Faces From The Past—xix


At the end of his second term Madison retired to Montpelier, where Dolley worked with him on his papers and entertained a constant How of guests, most of them uninvited. When she returned to Washington after her husband’s death, one of her first callers was John Quincy Adams. Hc had not seen her for twenty-eight years and was surprised Io find that “the depredations of time are not so perceptible in her personal appearance as might be expected.” Following a custom she had begun in the White House, she opened her home to guests every New Year’s Day and July j, and that first winter after her return she paid over two hundred calls herself. Daniel Webster lived nearby on Lafayette Square and was a frequent visitor (after he discovered her financial plight, the Senator often sent a Negro servant around to her door with a basket of food). President Tyler’s daughter-in-law regularly sought Airs. Madison’s advice in social matters, and the old lady had a scat in the lyler carriage on most ofRcial occasions. She was with the party in the Capitol when Samuel F. R. Morse, demonstrating his new telegraphic device, received the historic message from Baltimore, “What hath God wrought,” and it was to Dollcy that Morse turned, asking if she would like to send a reply. She dictated: “Message from Mrs. Madison. She sends her love to Mrs. Wcthcrcd” (a friend with the group in Baltimore). Fittingly, it was the first social message sent by telegraph. At the age of eighty, she attended President Polk’s final gala ball, walking through the crowded White House rooms on his arm. wearing a white satin gown and the inevitable turban, white satin with a fringe. And when the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid, on July 4, 1848, Dolley AIadison, who had known George Washington, was there. T he cameraman Mathcw Brady had gone to the capital to photograph the historic event, and it is probable that he took advantage of the occasion to ask the old lady if she would sit before his camera.

—Richard M. Ketchum