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tv   The Presidency Dolley Madisons Political Talents  CSPAN  April 30, 2021 5:51pm-6:45pm EDT

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>> today's lecture, as you'll, notice cosponsored by our friends at james mott -- montpellier, and with us to
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talk about the home's most famous female occupant is kat imhoff, the president and ceo of montpellier and the montpellier foundation. she is among the first of the generation of women to now oversee all aspects of the national historic site, and under her leadership, montpellier has become an absolute leader in the research of slavery in the early republic, and it has grown and advanced in almost every way imaginable. it's been quite fun to watch a distance of what's going on here. before joining montpellier in january 2013, cat served as state director for the nature conservancy in montana and before that, as vice president in -- for thomas jefferson's -- the thomas jefferson foundation at monticello. she's also served as executive director of the -- among many important roles here in the state. she is truly one of the great stars in the virginia museum community. we are so thrilled to cosponsored this lecture and to have her speak with all of you today. please join me in welcoming kat
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imhoff. [applause] >> i really am thrilled to be here, and i was joking that we obviously don't have a lot of -- but any of you who, if the score gets really interesting, if you could signal and we can pause to hear what's going on because it's starting here. i have to start this evening with a quote from key dolley madison, of course. i sometimes wish myself with you for a while, for i love richmond. there is so much soul, so much kindness in its enlightened society. this is 1812. so she did. there is so much that everyone knows, right, about dolley madison. we remember her as the -- americas quintessential hostess, the style setting first lady, and the heroic figure that helped rescue george
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washington's portrait. but for over a century, after dolley madison that, -- selling everything, from bedspreads to snack kicks -- sorry, that's a spoonerisms. ice cream, and it really crystallized her image into -- the epitome of gracious hospitality. but i hope to prove to you this afternoon that dollies legacy and life was so much more than that stereotype. in fact, dolley shaped this nation by using hospitality to achieve political ends. she was almost loyal, and very devoted, to her husband, and she was an invaluable support when he was a congressman, secretary of state, and of course, advanced his life into the presidency. she and james were the original power couple. she also played a critical role in shaping the social protocol of that brand-new capital, washington d.c.. and thus, how we governed
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ourselves in our early days, and she did it with a totally unique style. bright, lively, charming, warm, a, quote, voter dullness in every form, a godsend friend of her. and she was also very resourceful and true. i'm getting ahead of myself. let's take a step back and answer the question, who was dolley madison, before she helped define the role of the first lady? what do we know about her? well, she always considered herself a virginian. although honestly, she was born in north carolina. in fact, this is her 250th birthday this year. her parents had moved from virginia to a quaker community in north carolina, where they lived for three years, and i love the adult -- she talked about this as a brief visit to relatives. they did move back to virginia when she was one years old, so i guess she gets that right. she had seven siblings that survived to adulthood, the only
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three make it past their twenties. and in 1783, her father's quaker conscience led him to a decision to free his slaves. -- had become legal in virginia in 1782, and a majority of the virginia quaker's freed their slaves, and by 1784, you had to free your slaves in order to remain a quaker. so her father did, and looking for a way to support the family without having enslaved people, dolley father moved them to philadelphia, which was the largest and most cosmopolitan city in america, and the largest quaker community. now she makes an amazing impression at the very beginning. here's a quote from quaker anthony morris, and i don't know how you think about quaker, is but i always think of them as pretty button downed, plain people, right? here's the quote. she came upon our comparatively cold hearts in philadelphia, suddenly and unexpectedly with
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all the delightful influences of a summer sun, and soon she raised the mercury in the thermometers of the heart, the fever heat. that's dolly. so dolley made quite a different impression on some of the quaker ladies, they fell in love with her caps and gowns, probably because they were a little too worldly and stylish, dolley was never the most model of quaker's. as a child, she had treasured gifts that had come for her grandmother's old-fashioned jewelry and put them in a little bag around her neck, less she offend anybody with the jewelry. and on a walk through the woods one day, the string broke and she lost all of the jewelry, and she talks about this being the first heartbreak in her young childhood. after moving to philadelphia, her father started a laundry starch making business but he really wasn't good at it and he found himself bankrupt and in addition to that, could not be
