tv The Presidency Dolley Madisons Political Talents CSPAN April 30, 2018 12:01am-12:57am EDT
excitement during their white house years. the president and ceo of the montpelier foundation, she recalls dolly's life and time, and her political successes. the virginia museum of history and culture, and james madison's montpelier hosted this event. it is 50 minutes. >> today's lecture is cosponsored by our friends at james madison's montpelier. with us to talk about the home's most famous female occupant is the president and ceo of montpelier and the montpelier foundation. she is the first of the women to oversee all aspects of the historic site. under her leadership, montpelier has become an absolute leader in the research of slavery and early republican has grown and all most every way imaginable. it has been quite fun to watch at a distance. of the great work happening there.
before joining montpelier, kat served as state director and before that, as vice president and chief operating officer for the thomas jefferson foundation. at monticello. she has also served as executive director among many important roles here in the state. she is truly one of the great stars in the museum community. we are so thrilled to cosponsor this lecture and have her to speak with all of you today. please join me in welcoming kat imhoff. [applause] kat: i really am thrilled to be here and i was joking that we do not have a lot of fans because -- if any of you could signal, and we will pause to hear what is going on as it is starting here. i have to start this evening with a quote from dolley madison.
"i sometimes wish myself for you for a while because i love richmond. there is so much soul, kindness in this enlightened society." this is from 1812. there is so much said about dolley madison. [laughter] kat: we remember her as the quintessential hostess, stunning first lady, and the heroic figure that helped rescue george washington's portrait. for over a century, after dolley madison, the username to sell everything. from bedspreads to snack cakes. sorry. [laughter] kat: ice cream, and they crystallized her image into this ideal woman, the epitome of gracious hospitality. i hope to prove to you that dolley's legacy in life was so much more than that.
she shaped the nation by using hospitality to achieve political ends. she was loyal and devoted to her husband and was an invaluable support when he was congressman, secretary of state and advanced his life into the presidency. i believe she and james were the original power couple. she also played a really critical role in shaping the social protocol of that brand-new capital washington, d.c., and that is how we governed ourselves and our early in our early days. -- in our early days. she did it with a totally unique style. bright, lively, charming, warm, a good friend said of dolly. she was also very resourceful and shrewd. as usual i get ahead of myself. let's take a step back and answer the question, who was dolley before she help define -- helped define the role of the
first lady of the nation. what do we know about her? she considered herself a virginian. 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. she always talked about the brief visit to relatives. they did move back to virginia when she was one years old. i guess she gets that right. she had seven siblings that survived to adulthood but only three make it past their 20's. in 1783 her father's quaker sub conscious led him to the decision to free his slave. it had become legal in virginia in 1782. a majority of quakers freed their slaves and by 1784 you had to free your slaves in order to remain a quaker. her father did. looking for a way to support the family without having in slaved
people, -- enslaved people, dolly's father moved them to philadelphia. largests the cosmopolitan city in america and the largest quaker community. dolley makes an amazing impression got the very beginning. here is a quote from quaker anthony morris. i don't know what you think about quakers, but i think of and plainttoned down people. "she came upon our cold hearts in philadelphia, suddenly and unexpectedly with all of the delightful influences of the summer sun. soon she raised the mercury and the monitors of the heart to a fevered heat." [laughter] kat: dolly made a different impression on the quaker ladies. they found fault with her capes and her downs probably because
, they were too worldly and stylish. dolley was never the most model of a quaker. as a child she treasured gifts that come from her grandmother's old fashion jewelry and she kept them in a little bag around her neck. on a walk through the woods one day the string broke and she lost all of the drollery. jewelry. lot of the she talks about this being the first heart break in her young childhood. after moving to philadelphia dolley's father started a laundry making business. he was not good at it. he found himself bankrupt. you cannot be in bankruptcy and remain a quicker. he was read out of the church he loved. this is the first blow to dolly's -- dolley's young life. he went to bed and died in his bed three years later at the age of 52. dolley and her siblings really felt the pinch of hard times. her mother had a better head for
business, took the house and made it into a boarding house for congressmen. this will play an important role later in dolley's life. on her father's deathbed, he really asked her to marry a young quaker lawyer named john todd, which she did. the couple had two children together. her life looked pretty bright. young, up-and-coming lawyer. we would probably never had heard about dolley madison. the yellow fever epidemic swept through philadelphia in the summer of 1773. it first killed her in-laws and then killed her husband and infant son on the same day. she was sick, but obviously recovered. by the time dolley meets congressman james madison, she has already had a lot of grief in her life. as a young widow with a toddler attract atarted to
fair share of interest in philadelphia. an acquaintance wrote about her, "her smile, her conversation, or manners 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 a queen of hearts." i've got some props next. [laughter] kat: she is a 26 year old widow. he is a 43-year-old that shall her. [laughter] kat: i cannot help myself. she is voluptuous at 5'8". , 5'6" if youer like tim. if you did not, 5'2". on the surface they did not have much in common. in the years ahead their marriage is going to be a loving reunion at a political partnership that we have never seen the likes of. madison saw dolley -- dolley on
the streets of philadelphia when they were walking. they were colleagues from princeton. he asked erin bird to introduce him and that started it all. dolley sent a note to her dear friend eliza collins sleep. thou must come to me. he says that the great little madison has asked him to bring him to see me this morning. that is how that started. as the courtship progressed, another friend passed on this message to dolley from james madison. by the way, just a heads up, we are not in the repressed victorian period. he told me i might say what i pleased about him. he thinks so much of you that he has lost his tongue. at night he dreams of you and starts in his sleep and calling on you to relieve his flame. four he burns to such an excess that you will surely be consumed and he hopes your heart will be callous to every other but himself.
