Did James Madison own Slaves? #205

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James Madison The Fourth President of the United States of America

Series on Presidential Slavery

James Madison was born on March 16, 1751, at Belle Grove Plantation near Port Conway, Virginia. His family had lived in Virginia since the mid-1600s. His father was a tobacco planter who grew up on a plantation, then called Mount Pleasant, which he inherited upon reaching adulthood. With an estimated 100 slaves and a 5,000 acres plantation, Madison’s father was the largest landowner and a leading citizen in the Piedmont. Madison’s maternal grandfather was a prominent planter and tobacco merchant. In the early 1760s, the Madison family moved into a newly built house, which they named Montpelier.

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Madison was well educated in Latin, Greek and Theology; with emphasis placed on speech and debate.  He held a Bachelor of Arts degree and could have entered the clergy or law professions.  He continued at Princeton to study Hebrew and political philosophy.  Madison saw himself as a law student but never as a lawyer – he never joined the bar or practiced.

Madison married Dolly Payne Todd, a 26-year-old widow, previously wife of John Todd, a Quaker in Philadelphia. Dolly suffered recurring illnesses because of her exposure to yellow fever.  Madison never had children, but he adopted Dolly’s one surviving son, John Payne Todd after the marriage.

Madison inherited Montpelier and other possessions, including his father’s numerous slaves at his death.  Madison was one person who tried to find an answer to the problem of slavery, it concerned him greatly.  Madison held many important political offices; he used these offices to try to bring to an end this “evil” in his society. When Madison wrote home to his father he would often ask about “the family.” To Madison “the family” included the family slaves.  Yet, he continued to maintain slaves at Montpelier.  In today’s world, that is hypocritical as one cannot own a slave yet feel “bad” that there is slavery.

Madison wrote to his brother, Ambrose, that the backward step would not only be dishonorable but would make the dreaded freeing of all slaves that much sooner. Madison dreaded the freeing of all slaves because neither he nor Thomas Jefferson thought that it was the proper time to advance the proposition of total emancipation. During that same year, 1785, Madison spoke in favor of a Jefferson bill for the gradual abolition of slavery; it failed.

Madison’s feelings about the slavery issue become even clearer as events led to the Federal Convention of 1787.  Madison wrote, “Where slavery exists the republican Theory becomes still more fallacious.”  However at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Madison argued in support of the clause extending slave trade until 1808 by saying that the convention did it in order to keep the Southern states in the union, for if they did not join the union, the consequences might be dreadful.

Madison continued to work to bring about an end to slavery through prudent constitutional methods.  He spoke of placing a tax on imported slaves. No matter what Madison did, he had slaves and looked for ways of changing slavery, slowly, who would take care of Montpelier?

He felt compassion; on one occasion before leaving home he left instructions to Mordecai Collins, one of several overseers on his Montpelier estate, “To treat the Negroes with all the humanity & kindness consistent with their necessary subordination and work.”  Again, hypocritical, he did not actually want them “free” at the time, but treated kindly, now today’s evaluation of that is “they were still not free”. 

Madison’s planned for the gradual ending of the peculiar institution in his “Memorandum on an African Colony for Freed Slaves” with the means of establishing a Settlement of freed blacks on the Coast of Africa.   It may be remarked as one motive to a compassionate experiment, would today’s Black Community say Madison was compassionate, and I doubt it.  He hopes to put an end to slavery involving approximately 600,000 slaves.  This would be impossible by the prejudices of the Whites.

Early in his career James Madison said that he wanted “to depend as little as possible on the labor of slaves.”  But, he was forced to abandon his efforts to live free of slavery and the plantation system, his livelihood depended upon slaves.  He was also reluctant to accept African-Americans in the country even after they were freed.

As Madison began to draw up his will he started to ponder the fate of his own slaves. Although he had no children of his own, his relatively youthful wife, Dolly, was a concern for him. He wanted to free his slaves, but how? James Madison chose the (was his being kind to them happiness, I think not) happiness of his slaves over any personal benefits that he could receive by freeing them. The portion of his will that dealt with the future of his slaves offered no clause for their emancipation; it read:

I give and bequeath my ownership in the negroes and people of color held by me to my dear wife, but it is my desire that none of them should be sold without his or her consent or in case of their misbehavior; except that the infant children may be sold with their parent who consents for them to be sold.

This would have been a perfect time for James Madison to free his slaves, but he chose not to.  It appears that this “do good” had two sides to his face, one of goodness and the other evil.