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in bankruptcy and remaining quaker either. he was read out of the church. and this is really the first blow to dolly's young life, the plunge of her father into a deep depression. he went to bed and he died in his bed three years later, at the age of 52. and dolley and her siblings and mother felt the pinch of hard times. her mother being -- better had for business, took the house and made it into a boarding house for congressman, and this is going to play an important role later in dollies life. so just remember that little tidbit. ever the dutiful daughter, or maybe not so dutiful, but on her father's death bed, he really asked her to marry a young quaker lawyer named john todd, which she did. and the couple had two children together. and, you know, her life looked pretty bright. young, up incoming lawyer. and we would probably never have heard about her, or certainly not -- the yellow fever epidemic swept
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through philadelphia in the summer of 1793. it killed first her in laws, and then it killed her husband, and infant son, on the same day. she was actually sick, but she recovered. by the time dolly meets congressman james madison, she's already had a lot of -- toddler son, dolly started to attract a fair interest in philadelphia, and an acquaintance later wrote about her, her smile, her conversation, her manners, they are so engaging, that it is no wonder that such a young widow with her fine blue eyes and large share of animation should be indeed a queen of hearts. so i've got some props next. [laughs] she is a 26-year-old widow. he is a 43 year old bachelor.
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[laughs] i know! i couldn't help myself! she is voluptuous at five foot eight, he's a slender, depending if you like him, you said he was five foot six, and if you didn't, you said he was five foot two. on the surface, they really did not have much in common in the years ahead, their marriage is going to be both a loving reunion and a political partnership that we've never seen the likes of. that madison saw dolley on the streets of philadelphia, when he was walking with his buddy, aaron burr, they were colleagues from princeton, right? he asked aaron burr to introduce him, and that started it all. dolley sends a note to her dear friend eliza collins lee. thou must come to me, erin burnett says that the great little madison has asked him to bring him to see me this morning. that's how that all started. and as the courtship progressed, another friend and relation, catherine coles, has done this message to dolley from james madison.
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this is one -- by the way, just a heads up, we are not in a repressed victorian period. now, from mr. madison, he told me, i might say would i please tell you about him. to begin with, he thanks so much of you in the day that he has lost his tongue. and, 90 dreams of you and starts in his sleep, calling on you to relieve his flame, for he burns to such an excess that he will surely be consumed, and he hopes your heart will be callous to every other swain but himself. he is consented to everything i have wrote about him with sparkling eyes. how could you refuse that, right? by the late summer, dolley except james proposal, and the wedding set for september 15th, 1794, and for the next two years, dolley is a congressman's wife. however, with the inauguration of john adams as president, in 1797, james madison and dolley retire to montpellier where for a couple of years, they come back in 1801, and he's going to
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be the secretary of state, and of course, he will become president. with her husband's return to politics, dolley it's returned to washington d.c., the city she is going to ultimately conquer. now, dolley's role as a political wife revolves around being a hostess, but it went so much further than just planning menus or guest lists. she used, i would say, maybe even weaponized, traditional female skills like emotional intelligence and -- to bring political adversaries together in social settings, and consequently, to further her husband's career. and this was very important, because if you think back to the earliest days of our nation, we were really brilliant and went long on constitution, what an amazing document. but, on a more practical side of life, the city of washington was in its infancy, and it was literally a muddy, royal, swampy, ramshackle place.
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and in the absence of many bureaucratic or administrative channels to get things done, social gatherings where where you could get the word out and get people together to make things happen. and lest we forget, politics was fraught with conflict in this period. so much was at stake in charting this new course of this nation. so much so there were actually fisticuffs on the floor of congress and people would go out and fight duels. so it's a little bit better today. and with the french revolution, with its very radical diplomat -- very deeply polarized the federalists and the republicans. there was not much of a meeting of minds. so when dolley startling gatherings, they are for most of these welcoming, neutral spaces, where political differences can kind of be addressed and passions and believes can be expressed without any loss of dignity.
