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The Children of Thomas and Sarah Catlett (Madison) Macon

The third child of William Macon, Jr. (1725-1813) and Lucy Scott (1737-1802) was Thomas Macon (1765-1838). He married Sarah Catlett Madison (1764-1843) in 1790 in Orange County, Virginia. Sarah was one of twelve children. Her parents were James Madison, Sr. (1723-1801) and Eleanor Rose “Nelly” Conway (1731-1829). James and Nelly were tobacco farmers. That is, the 100 blacks who worked at Montpelier were farmers. During the Revolutionary War, James Madison, Sr. was a colonel in and headed the Orange militia. He was also a member of the local Committee of Safety.

Thomas and Sarah Catlett Macon lived in Orange County, Virginia and had six children between 1791 and 1808. As listed in Anonymous, World Family Tree . . . pre-1600 to present (electronic source, CD-ROM) (Novato, California: Broderbund Software, Inc. 1995?), vol. 2, Tree 3548 (and also T.Terrar's family group form, p. 310.5), these six children were:

James Madison Macon (1791-1877)
Conway C. Macon (1792-1860)
Lucy Hartwell Macon (b. 1795). She married Reuben Conway.
Edgar Macon (1802-1829).
William Ambrose Macon (1803-1853).
Reuben Macon (1808-1853).

Our Federalist Presidential In-Laws, James and Dolley Madison

Sarah Madison (Macon) was the fifth child of James and Nelly Madison. The oldest child was James Madison, Jr. (1751-1836), who was President of the United States from 1809 to1817. During the Revolutionary War, James Madison, Jr. served as a colonel in the Orange militia and as a member of the local Committee of Safety, but he never served in the field because of his weak health. In 1776 James Madison, Jr. was elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention and General Assembly. In 1880 he was a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. In 1785 he wrote Memories and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. The following year he helped secure passage of the statute of religious freedom which Thomas Jefferson had drafted in 1777.

In 1787 James Madison, Jr. was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where he promoted the “Virginia Plan.” He was a proponent of a strong central government. On September 17, 1787 the Convention adopted a new constitution embodying the strong central government notion. He then went to New York where he began writing various numbers of the Federalist essays, known as the Federalist Papers in support of the constitution.

In 1788 James Madison, Jr. promised the Baptist leader, John Leland, that if the constitution was ratified, he would work for a Bill of Rights amending the Constitution. Madison served as a delegate to the Virginia Ratification Convention in 1788, where he helped defeat Patrick Henry and those who opposed ratification of the Constitution. Some of Madison’s Macon in-laws were anti-federalist in their support of state rights and opposition to the Constitution.

Between 1789 and 1791 as a U.S. Congressional Delegate, Madison helped in the adoption of the first amendments to the new Constitution. They are known collectively as the “Bill of Rights.” Madison proposed seventeen amendments. Twelve were approved by Congress for ratification. Ten of these were ratified by the required number of states in 1791.

Dolley Madison In 1794 James Madison, Jr. married the Philadelphia Quaker widow, Dorothea “Dolley” Payne Todd (1768-1849). She is pictured to the left. The marriage made made Dolley Madison the sister-in-law of Sarah Catlett (Madison) Macon.

While still young, Dolley saw some difficulty days. Her father’s business failed and then he died. Her mother opened a boarding house to pay the bills and keep the family together. Dolley also experienced the deaths of her first husband, her younger son, her mother, three of her brothers and one of her sisters. On the positive side, one of her sisters, Lucy Payne, married the nephew of George Washington.

Dolley’s marriage to James Madison, Jr. took place at Harewood, near Charles Town, Virginia. Dolley had a two-year-old son, Payne by her first marriage.

Between 1801 and 1809, James Madison, Jr. served as the Secretary of State in President Thomas Jefferson’s administration.

James Madison, Jr. was elected as fourth President in 1808 by 122 to 47 electoral votes over Charles Pinckney. He was reelected in 1812 by 128 to 89 electoral votes over De Witt Clinton. During his first term (1809-1812) George Clinton served as Vice-President; during his second (1813-1814) Elbridge Gerry. From 1814 to 1817 the speaker of the House of Representatives served as Vice-President.

In August 1814 the personal possessions of James and Dolley Madison went up in smoke when the British military burned down the White House and much else in Washington, D.C. The city’s population was angry that James rode off to Bladensburg rather than put up a defense. But Madison’s strategic retreat did no long term harm and the British were the ones that eventually retreated. In January 1815 a South Carolina congressman described Washington to his wife as a “city to which so many are willing to come to and all so anxious to leave.”

After the war, Dolley was among those who set up the Washington Orphan Asylum located at 10th and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. Its aim was to care for poor children, including those who had been orphaned by the British. But when the asylum promoters attempted to have Congress legislate a corporate charter, the Senate voted on March 16, 1816 to reject it. Among those who led in the opposition was Madison’s anti-federalist in-law, Nathaniel Macon. Macon was a Democratic-Republican Senator from North Carolina. He was against federal action in any form, including charters. New Hampshire Senator, Jeremiah Mason called Dolley and the women seeking the corporate charter “high court dames.” The Senator from South Carolina, Robert Goodloe Harper questioned why an orphanage needed to be incorporated in order to obtain its goals. See Constance M. Green, Washington: A History of the Capital (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), p. 66; Timothy Hacsi, Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

After James Madison, Jr. completed his presidency, he retired to Montpelier to edit his papers. He still had not finished this project when he died in 1836. He believed they could be sold for $100,000 to a trade publisher. Based on this conviction, he left $12,000 worth of legacies, including money for the University of Virginia, Princeton University and the American Colonization Society and bequests of $9,000 to his nieces and nephews. But the trade publishers offered nothing near $100,000. So Dolley sold the papers to the federal government for $30,000 in 1837. They were finally published in 1840.

James Madison, Jr. had no biological children. After he died Dolley moved to Washington, D.C. She left the management of Montpelier to her son, Payne Todd. That did not go well. He was an alcoholic and gambler. He and his mother ran up debts. Added to this, there was a five-year-long depression starting in 1837 followed by a decades long slump in Virginia agriculture. By 1844 Montpelier had to be sold to pay the debts. When Dolley died in 1849 at age 81 she was impoverished. She was buried in Washington, D.C. but later re-buried at Montpelier.

Montpelier passed through many hands in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1901 it was purchased by millionaire William duPont. He renovated it and helped make it into a monument to James and Dolley. See Ralph Ketcham, James Madison (Charlottesville, Virginia: 1990).

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