One hundred and sixty-three years ago today, Dolley Madison died at approximately 10:15 in the evening, “at peace with the world & it with her.” According to James Madison Cutts, Dolley’s nephew, America’s first First Lady “expired without an effort & without apparent pain.”1 Dolley was the last surviving member of the founding generation, living as a widow for thirteen years after the passing of James Madison.
On the services of this illustrious man it is unnecessary to dwell; for what American does not know the parts which James Madison acted in the public Councils of his Country? And what Virginian needs to be reminded of the unrivalled force of his tongue and his pen in defending her most cherished principles?1
The James Madison University field school has had a fantastic run at revealing the secrets of the quarters for field slaves just below Montpelier’s Visitor Center. We have opened up close to 50 units and are slowly developing an idea of how this set of homes was laid out.
This year marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, also known as “Mr. Madison’s War.” Two hundred years ago, this war tested our young nation. President Madison proved the United States could go to war without depriving citizens of their constitutional rights.
In the early nineteenth century, many fashionable men and women including Napoleon Bonaparte, Henry Clay, Queen Charlotte of England (wife of George III), and Dolley Madison dipped snuff. The nicotine stimulant made from ground tobacco leaves was typically stored in a small highly decorated box made of silver, tortoise shell, or other decorative material.
The Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier runs both the District of Columbia and Virginia We the People programs. Both the DC and Virginia teams competed at the recent 2012 We the People National Finals, which tests students on their knowledge of the Constitution.
The Archaeology team has begun its excavations at the quarters for field slaves, located just below the visitor center. We are searching for the remains of the homes for farm slaves who lived in this area from the late 1700s-1844. Back in 2002, when we were planning for the construction of the visitor center, we located a very well preserved farm complex dating back to the Madison era.
April 21-28, Montpelier will celebrate the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week along with sister historic sites and landmarks across the commonwealth. The Orange County Tour, entitled “Mr. Madison’s Neighborhood,” includes stops at James Madison’s Montpelier, Somerset Plantation, Mayhurst Inn, and Woodley.
In honor of the 74th anniversary of Battleship’s victory at Aintree and the long legacy of the duPont family at Montpelier, a collection of additional notable duPont objects are now on display in the William duPont Gallery at the Montpelier Visitor Center.