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they are a safe zone. and also let's face, it there wasn't much else to do in washington d.c.. so dolly had, as the wife of the secretary of state, she'd already begun setting a tone for socializing in washington, under jefferson's administration. jefferson is, of course, a widower. but even if his wife had been alive to service his hostess, he still strongly disapproved of lavish state receptions, dinners, and balls. he thought them very ostentatious and quarterly and not republican. and women, he'd also thought of, as both unpredictable and a corrupting influence. so, the final thing is, he always liked can control the political discourse. one night, you might have all federalists over, and the other night, he'd have all republicans over, but he would never mix things up. meanwhile, dolly, like her husband, this is very practical -- she's trying to make this very -- actually work.
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rather than fighting people's natural social tendencies, she's busy working with them. so she brings people of different opinions together. and she includes women, because rather than seeing women as unpredictable and corrupting, dolley actually thought they could be very important as a civilizing force. men would maybe be forced to be more polite around them, tempers would be calm, better discussion with ensue. one example where we can see this play out, and many of you may know about this, but it was called, even in its time, the mary affair. so president jefferson, when he got in office, decided to create a new style, which he called pell mehl. we might say helter-skelter today. it was as far away as you could get from the aristocratic banners of the royal court. remember again, no one knew what we wanted our protocol to be. no one had protocol for a republic. in fact, there's this great letter at -- just about this subject.
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madison says, we are in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us. our successors will have an easier task, and by degrees away will become smooth, short, and certain. and i love this quote because of jefferson doing the exact opposite. for him, the way was not smooth at the beginning. so the first incident, anthony mary arise from washington, and he's the representative of great britain. and jefferson meets him for the first time, and he's dressed in his bathrobe and slippers. does not go over well. so next, jefferson decides, well, i'm going to hold a dinner. and since the memories are the guests of honor, elizabeth mary when i've been expected to be taken to dinner first by the highest ranking man, which would be president jefferson. and then her husband, the ambassador, would have taken the second ranking woman, which would have been dolley. in this new style, jefferson
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dispenses with all of that and he grabs dolley's arm just quarter into the dining room, and she's frantically whispering to him, take mrs. mary. he ignores the advice, james madison then escorts elizabeth mary in, and the ambassador walks in without anybody on his arm. we think it's humorous. but it was scandalous. it was embarrassing. and it was in the papers all over europe. and -- a similar thing happens. so as a result of all of these incidents, which he considered a tremendous snub, the ambassador begin only gathering a few gatherings and he didn't take his wife and he encouraged -- meaning that there is going to be very few opportunities for diplomacy to go forward, and for american politicians to get to know one another, it was not a good situation. so dolley took it upon herself, really mended fences with them,
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became her best friend, even though i don't know if she particularly lighter, and dolly may have felt that things had gotten out of hand because jefferson's opponents took him to task not only for his role -- also started fabricating stories that jefferson and had an affair with dolley or pumping her out to the diplomatic corps. seriously! so dollars understanding -- just mending fences. although her sense of appropriate feminine behavior made her claim to be more interested in politics and she actually was. when she was in philadelphia for medical treatment for her knee, which was a very rare time she was separated from james, they were almost always in each other's back pockets. she wrote him a letter, inquiring, quote, some information respecting the war with spain and disagreement with england.