After Madison’s death, in 1836, Dolly Madison returned to Washington to live out the last years of her life. Financial conditions forced her to sell Montpelier. In order to keep the slave families together Dolly Madison chose to sell them along with the farm. However she retained some slaves for her use in Washington. These slaves were freed upon her death because of her failure to register them in the city.

James Madison worked throughout his life to bring about an end to the institution of slavery, while owning slaves. James Madison was the ultimate racist, while proclaiming to want a “better situation” for the black people.


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Hate Crime

Chuck is an educator, Young Adult Novelist, and passionate about helping people with depression and anxiety by sharing his own insights and experiences.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

I’m sitting here reading an article over and over about a young Black woman who was attacked by white men in Madison. She was doused with lighter fluid and then set on fire. Let that sink in for a moment.

She was set on fire for no other reason than being black. This was a hate crime, plain and simple. It was attempted murder. Don’t think for a moment that this was for any other reason than her being black. It was hate! Hate for being who she is, a beautiful Black woman, and I am enraged.

I sit here, sipping my coffee, crying my eyes out because I cannot get the faces of my Black students in BSU out of my head. I think about all the Black students that I have known and many who I still keep in touch with, and I am breaking down, tears streaming…

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Poor Southern Whites, Pre and Post Civil War…#199

In the years before the Civil War, white society in the South was divided between the wealthy, and the poor white farmers.  This poor population had little more than the land that they work. They are largely the lost people of the South in American history.  This was my history, my ancestors!

The wealthy lived in a world of opulent mansions and mint juleps. Most white southerners were not wealthy enough to own slaves. They raised their own food and made their own clothes, often eating less and working harder than slaves. Poor white farmers scratched out a living in the less fertile backcountry and mountain valleys.

The history of the American South cannot escape the specter of slavery, white supremacy, and severe class divisions.  Poor and working-class whites have usually been left out of our country’s story because in many ways acknowledging their existence is a denial of the American dream, a festering wound in the heart of America.

I am from the Deep South. I was brought up in a split non-racist / racist family. I was taught history written by superior white people.   I lived in poverty as a child and teenager; the South was a very complex place.  I was an adult before my parents were able to reach the status of middle-class.  I was drawn to history, American History that includes the South, I read, I learned and in my split upbringing I made my own decisions and theory of what was right and wrong.

All lives matter.


The year was 1939…#197

Father’s Day 1939, Sunday, June 18Father’s Day (United States) Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. The tradition was said to be started from a memorial service held for a large group of men who died in a mining accident in Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.

Happy Father’s Day (Daddy) in Heaven, Roy C. Johnson 10/19/1903 – 1/27/1977

I have looked up a few 1939 items the year I was born to share:

Happy Father’s Day Poems 1939

My Heart Beats For You

Another personal life lesson from C.R. Murphree, Educator, Published Young Adult Author, Mental Health Activist, Black Student Union Organizer, and my Son.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

For Karen, My Heart Beats For You

I sometimes watch her sleep at night. I’ve been doing so for what seems like a lifetime. I’m memorized as her blond hair falls gently to one side and the lashes that line her eyes rest softly, and every so often flutter because her mind is still working. The mystery is knowing that when I see her in the morning there will be a yellow, disheveled mess all over her head, spiking in every direction, and I have to contemplate how that happens to someone who sleeps so still. I have the contours of her body memorized. It’s a body that I have been exploring since I was fifteen, and it hasn’t changed much through the years, so knowing every shape is not difficult.

Have you ever met someone that you become more calm by simply being next to them? You swallow their…

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The First Fifty

Another great post from C.R.Murphree – Young Adult Author, Special Education and Mental Health advocate. His blog is at: https://apieceofmymind.fitness.blog/

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

I am sitting still, silently, with fifty years riding on my back. In a daze, maybe a hazy fog, wondering where it all went, and how I can hang on to youth, at least the parts I want to.

While at the same time welcoming the coming years, where I wonder if there will ever be answers to questions that have always haunted me, or will they just become stories that I vaguely remember and attempt to tell with an abundance of truth. All the stories have defined the man before me in the mirror, with lines of pain that have formed on his forehead, and even more lines of happiness that curl up next to his eyes. The stories reach out to me like a spike through my brain, or into my heart, leaving me with a past that I cannot explain, but a past that I would never…

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“Jackass Liars”…#169

“Jackass Liars”

Both candidates Trump and Biden are using the pandemic situation to further their political campaigns, and the drama continues. Trump tells us that social distancing guidelines will be “fading out’”. A day before federal guidelines on slowing the spread of corona virus are set to expire, Trump indicate that the social distancing guidelines would be relaxed as states begin to reopen. However, somewhere inside the “big picture”, more than one-million cases of corona virus has been confirmed, and an estimated sixty-thousand US citizens have died. What does this tell you Mr. President?

