Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 119 / Number 4
Madison v. Madison: Dolley Payne Madison and Her Inheritance of the Montpelier Estate, 1836–38
- Holly C. Shulman, pp. 350–93
This essay explores Dolley Madison's relationship with the members of her husband's family, the kin of James Madison. After James's death, Dolley had to fulfill the terms of his will, which in turn meant ensuring that those she knew received their inheritance and that those she did not were first located then sent their legacy. The surrounding correspondence and legal actions reveal a pattern of relationship between Dolley and her Madison family never before considered. This essay also explains why James wrote his will as he did and something of his hopes and expectations for his family and for Dolley's family, and it reveals how the Madison family felt about each other and toward Dolley. The goal of the essay is to refine and revise the conventional wisdom about Dolley Payne Todd Madison in the context of her relationship with her and her husband's family and as a widow in antebellum America.