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as it is so generally expected here that i am at a loss but to summarize, but i'm extremely interested here on the subject. i believe you would not desire your wife to be the active partisan, but... james recognized that dolly's dissidents was -- he recognized for what it was. which was a bit of a pretense. he replies with this very thoughtful analysis of the potential war that respected dollies intelligence, and then he closed with the statement, -- the power, however, of deciding questions of war lies with congress. and that is always our answer to news mongers. so as befit republican wives and mothers, stay very well informed and engaged in political manners during that time period. and many ladies of washington, including mrs. madison, went to
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the galleries of congress and listened into the supreme court. dolley always remained, or appear to, above the political fray. she often quoted her formula for this non partisan sentiment, saying, i confess, i do not admire the contentious of parties, political or civil. i'd rather fight with my hand then my tongue. so the white house is not the only place for dolly to practice politics. she and her city -- would obviously host, sometimes, at the white house when president jefferson had women in the company. but dolley it's entertaining even more at the madison's home, and it's the new power hub. margaret bird smith records that about the situation, after the president's house, the house of the secretary of state was the resort of most company. even party spirit, virulent and embittered as it was then by her gentleness, was disarmed of excess parity. individuals who never visited the president nor met and any
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other ministerial houses, did not resist the softening influences of her disposition. so dolley's hospitality had a couple of purposes. one, of course, she is creating the social sphere where political opponents could interact cordially, and as the presidential election of 1808 -- smoothing the past for her husband to 60 jefferson. now, madison never liked to campaign for himself, and it was considered unseemly, frankly, to do that kind of campaigning. but social skills of dolley could him -- congressman mitchell wrote to his wife that dolley was a secret weapon in the election of 1808. she contrast james madison who he said gives dinners and makes generous display to the members with another democratic republican, george clinton, who lives snug in his lodgings and keep salute from such captivating exhibitions. the secretary of state has a
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wife to aid his pretension's, and clinton has nothing of female suitors. and the other great quote of that race was when the federalist candidates lost to james madison, he said, i was beaten by mr. and mrs. madison. i might have a better chance had i faced mr. madison alone. so finally, in march of 1809, dolly finds herself center stage as wife of the president. she had experience hosting an epic streak, at the white house, she knew how to put her skills of sociability to use and all these causes. she also knew what it was like to face unwarranted criticism, simply for being in the public eye. so now, it's time for her to put all these lessons to good work. she accomplished all that she did with this amazing, unique style. and style was very important to this young nation. what we had done was
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unprecedented in the world. we set up this republic, protecting the natural rights of its citizens. we had this entirely new way of working together as a political body, in a world where most power was still held by very few people. so how we did things was going to, in a way, define who we would become. and every government needs some kind of protocol to function. but the only model that we were really familiar with was the european courts. so we needed a new american way. of how to be. and dolley got that. first of all, she understood that personal attire is actually a political message. if it's done right, it can be a very powerful one. after james was elected president, she knew she needed to wear clothes that were grand, but not too much. you've got to hit that balance. it's still a republic, so you've got to be elegant, but you also have to acknowledge that we are a government that is based on merit and ability.
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so that's why she chose the greeson lines of the empire style, stately, striking, simple. she also struck the right note with her husband's attire. he would modestly where, and he did at the inauguration, american raised marino lamb, will. and she dressed with republican simplicity rather than royal pretension's. at the very first inaugural ball, which was james and dolley madison's, she chose to wear american perils over the more aristocratic diamonds that were not from america. so it was impossible to please everyone, and of course, dolley had her fashion critics. one relative by marriage talked about the madison family saying, to madison keith and kim do not like dolley, they heard too much of her lower neckline and her short sleeves, and her turban and her gay life in washington society, and others mocked dolley, calling her our queen the dalalala. the effects for taste and
