Dorothy (Dolley) Madison

Associated Locations:

  • Guilford County, Province of North Carolina

Associated Dates:

  • May 20, 1768 – Born
  • September 15, 1794 – Dolley Payne Todd and James Madison married

Dorothy (Dolley) Madison is one of the eminent spirits who appeared to President Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple on August 21, 1877. This interesting story is detailed in the Eminent Spirits Appear to Wilford Woodruff wiki.

Life Sketch

War of 1812

“During the War of 1812, the British fleet blockaded our ports and sailed up our rivers to attack our cities and forts. Thus, they entered the Chesapeake Bay, and landed troops outside Washington City.

A battle was fought near there, but the British were not stopped from pursuing their way to the capital. The city was in great danger and the people hastened to gather their possessions and made their escape. There were only eight thousand inhabitants in Washington at that time. It was a small town, as compared with its great size and splendor, to-day.

A messenger rode in haste to bid the people flee. He came to the White House, where Dolly Madison, the wife of President James Madison, was waiting for her husband. He called out to her, “Mr. Madison says go, or the house will be [275] burned over your head. The British are on the way to the capital. There is no time to lose. Escape as quickly as you can.”

Dolly Madison did not go at once, but set about gathering the Cabinet papers, and the Declaration of Independence, which she made a servant pack in a trunk. Then she ordered a large portrait of Washington to be cut out of its frame, and rolled up so she could take that too. Having done these things, she escaped with her treasures, just as the British were entering the city.” 1

Character Traits

In “Presidents of the United States,” John Frost, L.L.D., [42] gives the following account of this kind-hearted and much loved lady:

“At Richmond, I first saw Mrs. Madison, and the instant my eye fell on her I felt that I was looking on a Queen. A queen she was; one of nature’s queens:—she looked the character; her person, carriage, manners, language, would have been in place in any of the most polished Courts of Europe. She was large and dignified, yet she moved with easy grace. Hers was a face that seemed to bid you welcome, and to ask, ‘what can I do for you?’ Having once seen her, I could credit what had frequently been told me, that her husband owed much of the success of his administration (so far as his popularity was concerned), to the influence of his wife. Her power over him was great, and all who sought favors of any kinds, addressed themselves, naturally, to her, as the readiest and surest channel of access to the President. Madison was cold and shy, and a timid suitor would often have met, not with repulse, but with a polite refusal; but Mrs. Madison anybody could approach, and if his request was reasonable he might count upon at least her good offices.

“Another beautiful trait of her character was her fondness for the young. No one could have seen her in company with young ladies, and fail to be struck with this peculiarity. It became the more remarkable as she advanced in years.—At an age when to most of those who reach it the liveliness [48] and chatter of young people is a burden, she had still the same fondness for their company; nor was there a kinder lady to be found in introducing and encouraging bashful young girls just entering society. She gained their confidence at once, and in a large mixed company, you would always find a group of youthful faces around her, all whose pleasures seemed to be her own.”

  1. Evans, Lawton B. “America First—100 Stories from Our History”
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