James Madison: A Life Reconsidered
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James Madison: A Life Reconsidered

October 24, 2019


>>David Ferriero: Good afternoon. Welcome
to the William G. McGowan Theater here at the National Archives. A special welcome to
our YouTube viewers. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. It’s a pleasure to welcome
you today as we welcome former Second Lady and Historian who will share some of her extensive
knowledge about the man known as the father of the Constitution. James Madison laid the
groundwork for the Constitution in “The Federalist Papers,” then shaped it in the Constitutional
Convention in 1787. He joined the first Congress as a House member from Virginia and drafted
what we now know as the Bill of Rights. As Secretary of State, he supervised the Louisiana
Purchase and succeeded Jefferson as President from 1809 to 1817.
As our first president, he presided from a variety of places after the British burned
Washington in the War of 1812. Our guest today has much more to tell us about Mr.Madison.
First I’d like to tell you about two programs coming up here in the theater.
Tomorrow afternoon Melissa Gilbert will hold the national launch of her book My Prairie
Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours. The book includes
family recipes inspired by the TV series in which she played Laura Ingalls Wilder. It
also includes memorabilia from the popular series. I bet you didn’t know that the Laura
Ingalls Wilder collection is in the Harry Truman Library in Independence, Missouri,
which is part of the National Archives. On Monday,September 15, at noon, author and
historian Todd Brewster will discuss his new book, Lincoln’s Gamble, an account of the
six months of Lincoln’s presidency in which he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and
rewrote the course of the Civil War. To learn more about these and all of our public
programs, there are copies of our monthly calendar in the lobby as well as signup sheets
where you can receive it in the regular mail or by email. And you’ll also find brochures
about the Foundation for the National Archives. A little secret that I’ll share with you:
no one has ever been turned down for membership in the Foundation for The National Archives.
As Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Lynne Cheney wrote and spoke about
how important it is to teach children about history, the leaders, events, and ideas that
have shaped the world. She also worked to provide opportunities for teachers to gain
indepth knowledge that they need to provide that inspired instruction.
Currently as the Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute she emphasizes the value
of knowing American history so that we understand how precious and fragile our freedom is. To
quote her, history makes it clear that the life we enjoy isn’t inevitable. Understanding
how rare and precious liberty is underscores the importance of defending it.
She has produced six bestselling history books for children and their families. She recounted
the story of the making of our Constitution and the men including George Washington, James
Madison, and Benjamin Franklin; and now James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.
Mrs.Cheney earned her Bachelor’s degree from Colorado College, Master’s from the University
of Colorado, and her Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin. She is the recipient of awards
and honorary degrees from dozens of colleges and universities.
One of the joys of being Archivist of the United States is to welcome to our stage researchers
who have used the records of the National Archives in the creation of new scholarship.
I’m really pleased to welcome this researcher, Lynne Cheney.
[Applause]>>Lynne Cheney: Thank you. I made it. Well,
I can’t quite see the front row. This is called the Queen Elizabeth problem. Do you remember
you probably don’t the bicentennial. All you could see was her purple hat. So if you’re
in the front row and you want to see as well as hear, this is your chance.
I really appreciate your being here today. I love this program the National Archives
has of bringing in speakers on relevant topics to talk to people during the lunch hour. I
will recommend that they get a little step stool for the next really short person.
And I have one other recommendation, which I’ve been making privately but I’m going to
make it publicly now. We need to get more in the Archives about the framers of the Declaration
of Independence and of the Constitution. I would like children to know when they come
here, young people, adults, how amazing an accomplishment.�I know most about the Constitution,
how amazing an accomplishment the Constitution was, how hard Madison worked, how crucial
he was. I am sometimes asked why I would spend five
years writing about one person. And I say, well, it wasn’t just any person. It was a
person who did more, I think, than anyone else to create the country that we know today.
That is no small claim and no small achievement. We are extremely fortunate that there were
men of Madison’s learning and genius there at the time when the framework for the government
was being formed. Here we go. Solving a problem.
[Applause] Well, this is a nice, sturdy little help up.
I have stood on many things in my career. I have discovered that two reams of paper
works pretty well but it’s kind of slippery. The worst thing I ever stood on was a little�one
of those little laundry basket things that college students like. Of course, you can’t
just stand on it. So somebody duct taped a cafeteria tray to the top of it. So this is
really quite nice. I appreciate the Archives having this little facility for me, this little
elevation. I was once photographed standing on top of a briefcase by my hometown newspaper.
They headlined the picture, Delivers Elevated Remarks. So I will try to live up to that
description. Madison, what a story to tell. I thought the
story needed to be told because he wasn’t sufficiently appreciated. I think maybe we
don’t appreciate any of the founders, the framers, enough. But Madison’s case, it seemed
particularly egregious. He was ranked in one poll conducted among academics, one poll that
ranked presidential accomplishments, ranked presidents, as somewhere behind Grover Cleveland,
which, in my opinion, is just�[Inaudible] Why Madison for five years? Think of his accomplishments.