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judgment were gratifying and her attire was frequently described in fashion -- by the fashion mavens of the day, and thought to be imitated by many. she was considered americans republican queen, neither to regal, or too common. and let's face, it dolly could be the showy one of the two of them. james madison was soft spoken, slight almost almost wore a little black suit. he was nowhere near the charismatic male figure which was frankly feared in a republic. people did not want someone to be a king. it was okay for him to be this more mild manner. and she could also make him more popular by being that glittering presence. she had another area that was important in terms of impact and that was decorating the white house. she needed to do this because up to this point but they had lived there but it was unfinished. and abigail adams actually hung her laundry and what we call the east room. and thomas jefferson had made
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architectural improvements to the mansion but he furnished it with things from monticello. so did appropriate 20,000 dollars and they chose henry lee trope to do the work. this is a time when mostly the men choose household furnishings. james makes this unusual choice by at that time period, to delegate the project to dolly. she understood that this was going to be a symbol of the presidency and also the federal government. so she decides to choose objects that can be classical republican simplicity but still be able to stand the test against european fashionable elegance. now this neoclassical style was more than just a fashion statement. it is reflecting the values of the new republic by honoring those ancient republican ideals
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of civic virtue. and it's also saying look america we are just a sophisticated is old europe and we don't have to put up with the monarchy. dolly had used these tones that had been the approaches that have been there before. with washington and adams when you would go to meet them they would stand and they would bowed to them and you would bout them and he would move on. and we've heard about jefferson and helter-skelter but she had this elegant style and she invited everybody. she dispensed with social protocols but she avoided giving anybody offense because she treated everyone the same. it was unusual that time period for a woman to sit at the head of the table, but this suited her the best. because dolly could pull off any event seamlessly. and madison could sit at the center of the table and she was able to direct the conversation
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around him. at one point vice president elbridge tried to sit at the head of the table. like i'll take care of that for you dolly, and she firmly put him in his place. and then he wrote and said it would've been impossible for me to equal her at this instance. she did everything with elegant ease. and dolly also knew what her husband's goals and difficulties were and she could then hone the conversation about where he wanted to go. he often said he could get more done at the table at the house then he could in the office all day. with the white house redecorated dolly was able to establish a new form of entertainment in washington. these are the one state drawing rooms which became squeezes. martha jefferson had had formal events for ladies only. where each women woman came in
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at a ceremony sly presented. and they had only ever held two public receptions a year. so dolly thought, one was too formal and the other not enough. so she started greeting guests every wednesday evening in the white house, when congress wasn't session. they would wander in people wonder in they would be greeted, they could roam around the rooms. they would have wine and food and other things to drink. there might be musicians playing, or you as a guest might be called on to entertain. read some forms or to music. they would literally be squeezing into the white house. so with few notable exceptions, almost everyone enjoyed the drawing rooms. but the point was that everyone, everyone was welcome. whether they were members of the democratic or republican party, or they were the opposing federalist party. whether they were a foreign
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dignitary, or just a local citizen. and dolly was in her element. she was craving the social sphere where people interact cordially even when they were opponents. subtly or not so subtly sometimes, building support for her husband's administration. dolly created the impression that she was above the fray of politics. i mentioned this a lot and she writes about a lot. in reality she understood exactly where everyone stood in relationship to her husband. in the letter she wrote to her sister anna, which she also wrote her please bring this letter. but anna did not. she had written about when the federalist had refused to come or die. but after they saw so many people flocking to the white house they there was such a rallying cry of the party, it has alarm them into a return. how about that. dolly could also act as her husband's surrogate. for example when the new young war hawk congressman came in
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like henry clay, we're talking about the war and madison is still sitting on the fence. this was before the war of 1812. dolly could find this a political way of bonding with clay. in this case they both like to dip snuff. they said her snuff box had a magic influence. just as dolly forged political connections to support her husband's agenda, people connected with dolly in order that she could put their agenda in front of the president. and dolly's female friends often asked her to wield her influence with their sons, their husbands, and anybody who is looking for a government job. she was the go to, go through a gal of washington d.c. for political patronage. one interesting one was that abigail adams, who never liked dolly never met dolly, still writes her asking her help to get her husband and her grandson a diplomatic mission.