he has consented to everything i have wrote about him with sparkling eyes. how could you refuse that, right? [laughter] kat: by the late summer she accepts his proposal and the wedding is set. for the next two years dolley is the congressman's wife. with the inauguration of john adams as president, james madison and dolley retired to montpelier only to come back in 1801 and madison will be secretary of state and finally he becomes president. with her husband's return to politics, dolley has returned to washington, d.c., the city she will ultimately conquer. dolley's role as a political wife revolves around being --
-- around being a wife. she used and you could even say she weaponize traditional female d traditional female skills, like emotional intelligence, empathy to bring political adversaries together in social settings, and consequently to further her husband's career. this was very important because, if you think that to the earliest days of our nation, we were really brilliant and went long on the constitution. what an amazing document. on a more practical side of life, the city of washington was in its infancy and it was a muddy, swampy ramshackle of a place. in the absence of administrative channels to get things done, social gatherings were aware you get thewhere you could working people together to make things happen. politics were fraught with conflicts in this time. so much was at stake in treading in charting the new course of this nation. so much so that there were fisticuffs on the floor of
congress and people would go out and fight duels. it is a little bit better today. with the french revolution, with its very radical democratic ideals, had very deeply polarized the federalists and the republicans. there was not much of meeting of minds. when dolley starts holding gatherings, there are these welcoming neutral spaces where political differences can kind of be addressed and pageants and -- and passions and beliefs can be expressed without any loss of dignity. they are a safe zone. also, let's face it, there was not much else to do in washington, d.c. as the wife of the secretary of state, she already begun setting a tone for socializing and washington under jefferson's -- in washington under jefferson's administration. jefferson is a widower, but even if his wife had been alive to service as hostess, he still strongly disapproved of lavish state receptions, dinners and balls.
he thought them very ostentatious, courtly, and not republican. and women he thought of as both unpredictable and a corrupting influence. [laughter] kat: the final thing is, they like to control the political discourse. one night he might have all the federalists over and the other night you would have the republicans over. he would never mix things up. meanwhile dolley is a practical realist. she is trying to make this theory of men of virtue serving the republic actually work. rather than fighting people's natural social tendencies, she is busy working with them. she brings people of different opinions together. she includes women because rather than seeing women as and --s unpredictable she thought they could be , important and a civilizing force. men would be forced to be more
polite. tempers would become an better discussion would in soup. one example that we could see play out, many of you may know about this, it was called the merry affair. president jefferson, when he got an office decided to create a new style, which he called pell-mell. we might call it helter skelter today. no one knew what we wanted our protocol to be. no one had protocol. there is a great letter the madison writes to jefferson about the subject. madison says we are in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us. our successors will have an easier task and it will become smooth, short and certain. i love this quote because jefferson did exactly the opposite. the way was not smooth at the beginning. the first incident, anthony arrives from washington and he is a representative of great
britain. jefferson meets him for the first time. jefferson is dressed in his bathrobe and slippers. it does not go over well. jefferson decides i will host a welcoming dinner. since the merry's were the guests of honor for this dinner, elizabeth mary would have been expected to be taken into dinner first by the highest ranking man, which would be president jefferson, then her husband, ambassador mary would take the second raking member which would've been dolley. he grabs dolley's arm to escort her in the room. he ignores the advice and james madison escorts elizabeth mary and have the ambassador walks and without anybody on his arm. we think it is humorous, but it was scandalous. it was embarrassing and it was
in the papers all over europe. ambassador mary began only -- only going to a few gatherings and did not take his wife. he encouraged all the other foreign ministers to follow his examples, meaning that there would be very few opportunities for diplomacy to go forward and american politicians to get to four know one another. it was not a good situation. dolley took it upon herself, really mended fences with mrs. mary, became her best friend, even though i don't know that she particularly liked her, and dolley may have felt that things have gotten way out of hand because jefferson's opponents took him to task, not only for his role in what was called the merry affair, but they also started fabricating stories that jefferson had had an affair with dolley, or was pimping dolley out to the diplomatic corps. [laughter] kat: seriously. dolley's understanding of diplomacy went much deeper than mending fences.
