Happy Fathers Day!

Happy Fathers Day to all of you Founding Fathers fans. You know that two of our most famous Founding Fathers had no children of their own. What? They weren’t really Fathers. Well, no, not in that sense. But they were Founding Fathers, and are esteemed as such.

Who are they, you ask? George Washington, known as the Father of our Country, and James Madison, the Father of the Constitution. They had no children of their own.

Martha had 4 children with her previous husband, Daniel Parke Custis, but only 2 of them lived to adulthood. read more

Dolley Madison Speaks Her Mind

Dolley Madison, who was married to James Madison, was raised a Quaker. She gave up her religion when her father was banished from the Quaker religion when he filed for bankruptcy as his starch making business failed. Dolley couldn’t get over that.

She was vivacious and outgoing and made a difference, a huge difference in the life of James Madison. The problem was that she usually said anything that popped into her head. Sometimes that wasn’t ‘politically correct’, even then.

Dolley called her husband ‘Jemmy’, as a term of endearment. Jemmy, a usually serious man, used to laugh at Dolley when she would just blurt something out. James kept much to himself, and he warned Dolley “In politics, think before you speak, and if you intend to say what you really mean, then think twice!” read more

Patrick Henry and Dolley Madison

We’ve had so much fun discovering fascinating incidents in the life of Dolley Madison, I went on longer than I had originally intended.

Just a few more items of interest. Molly Payne, Dolley’s mother, had a cousin named Patrick Henry. Patrick was a valiant Founding Father in his own right. Patrick had purchased a two story house which he, and the land title, referred to as Scotchtown. Probably because many of the immigrant workers on the nearby tin mines were from Scotland.

This home is where the Henry’s lived when Sallie Henry, Patrick’s first wife, became ill and eventually died. She died about 5 weeks before Patrick gave his immortal speech “Give Me Liberty.” Patrick had to ride horse-back from Scotchtown to Richmond, Virginia, a distance of about 28 miles, (just over a half hour by car—but Patrick went on his horse!) to attend the meeting where this speech was given. read more

More On Dolley and James Madison

I once asked the kids in that Seniors government High School advanced class “When was the War of 1812?” They thought it was a trick question, and didn’t know at first. Someone finally realized that 1812 was the date of the War of 1812. It was a fun class!

In June of 1812, President Madison was fed up with the British attacks on our ships, and on their violations of the treaty ending the Revolutionary War. He asked Congress to give him a declaration of war. They did. The war had its ups and downs. In 1814 the British Army was marching to Washington, D.C. President Madison felt it was necessary for him to visit the front lines, see the state of things and encourage the soldiers. read more

James and Dolley Madison

You will remember that Thomas Jefferson was the U.S. President from 1801 to 1809, and he selected James Madison, a fellow Virginian, as his Secretary of State.

But do you recall that Martha Jefferson had died before Tom became President? So Jefferson was a widower in the White House. He asked if James would allow Dolley to occasionally serve as the official hostess for State Dinners and other events at the discretion of the President. James thought that would be a benefit to both of them, and gave his approval. read more

Dolley and James Madison

John and Dolley Todd were married with two young sons. John was a successful lawyer. In 1793 that terrible yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. Congress itself nearly was driven out of town by the illness.

Dolley fled to the suburbs with her two children, her mother, and three of her siblings, to be safe from the devastation and death caused by the epidemic. John stayed behind in Philadelphia to care for his parents, minister to the sick, and write dozens of wills.

John pressed his luck to far. He was stricken with the disease. Dolley returned to comfort him. He died in her arms, and on that same day, her infant son also passed away. Dolley herself was not well. But she struggled to survive. With the inheritance from her husband and her now deceased parents, Dolley found herself financially taken care of. read more

James and Dolley Madison

As I led a presentation about U.S. History to an advanced placement senior class at a local high school, I wanted to get a glimpse of what they knew about some of our Founding Fathers. So I asked a few questions. These kids were pretty good—advanced placement after all. But it seemed their general knowledge about U.S. History left something to be desired.

One of the last questions I asked was “what do you know about Dolley Madison?” One young lady raised her hand (they were on their best behavior for my visit to their class) and she said “Didn’t she have something to do with cupcakes?” (She was serious!) read more

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson

monticelloOf course you know that James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were both Virginians, and they were great friends. Madison asked Jefferson to send him some books as he was studying how to plan for a new government. Jefferson sent him two trunks of “literary cargo” from France where Jefferson was the Minister.

Jefferson helped and gave Madison several ideas on some re-modeling of Madison’s home at Montpelier, including some architectural tricks for his parlor. Jefferson designed and modeled a room at Monticello for James and Dolley to stay in when they visited, which they often did. Dolley served at hostess for Jefferson at many State Functions because Jefferson was a widower in the White House. read more

Constitution Day and James Madison

Dolley_MadisonTonight I spoke to a group of adults about James and Dolley Madison and the Constitution. The presentation was well received. I enjoyed it.

I started out the evening by reading a quote from “Parade” magazine this week. There was an article entitled “If I Were President . . .” Several famous people, TV stars, Movie Stars, athletes, and other celebrities were asked the question. Some answers were stunning, some were good ideas, some were just plain wacko!

I quoted the one by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA superstar and author. I was astonished and pleasantly surprised by his remarks. Here’s what he said: read more

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

ThomasJeffersonWe (my wife and I) were recently on a trip to Utah to see some old friends. We saw them and had great memories and tales to tell. On the way back I suggested we should go the other route home which would take us trough Monticello, Utah. They, the Utahns, pronounce the name of their city “mont a sell oh,” unlike Thomas Jefferson, who said he liked to pronounce the name of his home the Italian way: Mont a chell o.

Well, we decided because of time not to go that way. But some day I would like to visit that city and ask someone why they chose that different pronunciation. read more