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and got dolly gets it done. that's pretty amazing. the war of 1812, it's funny to say that somebody really shines in a war, but it was such an unpopular war, and dolly was so wildly popular that many historians give her a fair bit of credit for madison's second term in office. in the war of 1812, it created this opportunity for the people of the nation to truly take dolly to their hearts. it earned her a place in our america legend. she became as i like to say, the brave face of the nation. in her social events and her behavior that she exhibits during the war years, she is the symbol of calm optimism and support. she is celebrating the victories, she is ceremonially receiving colors from capturing ships and battles one. and at this whole point she is still reaching out to the public, and hey this is what happened, this is what it means
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for us as a nation. she did in a way that really sustained support for the war effort. in her letters during this time period, they are just amazing. they are filled with spirit. writing one of her cousins as they are beginning to put up tents, erecting them on the lawn of the white house. already looks well to my eyes, i've always been an advocate for fighting with the -- i therefore keep an old saber within my reach. and she literally slept with a sword under her bed. it is true. then referring to rumors that the arrogant british cochrane had threatened to set fire to the presidents house, she added i do not tremblant this, but feel affronted that the admiral should semi notice that he would make his -- in my drawing room soon. of course we know what happens. the british invasion of washington dollar reports that her husband had asked her if she had the courage to remain
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in the presidents house until his return, and on my insurance that i had no fear. so dulles drawing room, and her strategic approach to host to sing, are probably her most significant contributions to the madison era political scene. but her one moment in time, in the white house eclipses all others for symbolism. and you know what i'm talking about. that is the rescue of george washington's portrait when the british were invading washington in 1814. as dolly told the story to her sister, she remained in the white house waiting for james to return from the battle of gettysburg. where of course the local militia are not successful of keeping the british out of d.c.. in the meantime, she is busy directing servants to fill up the wagon with valuables of along to the white house. a part of this that often gets
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overlooked as we focus so much on the washington portrait, is that they saved the cabinet papers. madison's papers. to me that becomes almost in some ways, something so important that we should not lose sight of it. we know so much about the founding period because of those papers were not burnt in the white house. they do order that general, that part should be saved, and not be left to be vandalized, and it has been actually mailed in a wooden frame to the wall, so they have to break the frame, pull out the nails, roll the portrait up, and then she puts it in good hands for safekeeping. then, and only then, does she agreed to evacuate. and her pluck during these perilous moments, partly true and partly mythologized overtime, did then and now earn the everlasting gratitude and admiration of a country. now, in the months that followed the burning of the white house and of d.c., dolley
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shared her loss with something -- the beautifully appointed rooms that she helped create, and that was her old friend and decorating partner mary literally, light to benjamin trove. she writes to her, two hours before the enemy entered the city, i left the house, where mr. lieu troves elegant taste had been justly admired, and where you and i had so often watered together. and on that very day, i sent out all the silver, the velvet curtains, and general washington's picture, and a small clogged and a few books, and left everything else belonging to the public, our own valuable stores are very description, and part of my clothes, all of the servants clothes, etc, etc. in short, it would fatigue you to read the list of my losses. so it was a sad moment. in the wake of the burning of washington's public buildings, there was a lot of talk that the capital might relocate to another city. philadelphia, new york, one of the capitol back. the rebuilding began in part
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because dolley lead the rallying cry for washington d.c., and she quickly reestablished the social convenience. and by the fall of 1814, she's already in the drawing rooms now in the octagon house, which is their temporary residence. she's the one who actually announces that the treaty of good and has been signed, and signals the end of mr. madison 's war. today we expect the first lady to champion particular causes. we had roslyn carter and mental health, nancy reagan, just say no, barbara bush and literacy, michelle obama and childhood b city. but that was not an expectation in her time. the women organizing to create change was very novel. so, again kim dolley is a trendsetter, which is rife of the secretary of state, she's interested in the lewis and clark expedition. she knows they're not adequately provisions, so she
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gets all of the other ladies of the cabinet together, money together, and help outfit this -- this is sad for her, because she's fairly convinced that they're never going to come back. and when they do, she's overjoyed. they bring her cook wear to share with her and let her have, and she more importantly, they share these wonderful stories. and she recites them -- her nieces talk about them later in life. and after the war of 1812, dolley championed the washington orphan -- the d.c. is still very much in the rack and ruin of the -- she becomes the first directress of the orphan a salem society. she not only gives money, she does things like giving them a cow, helps cut dress patterns for the young orphan girls and women who are there. and this might seem sort of trivial, or small, but this early effort, and it's