although her sense of appropriate feminine behavior a claim to be less interested in politics and she actually was. when she was in philadelphia for medical treatment, 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, "some information respecting the war with spain and disagreements with england, as it is generally expected here and i am in a loss, but i am extremely anxious to hear on the subject. i believe you would not to say that not desire your wife to be the active partisan, but,..." james recognized it for what it was. he replies with a very thoughtful analysis about the
potential for war that respect did her intelligence and close with a statement of the parlay line that dolley could safely repeat. this is from james. the power of deciding questions of war lies with congress and that is our answer to news mongers. --mongerers.rs as republican wives and mothers, women from every socials fear stable willie -- really well-informed during that time. many ladies of washington, including mrs. madison went to the galleries of congress and went to listen to the supreme court. dolley always remained above the political fray. she often quoted her formula for the nonpartisan sentiment saying "i do not admire the contentions of parties political or civil. i would rather fight with my hand than my tongue." the white house is not the only place for dolley practicing politics. she and her sister would host
sometimes at the white house when president jefferson had women in the company. dolley's entertaining even more at the madison home and it is the new power hub. margaret byrd smith records about the situation. --er the presidents house dent's house, the house of the secretary of state was the resort of most company, even party spirit, maryland by her gentleness was disarmed by the asperity. individuals who never visited the president or met any other ministerial houses could not resist the softening influence of her disposition. dolley's hospitality had a couple of purposes. she is creating this socials sphere where political opponents could react cordially. she is beginning to smooth the path for her husband to succeed jefferson.
madison never liked to campaign for himself and it was considered very unseemly to do that kind of campaigning. social skills of dolley could put him far and ahead. in fact congressman mitchell , wrote to his wife that dolley was a secret weapon in the election of 1808. she contrasted james madison who said makes dinners and generous displays with another democratic republican, george clinton who lives snug in his lodgings and keeps aloof from captivating exhibitions. the secretary of state has a wife to aid his pretensions and clinton has nothing of cor.le super -- suc the other great quote of that race was when the federalist candidate lost to james madison, he said, i was be in by mr. and -- i was beaten by mr. and mrs. madison. i might've had a better chance colleges face mr. madison alone. [laughter] kat: finally in march of 1809,
dolley find yourself centerstage -- finds herself centerstage as wife of the president. she knew how to put her skills and sociability to use in all these causes. she also knew what it was like to face unwarranted criticism simply for being in the public eye. now it is time for her to put these lessons to good work. she accomplished all she did with the amazing, unique style. style was very important to this young nation. what we had done was unprecedented in the world. we set up this republic protecting the natural life of -- the natural rights of the citizens. we have this entirely new way of working together as a political body in a world where most power was held by very few people. how we did things would define who we would become. every government needs some type of protocol to function. the only model that we were familiar with was the european courts. we needed a new american way of how to be.
dolley got that. she understood that personal attire is actually a political message. if it is done right it can be a very powerful one. after james was elected president she knew she needed to wear clothing that had grandeur but not too much. you have to hit that balance. it is still a republic, see have -- it is still a republic so you still have to be elegant but acknowledge that we are a government based on merit and ability. she chose the emperor style. stately, striking, but simple. she also struck the right note with her husband's attire. he would wear american laced will. -- wool. she dressed with simplicity. at the very first inaugural ball, she chose to wear american pearls over the more aristocratic diamonds that were not from america.
