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And That’s a Wrap on Constitution Month 2022!

Montpelier has traditionally celebrated Constitution Day (September 17) on the third Saturday of September. This year we began a new tradition. 

In keeping with our decades-long commitment to sharing the story of our founding document by educating teachers, law enforcement, international groups, and everyday visitors about James Madison as well as the history of the Invisible Founders who built the nation through their knowledge, expertise, and labor, Montpelier launched Constitution Month, filled with Constitution-focused tours, hikes, and onsite and virtual educational panels to commemorate the U.S. Constitution. 

Natural Landscape

We began the month by stepping into the East Woods for a hike with Dr. Matthew Reeves, Director of Archaeology and Landscape Restoration, to learn about the hidden plantation landscape under the tree canopy. LiDAR and metal detector surveys have revealed the engineering genius of the enslaved farmers who innovated advanced agricultural drainage systems that turned wetlands into croplands and allowed Madison to market tobacco in the 1820s.  Discoveries such as these, which lie undisturbed after centuries in this landscape, revolutionize our understanding of the significant neglected intellectual contributions of the Invisible Founders in the founding era. The event proved so popular that we added another hike – a perfect ending to the month.


We offered tours that would satisfy visitors’ curiosity to learn on all levels! Our staple Highlights of Montpelier tour, offered multiple times daily, allows visitors to explore the histories and legacies of James and Dolley Madison, the Enslaved Community, and the Constitution, journeying through the landscape and inside the Madisons’ home. Also on our regular weekend roster is the Enslaved Community tour, an outdoor walking tour of significant sites that examines one of America’s largest paradoxes: a nation where “all men are created equal” built by those who are denied the exact freedoms they were laboring to establish. For visitors craving a deeper dive into our founding documents, they could take a Constitution tour to explore the origins of the Constitution at Montpelier and the legacy it leaves today, and a Bill of Rights tour to learn about James Madison’s critical role as “Architect” of the Bill of Rights.

Constitution Day

The month’s highlight was Constitution Day, which retained some of the traditions of celebrations past while incorporating new activities. The day began with a Libation Ceremony that honored our Founders – including James Madison and the Invisible Founders enslaved at Montpelier and surrounding plantations. Montpelier hosted local vendors, community groups, specialty tours, and activity stations to commemorate the day. Guests were invited to explore President Madison’s vision for our democracy through the Bill of Rights Tour and Constitution Tour, speak with Mr. Madison himself and engage with scholars during our two lively panels (more on that below). And of course, we offered sustenance from Burnt Ends BBQ Food Truck and beer from Patch Brewing Company!


Panels were liberally sprinkled throughout the month, to be enjoyed from the comforts of home or onsite. The virtual panel Constituting Community: A Conversation with Descendants of Enslaved Americans explored the history and legacy of Montpelier’s enslaved community through the words of their descendants as panelists shared how their ancestors helped shape the America we experience today. On Constitution Day, we hosted two hybrid panels: Is the Constitution in Danger? (watch it here), a spirited discussion about the current political crisis, America’s vulnerability to democratic collapse, and how we can reinvigorate the American democratic spirit; and Equal Power Sharing at Montpelier: A Madisonian Model of Governance, wherein the leadership of The Montpelier Foundation and the Montpelier Descendants Committee discussed how structural parity, a community-based governance model, offers exciting new opportunities for Montpelier and our visitors. We hosted elected officials and youth ambassadors from the Orange community onsite in Voices from the Community: How to be a Young Change-Maker, a conversation about the importance of civic engagement and how to create change at the local level with a focus on youth participation. Finally, virtual visitors could tune in to Striving for Freedom: How Black Americans Shaped our Democracy, to join the conversation about how Black Americans have shaped American democracy from the writing of the Constitution through the Civil Rights Movement, and Getting Organized! How to Create Inclusive Communities, to hear how local organizers shape their communities through youth civic engagement, exhibition of art, and cultural resource management.

Constituting Community: A Conversation with Descendants of Enslaved Americans
Is the Constitution in Danger?
Striving for Freedom: How Black Americans Shaped our Democracy
Getting Organized! How to Create Inclusive Communities

Why Constitution Month is Critical

Through our diverse programming, Montpelier is reinvigorating the public’s democratic spirit – an American spirit rooted in Madisonian principles. In doing so, Montpelier is sharing how Madison’s legacy belongs to all of us – our united American heritage – by teaching a more complete American history. As stated in the Preamble to the Constitution, it is “the people” who give legitimacy to the founding document. We thank you for participating in Montpelier’s Constitution Month by exploring the history and meaning of our democracy and the freedoms it enshrines.

To learn more:

Madison’s Life, democracy, power sharing among Constitution Month topics at Montpelier
Allison Brophy Champion | Culpeper Star-Exponent, September 4, 2022

Inaugural East Woods Hike
Hilary Holiday | Orange County Review, Sept. 15, 2022

It’s Constitution Week in Culpeper and at Madison’s Montpelier
Allison Brophy Champion| Culpeper Star-Exponent, Sept. 15, 2022

Constitution Day at James Madison’s Montpelier
Orange County Review, Sept. 22, 2022