Tuesday, January 29, 2013

James Madison's Montpelier

Although not as famous as George Washington's Mount Vernon, or Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, James Madison's Montpelier Estate is important for its own reasons.  The United States Bill of Rights was written in the library, just above the main entrance of the mansion.  

James Madison is considered a Founding Father of the United States, Father of the Constitution, along with being one of the first Secretary of State (though he never left the country), he was the 4th President of the United States, preceded by George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  He was a close friend of Jefferson's.  Montpelier and Jefferson's Monticello lie only 25 miles apart in some very beautiful Virginia hills.   

 The view from the front of Montpelier.

The back of Montpelier, taken in the shadow of a huge oak tree planted in Madison's era.

A bronze statue of James and Dolly Madison at the back of the house.  James Madison was 43 and Dolly 26 when they married.  She famously waited in the White House until a painting of George Washington was removed from the wall as British soldiers marched on the house while invading Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812.  After Madison's death, she sold Montpelier and lived in Washington, D.C., dying 13 years later.  Madison died in his bedroom at Montpelier in the presence of his personal slave Paul Jennings.  

The frames of slave houses have been re-erected to show their proximity to the house.   Paul Jennings, a slave at Montpelier and the White House, would go on to write about his experiences at Montpelier, the White House and his recollections of James and Dolly Madison.  

The Madison cemetery with James Madison's gravestone (the obelisk) in the background.  Dolly Madison's grave is marked with a smaller obelisk stone near his. 

The slave cemetery. It is cemeteries like this which remind me of a passage in George Eliot's Middlemarch: "...for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs."

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