it was impossible to please everyone and of course dolley had her fashion critics. one said that the madison family does not might dolley. -- does not like dolley. they heard too much about her low neckline and short sleeves and her gay life in washington society. and others mocked her calling her clean dollah la la. her attire was frequently described by the fashion maidens -- fashion mavens of the day and sought to be imitated by many. she was considered america's republican queen. neither too regal nor to common. let's face it, dolley could be the more show a james madison one. wore a little black suit and he was nowhere near the charismatic figure, which was frankly feared in the republic.
people did not want someone to become the king. it was ok for him to be mild-mannered. she could also make madison more popular by being that glittering presence. area in terms of impact and that was decorating the white house. she really had to do this because, up to this point, the this point, abigail adams had actually hung her laundry on what we now call the east room. thomas jefferson had made architectural improvements to the mansion, that he furnished it with belongings from monticello when he took those. congress did appropriate $20,000 and madison elected benjamin to -- benjamin henry latrobe to supervise the work. this is a time when mostly there is household furnishings. james makes the choice to delegate this to dolley.
she understood that this would be a symbol of the presidency and the federal government. she decided to choose objects that would be classical republican simplicity, but still be able to stand the test against european fashionable elegance. and again, she chose this grecian theme. this new classical style is more than just a fashion statement, it is reflecting the values of the new republic that honoring the ancient republican ideals of civic virtue. it is also saying, look, we're just as sophisticated as old europe, and we don't have to put up with the monarchy. on used this tone to build what was there before. with washington and adams, it was pretty courtly. you would meet them and you would bow to them and they would bow to you and you would move
on. she had an elegant style and she invited everybody. she dispensed with the former all protocols -- formal protocols. she avoided giving anybody a sense because she treated everyone the same. it was also unusual at that time for the woman to sit at the head of the table. but this suited the madison's because dolley could pull off any event seamlessly and madison could sit in the center of the table and she was able to direct the conversation around him. at one point, vice president gary elkridge tied to sit at the head of the table, and she very firmly put him in his place. afterwards you wrote his -- afterwards he wrote his daughter saying, it would have been impossible for me to equal her in this instance, she did everything with such elegance ease. i did imagine that was an awkward moment. dolley knew what her husband's goals and difficulties were and
she could hone the conversation about where he wanted to go. he also said he could get more done at the table at the house than he could in the office all day. with the white house redecorated dolley was ready to establish a new form of entertaining in washington. and these were the wednesday drawing rooms which were called squeezes. martha jefferson had had very formal events for ladies only, where each woman came in with their ceremonial presented. thomas jefferson only ever had two public receptions a year. dolley thought one was too formal and the other not enough. she started greeting guests every wednesday evening in the white house anytime congress was in session. people would wander in, they would be greeted by the madisons they would roam around
the rooms and have wine and food and other things to drink -- around the room and they would have wine and food and other things to drink and they would perform music. guests would be up to 400 people or more and they would squeeze into the white house. with a few notable exceptions, almost everyone enjoyed the drawing room. the point was that absolutely everyone was welcomed. whether they were members of madison democratic republican party, or they were the federalist party, whether a foreign dignitary or a local citizen. dolley was in her element creating a social sphere where people could interact socially. -- interact cordially even when they were opponents. and very subtly building support for her husband's administration. dolley created the impression that she was above the fray of politics. she writes about it a lot. in reality, she understood exactly where everyone stood in relationship to her husband. in a letter she wrote to her
in which she also asked her to burn the letter which thankfully she did not. she noted that during the election of 1812, the federalists had refused to, or dying. there were so may people flocking to the white house that there was such a rallying of parties that it alarmed them into a return. i love that. dolley could also act as her husband surrogate. when the new young war hawk congressman like henry clay, we are talking about the war of madison sitting on the fence. in this case, they both like to
do snuff. it is said that her snuffbox had a magic influence. just as dolly forrest political connections to support her husband's agenda, people -- her friends asked her to wield influence with her sons, husband, neighbors, relatives, anyone looking for a government job. she was the go to, go through gal for political patronage. one interesting one is that abigail adams, who never liked dolly, never met dolly, still writes dolly to help get her grandson a diplomatic mission. and dolly gets it done. that's pretty amazing. the war of 1812, it is funny to say that someone 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. the war of 1812 created an amazing opportunity for the people of the nation to truly
take dolley to their hearts. it earned her a place in our american legend. she became the brave face of the nation. in her social events, she is this symbol of calm optimism and support. she is celebrating the victories. she is ceremonially receiving colors of captured ships and battles won. this whole time she's , telegraphing to the public that this is what happens. this is what it means for us as a nation in a way that sustains support for the war effort. and her letters during this time are amazing, filled with spirit. writing one of her cousins, as they are beginning to put up tents on the lawn of the white house, "already looks well to my eye for eye have always been an advocate for fighting, though a quaker.
