to find a buyer for the papers, she sold Montpelier, its remaining slaves, and the furnishings to pay off outstanding debts.

Paul Jennings, the former slave of the Madisons, later recalled in his memoir,

In the last days of her life, before Congress purchased her husband's papers, she was in a state of absolute poverty, and I think sometimes suffered for the necessaries of life. While I was a servant to Mr. Webster, he often sent me to her with a market-basket full of provisions, and told me whenever I saw anything in the house that I thought she was in need of, to take it to her. I often did this, and occasionally gave her small sums from my own pocket, though I had years before bought my freedom of her.[22]

In 1848, Congress agreed to buy the rest of James Madison's papers for the sum of $22,000 or $25,000.[citation needed]

In 1842, Dolley Madison joined St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. This church was attended by other members of the Madison and Payne families.

On February 28, 1844, Madison was with President John Tyler while aboard the USS Princeton when a "Peacemaker" cannon exploded in the process of being fired. While Secretaries of State and Navy Abel P. Upshur and Thomas Walker Gilmer, Tyler's future father-in-law David Gardiner and three others were killed, President Tyler and Dolley Madison escaped unharmed.

She died at her home in Washington in 1849 at the age of 81. She was first buried in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C., but later was re-interred at Montpelier next to her husband.[12]


During World War II the Liberty ship SS Dolly Madison was built in Panama City, Florida, and named in her honor.[23]

Madison was a member of the inaugural class of Virginia Women in History in 2000.[24]

Spelling of her name

In the past, biographers and others stated that her given name was Dorothea after her aunt, or Dorothy, and that Dolley was a nickname. But her birth was registered with the New Garden Friends Meeting as Dolley, and her will of 1841 states "I, Dolly P. Madison".[25] Based on manuscript evidence and the scholarship of recent biographers, Dollie, spelled "ie", appears to have been her given name at birth.[26] On the other hand, the print press, especially newspapers, tended to spell it "Dolly": for example, the Hallowell (Maine) Gazette, 8 February 1815, p. 4, refers to how the Congress had allowed "Madame Dolly Madison" an allowance of $14,000 to purchase new furniture; and the New Bedford (MA) of 3 March 1837, p. 2 referred to a number of important papers from her late husband, and said that "Mrs. Dolly Madison" would be paid by the Senate for these historical manuscripts. Several magazines of that time also used the "Dolly" spelling, such as The Knickerbocker, February 1837, p. 165;[27] as did many popular magazines of the 1860s–1890s. She was referred to as "Mistress Dolly" in an essay from Munsey's Magazine in 1896.[28] Her grandniece Lucia Beverly Cutts, in her Memoirs and letters of Dolly Madison: wife of James Madison, president of the United States (1896) uses "Dolly" consistently throughout.[29]

Representation in other media


  1. ^ The Dolley Madison Project, Virginia Center for Digital History. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "Unofficial Politician: Dolley Madison in Washington". New York Historical Society.
  3. ^ Catherine Allgor, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation (New York: Henry Holy & Co., 2006), 43
  4. ^ a b c "Chronology and Dolley Madison", The Dolley Madison Project, University of Virginia Digital History
  5. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, p. 81
  6. ^ Kolchin (1993), p. 81
  7. ^ a b c d e "Life Story: Dolley Madison, 1768-1849". Women and the American Story: A Curriculum Guide. New York Historical Society. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  8. ^ Witteman 2003, p. 11.
  9. ^ Wittleman 2003, p. 12.
  10. ^ Allgor, A Perfect Union. ch 2
  11. ^ Allgor, A Perfect Union. ch 1
  12. ^ a b "Dolley Payne Madison", National First Ladies Library
  13. ^ "Little-known facts about our First Ladies". Retrieved 2015-07-07.
  14. ^ Dolly Madison on the Burning of Washington – 1814
  15. ^ Dolley Madison's letter to her sister as quoted in Willets, Gilson (1908). Inside History of the White House. p. 220.
  16. ^ Review: Gilson Willets, Inside History of the White House-the complete history of the domestic and official life in Washington of the nation's presidents and their families, The Christian Herald, 1908
  17. ^ JH McCormick, The First Master of Ceremonies of the White House, 1904. They cited the 1865 memoir by Paul Jennings: "a negro servant, named Paul Jennings, issued in 1865, A Colored Man's Reminiscences of James Madison, in which he, as a White House employee, insists; 'She (Mrs. Madison) had no time for doing it. It would have required a ladder to get it down. All she carried off was the silver in her reticule, as the British were thought to be but a few squares off, and were expected every moment. John Suse (meaning Jean Sioussat), a Frenchman, then doorkeeper, and still living, and McGraw, the President's gardener, took it down and sent it off on a wagon with some larger silver urns and other such valuables as could be hastily got hold of. When the British did arrive, they ate up the very dinner, and drank the wines, etc., that I had prepared for the President's party.'"
  18. ^ Darcy Spencer (August 21, 2016). Historic McLean Home Set for Demolition (news program). WRC-TV. Retrieved August 24, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Allgor, A Perfect Union p. 340
  20. ^ Allgor, A Perfect Union p. 352
  21. ^ Allgor, A Perfect Union p 380
  22. ^ "Paul Jennings", Documents of the American South, University of North Carolina
  23. ^ Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 1476617546. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  24. ^ "Virginia Women in History". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  25. ^ "Will of Dolly Payne Todd Madison, February 1, 1841", Papers of Notable Virginia Families, MS 2988, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville Virginia, United States.
  26. ^ Allgor, 415–16; Richard N. Cote, Strength and Honor: the Life of Dolly Madison (Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Corinthian Books, 2005), 36–37
  27. ^ "American Society."
  28. ^ Virginia Cousins, "Old Virginia Homes," Munsey's Magazine, March 1896, p. 714.
  29. ^ "Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison: Wife of James Madison, President of ... - Dolley Madison - Google Books". Retrieved 2016-09-07.
  30. ^ "First Lady Dolley Madison". C-SPAN. March 11, 2013. Retrieved March 12, 2013.

Further reading

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Martha Randolph
First Lady of the United States
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Monroe
This page was last edited on 30 January 2019, at 01:05
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