James & Dolley Madison
America's First Couple
After a brief courtship spanning the spring and summer, 26-year-old widow Dolley Payne Todd married 43-year-old Congressman James Madison on September 15, 1794. As Madison continued to rise in the political ranks, first as Thomas Jefferson's secretary of state and then as two-term president of the United States, Dolley served as a dynamic political partner, national hostess, and first lady. The couple retired to Montpelier in 1817 where the couple managed a large plantation, entertained hundreds of visitors, and jointly edited Madison's significant political papers, including his notes on the Constitutional Convention. Madison predeceased Dolley by thirteen years, after which she traveled back and forth between Montpelier and Washington, D.C. before permanently settling in the nation's capital in 1844.
A Founding Couple Rarely Apart
Few letters remain between James and Dolley Madison. Unlike other couples of the founding era, the Madisons rarely spent time apart from each other. Neither James nor Dolley traveled abroad and with the exception of Dolley's brief stay in Philadelphia in 1805 for an ulcerated knee and Madison's select trips traveling without his wife, the Madisons were always together.
"The letters of my beloved Husband are allways a cordial to my heart."
-Dolley Madison to James Madison November 23, 1805