i keep an old tunisian saber within my reach." she literally slept with a sword underneath her bed. then, referring to rumors that cochran had threatened to set fire to the president's house, she said "i do not fear at this. but field affronted that the admiral should send a notice that he should make battle in my drawing room soon." the morning before the british invasion of washington, dolley reported that her husband had asked her whether i had the courage or firmness to remain in the president's house until his return, and on my assurance that i had no fear for him and our country, he left me. dolley's drawing room evenings and her strategic approach, to hostessing are probably her most significant contribution. for one moment in time in the white house, it eclipses all others. for its symbolism in your know
what i'm talking about and that is the rescue of george washington's portrait when the british were invading washington in 1814. as dolley told the story to her sister lucy, she remained at the white house waiting for james to return from the battle of women -- from the battle of bladensburg where the local militia are not successful at keeping the british out of d.c.. she is busy directing servants to fill a wagon with valuables of the white house. a part of this that is often overlooked because we focus so much on the washington portrait. she saved the cabinet papers and madisons papers. much about the founding period because the papers were not burned in the white house. dolly does order that general washington's portrait be saved and not be left to be vandalized.
it was taken and rolled up and she puts in safekeeping. then and only then do she agree to evacuate. and her pluck during these perilous moments partly true and , partly mythologized at the time did then and now earned the gratitude and admiration of a country. in the months that followed the burning of the white house in d.c., dolly shared her loss with someone who truly appreciated the beautifully appointed rooms that she helped create. that was her old friend and decorating partner mary latrobe, wife to benjamin latrobe. she writes to her, "two hours before the enemy entered the city, i left the house where mr. latrobe's elegant taste had been justly admired. and where you and i had so often wandered together. and on that very day, i sent out all the silver, the curtains and general washington's picture and a small clock and a few books
and left everything else belonging to the public, our own valuable stores of every description and all of my clothing and all of the servants' clothing, etc., etc.. in short, it would fit to you to -- it would fatigue you to read the list of my losses. it was a sad moment. in the wake of burning of washington's public building, there was a lot of talk that the capital might relocate to another city. philadelphia and new york one of the capital back. but the rebuilding began and dolley really led the rallying cry for washington, d.c., that reestablished a social convening. by the fall of 1814, she is already in the drawing rooms now the octagon house, which is their temporary residence. she is the one who announce his that the treaty of ghent has
been signed and signals the end of mr. madison's war. today, we expect a first lady to champion particular causes. barbara bush and literacy. michelle obama and childhood obesity. but that was not an expectation in dolley's time. in fact, the idea of women organizing to create change was novel. again, dolley is a trendsetter. when she is wife of the secretary of state, she is interested in the lewis and clark expeditions. she knows they are not adequately provision. she gets all the ladies of the cabinet together, money together to help out your this is very sad for her. she thinks it will never come back. when they do, she is overjoyed and they bring her cookware to share with her and let her have and, more importantly, she shares these wonderful stories and she recites them and her nieces talk about it later in her life. after the war of 1812, dolley
championed the orphan society. d.c. is a very desperate place. she becomes the first or actress -- the first directress of the sale of society. these seem trivial and small to us, but this effort is historically significant. it chose her actively involved in this broader 19th-century spirit of reform, where women are beginning to organize themselves to create institutions to help other women and girls. sadly, the madison administration comes to an end in 1817. james madison after his second , term, he could not have been happier. a friend described him a school
boy on a long vacation. very happy to be going home to montpellier. dolley on the other hand is more reluctant. right before they leave d.c., they have their portraits painted. and in this portrait, dolly gets copy to agives a friend. as a good friend, she knows dolley's portrait is kind of an absence of expression in her i. -- in her eye. it doesn't have that sparkle. dolly just meant 16 years in -- just spent 16 years in d.c., exerting tremendous influence it would be very hard for her to leave her friends can retire to the sleepy countryside of orange, virginia. but she did follow james back. where she would largely reside for the next 19 years.
