Archive for the ‘history’ Category

James Madison’s Home
February 10, 2019

In January 2019 we visited Montpelier, James Madison’s home in Orange County, Virginia.

Madison, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, was the Father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, and the fourth President of the United States.

Montpelier on a foggy winter day.

The tour leader told about Madison’s life and work as well as the extensive social entertaining of his wife Dolley.

One of the interior rooms.

Carpet pattern.

Near the main house, the quarters for enslaved people. “Enslaved people” was a new term for me, but I affirm it as a term of respect. As you see, some of the quarters are being renovated.

Madison had a mixed experience with the issue of slavery. On the one hand, he was opposed to slavery, as evidenced in this quote: “We have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground for the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” In all my life, I had never read or heard that powerful statement of his.

On the other hand, he was not able to find a way to operate his house and plantation without the work of 120 enslaved people.

In the dining room of the house is this cutout of Paul Jennings, an enslaved person who was Madison’s personal valet at Montpelier and the White House. Paul was later sold to Daniel Webster, from whom he bought his freedom in 1845. After gaining freedom, he wrote the first White House memoir.

An exhibit called “The Mere Distinction of Colour” documents the stories of the Montpelier enslaved individuals and some of their descendants.

“E Pluribus Unum” is a mosaic created from pieces of brick excavated from the living quarters of enslaved men, women and children across Montpelier. On many plantations, bricks were made by enslaved women and children. The mosaic was created by Rebecca Warde.

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