Thursday, October 8, 2009

Madison and Montpelier

Continuing in my Charlottesville, VA vacation series. On to President number 4, James Madison.

Chris and I visited the Madison plantation at Montpelier Station, VA and had a very enjoyable afternoon.

I learned two very important things during my visit with the Madisons.

First, how to spell Montpelier! Yeah--that was a toughie for me because obviously I have been mispronouncing the place all these years.

Second, that the correct spelling of James' wife's name is Dolley! (Check it out!)

And adjunct item we learned was that James was reported to be a short as 5'2" tall. Although most historians give his height as 5'4". I did read that his height is listed between 5'2" and 5'6" and that the more a person liked him, the taller his height was recorded.

I was honored to be able to pose with the former President and First Lady. Due to his vertically challenged stature, James is almost always shown seated in the presence of Dolley.

The plantation is a great place to visit. I recommend early in the day--but any really nice day will do. I did enjoy early October. The house has been fully restored but is sparsely furnished. Try not to compare Montpelier to Monticello--it will not work. They are light years apart in terms of historical recreation. But, Montpelier is coming along fast.

You can see the genius of Madison in the construction of the house. Jefferson reportedly called Madison the best farmer he had ever known. And it seems true.

A tour of the house is fascinating, but like so many other places--no pictures! Ugh! There are many outside areas and archaeological places to visit. Additionally, the influence of the Dupont's (subsequent owners of the property to the Madisons) can be seen and the foundation is attempting to account for these changes and in many cases recreate the originals as closely as possible.

The discussion of the enslaved people working for the Madisons and of course Madison's authoring of the Constitution generates some interesting comments during the tours. I find it interesting that we continue to impose a revisionist view of history on things past without truly understanding the times and situation. We need to adopt the idea--that that is he way it was and we cannot fully understand it using our 20th and 21st century reasoning.

Would we do things differently? Don't say yes too quickly without really getting into the period and recognizing what the alternatives were.

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