she would continue to be hostess at mont pelley air. -- moont pelley are ntpelier. many people flocked to montpellier because james madison stayed literally involved in politics to the day he died. and montpellier was filled with visitors during that time. international visitors like the marquis lafayette. dolly might entertain a hundred people in the back lawn and think nothing of having 30 people stay night after night after night. on rainy days, sometimes she and james would raise each other under the front portico. and visitors reported seeing dolley madison giving james madison a piggyback ride. [laughter] and then there was polly the parrot who would swoop through the hallways, swearing and friends, and terrorizing the young madison clan. you could tell that it was this lively, lively country place. and while dolly clearly missed
d.c., she had her hands full and took on decorating montpelier. she did have a sad portion of her life. her son is now in his 30's, he never settled in his life. he was called by some the snake in the garden of eden. which is a sad thing to say. he had bouts of drinking and gambling. we know he did help madison because we see his handwriting on some of the transcribed notes. but he did have huge binges. he would disappear and no one would know where he would be for months, oftentimes in debtor's prison. he wrote in his journal, "i could never temper things properly." there is a lot of anxiety around him.
james paid a lot of his debt about $20,000. , there was another amount that he pay for that he never told dolly. this added up to more than a million dollars in terms of current numbers. we are not worrying -- when not worrying about payne or managing these guests and family members, dolly had another big job. that was caretaker and secretary for james madison. she was really at his side every step of the way, editing and copying papers which were very important to madison, and part he really because hoped it would help dolley pay for debt, which they were deeply in. so madison dies on june 28, 1836, and dolley is devastated. in his will, he entrusts his papers to his dear wife, having entire confidence in her
discreet and proper use of them. but they put a special emphasis on the notes from the constitutional convention. know how we got to the point we are with the form of government we have now. 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 ear and sacred trust. she writes about it in every letter, especially the year after madison dies. however, it is not an easy task. one, they were hoping there would be a lot of money. but publishing was a mess and dolly was not set up to negotiate a papers published. she may be offended people by asking for too much money. she got bad advice. worst of all, she commissioned her son to help to some of the negotiations. one of her friends rode
-- wrote confidentially to another, if you were acquainted to him, you need not be told that he is the last man to conduct this business. luckily, her friend henry clay steps in and helps congress by the papers. it assures dolley some money at the end of her life. and fact, they put the second payment in a trust so that payne can't have access to the funds. at the end of the day, dolly help her husband in so many ways. but i am eternally grateful for all of her work on his correspondence. it is really one of the greatest gifts to all of us. dolley did move back to washington in 1844. she montpelier behind. she is back in the thick of things and back in the city that she loved. she dies in her sleep in -- on
july 12, 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 congressional cemetery. and thousands and thousands of people lined the streets and the bells all tolled. so what is dolly madison's legacy? she was her husband's archivist. she was a fierce protector of his legacy through his papers and also by the publication. also part of her legacy is her engagement in these political events, despite being in a time when 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 also brought these political wives to the galleries of congress and the supreme court. and she was even, after madison's death, acknowledged for her role and given an honorary seat in the house of
representatives. she was late one day and she made them go back and read what she had missed. [laughter] in the first vote. can you imagine that? dolley was also given the invitation to lay the first cornerstone of the washington monument. she sent the first telegraph from the country. she lived long enough to be photographed. amazing span of life. more than anything else, she really created this new kind of social protocol, setting a place where people could be together, mend tensions find common , ground, find ways to compromise, all in her unique style. she was a facilitator par excellence. she was the queen of society. and in her latter years, pay no thenless commentator daniel webster said of her she , is the only permanent power in washington. all others are transients. [laughter] soon after dolly madison dies,
and obituary notices, as mistress of the white house, she was regarded as the first lady of the land. this is one of the earliest instances where we hear that term, first lady, used as the title for the president's wife. and how fitting that the term should be applied to dolly, who was the first president's wife to fully embrace the social and political inventions of the -- dimensions of the first lady role. henry clay may have described her best. he said to her one day -- everybody loves mrs. madison. and she replied, mr. clay, i love everybody. [laughter] and everybody believed that. and dolly madison had done her job well. thank you. [applause] i have to take a little survey. i have a couple of pictures of montpelier? who has been there in the last year?