President Trump continues to make statements that he retracts hours later. The president stated that the tests were coming “very soon”, and then on Wednesday, he claimed that he never said it. His backpedaling thoughts came as quickly and his statement that test would be soon was said by him. He stated that the lie was a media trap. As usual, our president continually lies and retracts his statements. On the other hand, does this mentally deranged man (my personal opinion) is not responsible for what he says or does? As a people, do we just overlook, wait eight-ears out, and try of correct mistakes made by government? Have we ever elected honest political people in any position, my long life tells me that we have very few?

The White House is pushing to open and revive the economy, that has been deep-seated to President Trump’s reelection, and all persons running for office is using or stepping on the backs of the people who have not had the virus, those who have survived and in my opinion he has walked upon the graves of those sixty-thousand who have lost their lives? Even Jared Kushner stated that the economy would be “really rocking again” by July, calling the recovery a great success story. Another reelection statement. I also wish that their vocabulary would expand, I am tired of, beautiful, nice, wonderful, and so on, political statement or not very professional these days. Really rocking again…do we have teenagers running the government or men?

The Treasure Secretary stated the economy would bounce back in July, August or September. VP Pence said Memorial Day weekend would be when we put the virus epidemic behind us. Come on people, they have given predictions for half of the year. Americans are unlikely to return to normal life until a vaccine is developed and effective. That timeline is in the ballpark of 12 to 18 months. Fauci has said he has “convinced” there will be a second wave in the fall.

All of the government should have a mass meeting, pick a date, and stick to it, the way things are going now they all just look like “Jackass Liars”. Those misinformation quotes have already been cut into campaign ads for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump is pumping up his campaign from the podium and has repeatedly defended his bullish pronouncements, describing himself as a “cheerleader” for the country. News for you Mr. President, another teenager type of statement, next you will have “pom poms” waving as you enter press forums.
Of Course…this is just my opinion!



Authors books at Amazon.com and Barns & Nobel.com

Mindful Walking

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

I entered the woods yesterday with the intent of shaking off a bit of darkness. The past couple of weeks has brought on a depression that, like most depression, appeared one night in my sleep and woke me up the next morning with thoughts of…well, let’s just say the guy looking back at me in the mirror that morning didn’t have very nice things to say.

It’s a difficult time for many out there, and anxiety and depression are on the rise. In fact, I was talking with a former student of mine over the weekend and she was telling me how her mental health has been so bad lately that she was struggling to leave her house. She also told me that when she talked to her dad about it he said, “Just stop being sad.” Can one stop having heart disease? Can someone just stop having diabetes? Of…

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Another post from my son, close and personal, he is a published author. I hope those of my followers who enjoy his post will follow him on his own blog, which is new. He is an educator, Young Adult Novelist, passionate about helping people with depression and anxiety by sharing his own insights and experiences.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health


When he died I struggled to cry. I wasn’t sure what to feel. For the majority of my life, he had been my menace. He was a closed door that I tried for years to figure out how to open. I’m not sure if he ever loved me, and when he lay on his deathbed one evening and I found myself alone with him, I decided it was my chance to ask.

“Dad,” I cleared my throat, still intimidated by his presence, though his body was getting weaker by the moment. “Dad, how come you never loved me?” It was out! I asked the question and now I waited. I leaned in slightly with my good ear. No response.

Suddenly my dad was crying. It was maybe the second time I’ve seen him cry in my lifetime, “I always loved your momma.” He wept and looked up at me…

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Covid-19 Reflection

Another great post from C.R. Murphree…Reflecting on today’s problem.

Thoughts and Writings on Mental Health

A current crisis is surrounding the world and suffocating some. Schools are closed and the word “essential” has taken on new meaning. What once seemed important has faded into memory, and the things that make life worth living: love, family, friendship, loyalty, integrity, food, employment, health, and nature have emerged once again forcing us to take notice. I’m not saying these things were not important to people before this crisis. I am saying that we have all been forced to slow down, pause, even stop, and recognize that our material items, favorite, restaurants, movie theaters, iphone, and so on, now take a backseat to what we actually live for.

Will we forget after we all pay our debt? I am seeing and hearing about more and more people having home cooked meals, taking walks in the woods, talking about social emotional learning in schools, being grateful for the small things…

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