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historically significant, because it shows her actively involved in this active spirit of reform from the 19th century, where women are beginning to organize themselves to create institutions to help other women and girls. now, sadly, the medicine image -- and 1817, james madison, after his second term, he could not have been happier. a friend described him, a schoolboy on a long vacation, when he left washington. very happy to be going home to montpellier and dolley is much more reluctant. right before the lee d.c., they had their portraits painted, and in this portrait, dolley gives a copy of it to a friend, and the friends says, oh, james -- at almost breathed and expresses much of the serenity of his feelings at the moment that it's taken. but as a good friend, she notes that dolley's portrait, well, it was kind of an absence of
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expression in your eye. it doesn't have that sparkle. and dolley, let's face it, spent 16 years in d.c., exerting tremendous influence. it was going to be very hard for her to leave her friends and retire to this sleepy countryside of orange, virginia. but dolley did follow james back to montpelier, which would mostly reside for the next 19 years. she continued to be a hostess, many people flocked there because james madison, unlike jefferson, stayed literally involved in politics until the day he died. and it was filled with visitors during that time, whether it was extended family, friends, international visitors like murky to lafayette -- might entertain 100 people on the back lawn and think nothing of having 30 people stay overnight, night after night after night. sometimes on rainy days, she and james would raise each
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other under the front corner go and visitors reported seeing dolley giving james madison piggyback rides. they're having fun! and then there was polly the, parrot's move through the hallways of montpelier, swearing in french and terrorizing the young madison clan, or you can just tell, it was lively, lively, and while dolly clearly missed d.c., she had her hands full. and she took on decorating montpellier as well. and they had some visits, for example, to the university of virginia, where madison was a second rector, where they might go to monticello but mostly she was at -- i will give you a hint of the saturn part of her life, and that revolves around her son. he's the son from the first marriage, and he's now in his thirties, he's never settled in his life, he was called by some, the snake in the garden of eaton. which is a side thing to say.
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he had bouts of drinking and gambling, we know he did help madison some, because we see is handwriting on some of the transcribed notes, but he really did have these huge binges, he would disappear, it didn't know where he was for, months oftentimes and debtors prison, he wrote about himself and his journal, i can never temper things properly, it was underlined several times, -- james paid for some of his debt, and he told her about, it about 20,000 dollars, and there was the whole other amount of debt that he never told her about, and he said, when i'm, that tell her this happened. this added up to more than 1 million dollars in terms of current numbers, we are not worried about pain or seeing all of these guests and, extended family members. dolly had another big job, and that was caretaker and secretary for james madison,
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she was really at his side, every step of the way, editing and copying the papers, which were very important to madison. in part because he really hoped they were going to help dolly with paying for debt, which they were deeply in. not just because of the sun, but a whole series of events. so madison dies on june 28th of 1836, and dolley is devastated. in his will, he interests the papers to his dear wife. having entire confidence in her discreet and proper use of them. but he put a rule special emphasis on the nose for the constitutional convention, and i'm so glad for that. that's how we know some of how we got to the point we are, with the form of government we have here. and he made, in his will, a very big emphasis that everything should be under her authority and discretion. and dolley took to heart this role of literary agent as a deer and sacred trust. she writes about it in every letter, especially the year
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after madison dies, over and over, about this pressure. however, it's not an easy task. one, they're hoping there's a lot of money, but publishing was a mess at that time period. and dolley was not set up well to negotiate, getting these papers published. she's a novice, she may be offended people a little bit by asking for too much money. she got bad advice. and worst of all, she commissioned her son to help do some of the negotiation. one of her friends were confidentially to another, if you are acquainted with him, you need not be told he is the last man in the world compass this business. so luckily, her friend, henry clay, steps in, congress buys the paper, comes into installments, and it really assures dolley some money at the end of her life. in fact, they put the second payment in a trust so that -- can't have access to the funds. so at the end of the day, dolley helped her husband secure his legacy in so many ways, but i am eternally grateful to her for all of the
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work on his correspondence and the notes. and it's really one of the greatest gift to all of us. dolley did move back to washington in 1844. she left the montpelier behind, it was a difficult decision, but she went to so many friends and she's invited by every president that has ceded there, tyler, polk, zachary taylor, to come to the white house. she's back in the thick of things, and she's back in the city that she loves. she dies in her sleep, on july 12th 1849. her funeral procession was the largest ever seen in washington up to that point. there were marines carrying her casket, there were 48 horse drawn carriages taking her to the congressional cemetery. and thousands and thousands of people lining the streets and the bells all told. so what is only madison's legacy? well she was her husbands archivist. she was a fierce protector of his legacy through his papers,