not bad, thank you. i just wanted to remind folks we do have 2700 acres. they are filled with walking trails and buildings, everything from the house and the temple to jim crow train station to temple. we have eight miles of trails if you are a dog friendly, bring your dog and walk on it. we have an old-growth forest. if you have not been in the house for a while, you will be really surprised. this is madison's bedroom. we added a lot of the carpet. it is very bright and bold. someone said this might be the biggest transformation of the house since the initial restoration. this is the entrance hall where we put up 34 oil paintings, which madison had. and again, you can see that lively carpet.
if you did not notice, montpelier has a substantial archaeology program. i would be remiss if i didn't note that, in june, we launched a permanent new exhibition called a mere distinction of color. it tells the story of the 300 people who were enslaved at montpelier and made it possible. it has been an amazing process unique because of the work with the descendents of the slaves. thewe look at -- through lens of the constitution. and what it means to us today as americans. we also run the robert h smith center for the constitution. we teach teachers and international people. we have had 60,000 folks through the program, from 110 countries and all 50 states. we also do public programming for citizens like you and me. if you're interested in the constitution and what it means to all of us today, i hope you will look at the website.
finally, since spring is almost upon us, i hope we can lure you there 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 would be happy to take a few questions. we do have a mic. and please, enjoy the magazine. i'm doing my moment here. [laughter] >> thank you so much for today. dolley's exposure to yellow fever, did that leave her sterile? is that why she and james did not have children? or was payne enough for birth control? [laughter] >> i always thought it was the yellow fever epidemic but i have been told by doctors that is not the case.
if default is the right word james madison, as far as we , know, never had any children. he didn't have with dolly or anybody else that we know of. i beg you to read the letters of dolley madison. they are quite frisky. i didn't have enough time to read parts of them. in some of the letters, when james and dolly are not with one another, i have no fear that they had a lovely time with one another. [laughter] >> thanks so much. did she ever say anything about what allowed her to live such a long life? any comments about that? >> no. i think it is amazing. i think if you survived childbirth, your odds went greatly up. and madison's mother and grandmother lived to be in the 90's. these were amazing women of that frontier period. and his grandmother -- madison's
grandfather was poisoned. madison grows up with that as well as with the fact his grandmother never remarried and ran that plantation. i like the fact about his grandmother and mother were very strong figures. i don't think it intimidated him at all to make this beautiful black-haired, blue-eyed, 5'8", forceful woman. i think it was a perfect pair. >> thank you so much. >> thank you all. [applause] >> our nine week series, 1968: america in turmoil is available as a podcast and you can find it
on our website, c-span.org/history. this is american history tv, only on c-span3. c-span toth personalize the information you get from us. c-span.org/connect and signed up for the email. the program guide is a daily email with the most updated primetime schedule an upcoming live coverage. mostfor word gives you the interesting daily video highlights. in their own words with no commentary. the book tv newsletter sent weekly is an insiders look at up coming authors and book festivals and the american history tv weekly newsletter gives you the upcoming programming exploring our nation's past. visit c-span.org/connect and sign up today. american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend featuring
museum tors, archival films, and programs on the presidency. the civil war and more. here is a clip from a recent program. >> in a lot of ways, hollywood, just like with tucker might have saved him also because in 1985, we have "back to the future" which inexplicably linked the delorean with the time machine. in fact, if you have seen the movie, there is a line where marty mcfly says doc, you need to -- you mean to tell me that you built a time machine out of a delorean? and the doctor says -- if you are going to put a time machine in a car, you might as well do it with style. the sales of the delorean increased. became a collectors item. in that respect, delorean might've had the last laugh as well and might have been saved by hollywood in the same way that preston tucker was.
what is the take away lesson from what we have studied so far? what does history tedious about these maverick carmakers? tracko not have a good record of success. in fact they fail. they are trying to enter a business, auto manufacturing, that has such high financial costs. you are subject to fickle consumer taste often. you have problems with supply chains and -- and all the complexities of automobile manufacturing and sales. it is a very difficult business to get into. this and otherh american history programs on our website where all of our video is archived. that is c-span.org/history. leader, senate majority mitch mcconnell on the history of kentucky lawmakers and how
u.s. senate leadership has changed. alvineech focuses on barkley's contributions to congress. the kentucky historical society hosted this hour-long event. is myd afternoon, it privilege to serve as the executive director of the kentucky historical society. on behalf of the society and the foundation, we welcome you to the old state capitol where -- four senator mcconnell's lecture. , the kentuckyell historical society is honored to host your lecture and we are especially gratified that you chose this treasured place as a venu