One day last month I was out and about doing some exploring of Virginia. I decided to go across the Blue Ridge mountains (the ones we live up against) and see what I could find to get into. I was really looking for beautiful scenery, things to take pictures of that I could look at and maybe see something to share with you all. Normally I stay away from high traffic areas and historical sights, but not this time. I passed a sign that pointed me towards a place called Montpelier. Some of you will know where and what that is as soon as you read the name…some of you won’t. Well, for one that is not THAT into US History…I had a blast! I learned things I did not know, and I still remember them now! I don’t know why I wasn’t interested in this stuff when I was in school, but well…I just wasn’t.
I read a book last year about the Lewis and Clark expedition…maybe that is what set my mind to wondering about our history here in the US. Jesse knows more about all of this than I do! Virginia schools teach Virginia history as a required subject in elementary grades! I think that is great. At first I didn’t like it…we are from NC, but then I realized the amount of history that is in Virginia. WOW, you wouldn’t believe how much is here, or maybe you would!
Well, I visited Montpelier and documented as much as I wanted to for you to see. I didn’t take as many images as I could have because I was busy LEARNING about this stuff. I actually listened to the narrators and tour guides! Anyone who knows me knows that I normally never listen to that stuff, but I did this time. Makes me wonder what all I have missed out on by being so closed minded and intolerant of learning. I wish I could GO BACK TO SCHOOL and actually listen this time around. I mean, hey, I got great grades (A’s & B’s), but I didn’t REALLY learn all that stuff. I was just good at short term memorization. : )
So for those of you that don’t know anything about James Madison…I hope you enjoy what you are about to learn. Those who know this history, I hope you enjoy the images I have put with some of the text.
Some of these words were taken from the Internet wikipedia sight when I looked up James Madison. All words in italics and blue are my thoughts only! Some of this I learned on my tour, some just opinions. That is how I make history interesting enough for me to remember it.
James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American politician and political philosopher who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Considered to be the “Father of the Constitution”, he was the principal author of the document. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, still the most influential commentary on the Constitution.
This image came from the internet, no, I did not take this one : )
The first President to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafted many basic laws and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution (said to be based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights), and thus is also known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”.
Image of Montpelier (Jame’s childhood home and home of Dolley after they married)
This image is of a window, what you don’t see is the office behind those window panes. This is the office that James spent hours and hours in writing our BILL OF RIGHTS. He would look out at the fields of tobacco and the Blue Ridge mountains and study and write. It is said that he stayed in this room for the better part of 4 months. He would eat there and sleep there as sleep was needed. An awesome dedication to something that we as Americans take for granted.
As a political theorist, Madison’s most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.
As leader in the House of Representatives, Madison worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in 1791, Madison and Thomas Jefferson organized what they called the Republican Party (later called the Democratic-Republican Party) in opposition to key policies of the Federalists, especially the national bank and the Jay Treaty. He secretly co-authored, along with Thomas Jefferson, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.
As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–1809), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the nation’s size, and sponsored the ill-fated Embargo Act of 1807. As president, he led the nation into the War of 1812 against Great Britain. During and after the war, Madison reversed many of his positions. By 1815, he supported the creation of the second National Bank, a strong military, and a high tariff to protect the new factories opened during the war.
James Madison married Dolley Madison, a widow with one son (this son was known to be lazy and a drunkard that squandered all that he could get his hands on, he had extensive gambling debts as well. In my opinion, there was not a lot of love lost between him and his step father James Madison) on September 15, 1794 in what is now Jefferson County, West Virginia. Dolley Payne Todd Madison was born on May 20, 1768 at the New Garden Quaker settlement in North Carolina (any of you ever heard of this place?), where her parents John Payne and Mary Coles Payne lived briefly. Dolley’s sister (Lucy Payne) had married George Steptoe Washington, a nephew of President Washington.
As a member of Congress, Madison had doubtless met the widow Todd at social functions in Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital. But in May 1794, he took formal notice of her by asking their mutual friend Aaron Burr to arrange a meeting. The encounter apparently went smoothly for a brisk courtship followed, and by August she had accepted his proposal of marriage. For marrying Madison, a non-Quaker, she was expelled from the Society of Friends. (I find this of great interest…she was expelled from all she knew because of her love for this man. I would say she was a bold, strong woman by nature!) The Madison’s had no children; thus he has no direct descendants.
The rest of these images are of the area surrounding the house as well as the grave yard.
exit of the gardens
just a magnolia tree and a huge blossom on it (I love magnolias)
The later years of his life were troublesome ones. He left the presidency he served a poorer man than when he started it. His Virginia tobacco plantation (Montpelier) was in a financial collapse from years of neglect. Madison’s financial troubles and deteriorating mental and physical health would continue to consume him.
During the tour I learned that James Madison had a man-servant that served him for many years. This servant was with Madison at his death. It is said that Madison suffered horrible arthritis in his last years and was immobile the last year or so of his life. His servant was his constant companion in the end. I was able to see the room in which James Madison passed away, and yes, I did shed a few tears. Why you ask, I didn’t KNOW the man, and I have no relations to him…but you see…death visits us all and no matter who it visits…there will always be things you wish you has said to that person, or things you would have wanted for them. I would have wanted that James Madison had died in the arms of his wife, that woman that gave up all that she knew to marry the man she loved. But instead, he died beside a great and true friend that had been with him for an abundance of years.
He died at Montpelier on June 28, the last Founding Father to die. He is buried in the Madison Family Cemetery at Montpelier.
The Madison family cemetery and monument to James Madison
the iron gate that you enter in to reach the grave sites
interesting because of the use of foot stones. I think I want one of these when I am gone
These words were said of him by Paul Jennings (half English, an eighth Native American, and three-eighths African-American. He was regarded as intelligent and dependable. Nonetheless, he was a slave of James Madison and then of Madison’s widow — inherited like any piece of property and sold like any piece of property…born a slave on President Madison’s estate, in Montpelier, Va., in 1799. His reputed father was Benj. Jennings, an English trader there; his mother, a slave of Mr. Madison, and the granddaughter of an Indian. Paul was a “body servant” of Mr. Madison, till his death, and afterwards of Daniel Webster, having purchased his freedom of Mrs. Madison).
“I was always with Mr. Madison till he died, and shaved him every other day for sixteen years. For six months before his death, he was unable to walk, and spent most of his time reclined on a couch; but his mind was bright, and with his numerous visitors he talked with as much animation and strength of voice as I ever heard him in his best days. I was present when he died. That morning Sukey brought him his breakfast, as usual. He could not swallow. His niece, Mrs. Willis, said, “What is the matter, Uncle Jeames?” “Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear.” His head instantly dropped, and he ceased breathing as quietly as the snuff of a candle goes out. He was about eighty-four years old, and was followed to the grave by an immense procession of white and colored people.”
Well, I do hope that you have somewhat enjoyed this history lesson. It had been a joy to write it and a great pleasure to photograph what I did of it. Oh, just so you know it is still me writing this stuff, not some history loving alien…
this image is of the $3.50 ginger ale I bought while there! can you believe it?! i can tell you, James Madison and Dolley wouldn’t have been broke if they had heisted people like the historical society does with their prices on ginger ale and snacks!