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and also by the publication. i also think a big part of her legacy is her engagement in these political events polite despite being in a time period where women were not expected to do anything outside the house. she spent her long marriage to madison really engaged in deep political thinking and work. she was also she brought all these political wives to the galleries of the supreme court, and she was even after madison's death acknowledge for her role and given an honorary seat in the house of representatives. she was late one day and she arrived at the house of representatives, and she made them go back and read what she had missed in the first part. can you imagine that. >> dolly was also given honors to lay the first cornerstone of the washington monument. she sent the first telegraph in the country, and she lived long enough to be photographed in several types of ways. amazing life. and she really created this new
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social protocol. a sitting place where people could be together, but find common ground, find ways to compromise all in her unique style. she was a facilitator pop excellence, she was the queen of society and in her latter years she is the only permanent power in washington, all others are transient. soon after dolly madison died a and the betray did an obituary in the newspaper doubted, she was regarded as the first lady of the land. this is one of the earliest incident instances where we heard that term first lady used as a title for the president's wife. and how fitting that the term should be applied to her. who was the first presidents wife fully embrace the social and political dimensions of the first lady roll. one way she was described is
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that everybody to everybody loves mr. madison. and she said mister clay i love everybody. and if everybody believe that, then dolly madison had done her job well. thank you. [applause] i have to take a little survey, but i have a couple of pictures of montpelier. so who has been to montpelier? and who has been to montpelier in the last year? okay not bad thank you. i just wanted to remind folks, that we do have 2700 acres and it's filled with walking trails and buildings, we have everything from of course the medicine period with the house and the temple, to a gym crow train station, to a temple. we have eight miles of trail, if you are dog friendly. but and we have got an old growth forest. and if you have not been in the
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house for a while usually you will be surprised. this is madison's bedroom, we've added a lot of the carpets. it's very bright. and somebody said to me this might be the biggest transformation of the house since the initial restoration. and this is the entrance hall, where we put up 34 oil paintings which madison had. and that lively carpet. if you did not know this, montpelier has one of the most unique public archeology programs in the country. and why it's why we know so much about not only madison, but the people who were enslaved at montpelier. but we have the weeklong programs, so if you're interested in archeology or it knows illegal is, and i would be remiss if i did not note that in june we launched a permanent exhibition, called a near distinction of color. this is telling the story of the people the 300 people who were enslaved in montpelier, and who made montpelier possible. it's been an amazing process, but and partly because our work
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with enslaved descendants of the community. and we look at this through the slavery through the lens of the constitution, and what it means to us today as americans. and but we have one center, and we do interviews with teachers, and cops, and we've had so many people through the program from many countries and all 50 states. and we also do public programs, like you and me, so if you're interested in the constitution want means to us today, i hope you will look at that. and since spring is almost upon us, i hope we can lure you there of course for the history, and all of our shared american dna, but also to come smell the flowers. with that i have all of five minutes and happy to take a few questions if you would like. we do have a microphone. and please enjoy your magazine. i'm doing my moment here.
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>> thank you so much for today. >> thank you. >> my question is, dollies exposure to yellow fever, did that leave her sterile and that's why the reason she and james did not have children? or was pain enough reason for birth control? >> the i always thought the yellow fever epidemic, but i'm sure that's not the case. probably to if fault is the right word, james madison as far as we know never had any children. he did not have it with dolly or anybody else that we know of. so that might have been the cause. i beg you to read the letters of dolly medicine, they are quite frisky, and i was i don't have enough time i was going to read from parts of them, but some of the letters went james and dolly are not with one another, i have no fear that they had a lovely time without one another. or with each other. >> thank you so much, ditch she
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ever say anything about what's allowed her to live along such a long life? >> no but when you think about it, i guess it's pretty amazing. if you survived childbirth you and your argument greatly up. and madison's mother and grandmother live to be in their nineties. these are amazing women of that frontier period. and his grandmother, amber madison, madison's grandfather was poisoned but people who are enslaved. so medicine grows up with that, but also knowing that his mother never remarried and roundup plantation. i like the fact that his mother and grandmother were strong figures. i don't think it intimidated him at all to meet this beautiful black haired, blue eyed five foot eight forceful woman. i think was a perfect pair. good >> thank you so much. >> thank you all.
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