It was he who did more than anybody else to get the Constitutional Convention underway.
He got Washington to attend. Washington was reluctant. He did not know if it would succeed
so he was holding back but Madison told him how many other great men were coming and that
gave Washington assurance. Through a snowstorm Madison rode to New York to make sure that
the Confederation Congress didn’t act in ways that would hinder the formation of the Constitutional
Convention. He arrived earlier than any other outofstate delegate in Philadelphia where
the convention was held. And he used the time to write the agenda for the Constitutional
Convention, the agenda known as The Virginia Plan.
He was a superb politician. He understood that you can’t get anything done by yourself.
So part of the reason for being there early was to get other delegates as they came into
town on board with his agenda. All of that, and that was his preparation for the convention.
Once the convention was underway, Madison not only tried to get as much of his agenda
enacted as possible, he spoke almost as much as any other delegate at the convention while
at the same time he was taking shorthand notes of what everyone was saying. He would go home
at night and transcribe these notes. The result is a national treasure that is our only real
insight into what went on in this convention that was, for the most part — well, it was
a secret. People were not supposed to divulge what was going on outside the Convention Hall.
Independence Hall we call it now. I think they may have started that even by the time
of the Constitution. So he spoke almost more than anyone else, kept a record of the events.
Once the Constitution was signed, he got together with Alexander Hamilton, and with a little
help from John Jay, wrote “The Federalist Papers,” which were the case for the Constitution.
There’s some argument among scholars about how important “The Federalist Papers” were
in swaying hearts and minds. But I’m convinced they had great importance in what was probably
the most important of the ratifying convention in Virginia. Madison made sure copies of “The
Federalist” were sent ahead. And what it accomplished was giving people who knew they were for the
Constitution but hadn’t quite articulated their thinking, it gave them the arguments
to use in the convention. So you can think of this event, the ratifying
convention in Virginia, as an event in which Madison’s voice was echoing from every direction
on the floor. He also spoke eloquently himself and is widely thought by his contemporaries
to have won ratification by defeating the most important and accomplished order of the
day, Patrick Henry, who had no use for the Constitution. Virginia ratified. “The Federalist”
helped the Constitution be ratified in New York, where the original ones appeared.
Just think of all he’s done just to this point. He got the Convention going. He’s the leading
figure at the convention. He’s the leading figure in ratification. And then he becomes
the leading figure in the new government. And you might think it was George Washington.
And, of course, it was, it was Washington, but Madison was Washington’s chief advisor.
When Washington asked one of his aides to write an inaugural address for him, the aide
produced I think it was a 78page monstrosity, really. Washington understood this wouldn’t
work, so he turned to Madison and Madison wrote George Washington’s inaugural address.
Patrick Henry had seen to it that Madison wasn’t in the Senate of the United States.
The Virginia legislature, which appointed senators, Henry had enough control over that
to make sure Madison wasn’t a senator. He tried to keep him from being a representative.
He convinced a young man named James Monroe to run against him. And he gerrymandered,
an anachronism since it hadn’t been named yet but he gerrymandered. But Madison prevailed
and became the leader of the House of Representatives. He performed magnificently. Not only, you
know, writing the House’s response to Washington’s inaugural address but at Washington’s request
Madison also wrote Washington’s response to the House’s response and to the Senate’s response.
So, you know, you begin to get a feeling of how influential and important he was.
One of the interesting facts of history is that Madison didn’t think we needed a Bill
of Rights. He thought that the Constitution did nothing to take away the people’s unalienable
rights; that we had these rights, they were fundamental, they belonged to each, and all
the Constitution did was give the government a limited number of enumerated powers. It
didn’t suggest anyplace, for example, that the government had the power to suppress speech.
It didn’t suggest anywhere in the Constitution, didn’t suggest that government had the power
to regulate religion. And so Madison, and many others at the time as well, didn’t think
we needed a Bill of Rights, but in the end he introduced a Bill of Rights in the first
session of the first Congress. And he did so knowing that it was important to knit the
nation together; that it was crucial that states like North Carolina, who had been reluctant
to ratify, that those states be brought onboard and that the Union be knit together.
He also figured out a way to make the Bill of Rights a document to make these amendments
to form them in a way that wouldn’t suggest that Congress had ever had the right to suppress
speech, for example. If you look at the way Madison wrote the amendments, it’s very artful.
He says the government shall not infringe upon or the right of the people to shall not
be denied. In Madison’s draft, every one of them assumed that we had these rights but
here we are just going to say don’t mess with them. So that, in a way, was kind of breakthrough
thinking that makes Madison such an important historical figure. He saw that we didn’t need
them, but once he understood that we did need them for the unity of the nation, he figured
out a way to word them so that they didn’t suggest that Congress that federal government
had the right to take away rights of any kind. His career in Congress was a remarkable one.
And then he became Jefferson’s Secretary of State. As the archivist told you, he oversaw
the Louisiana Purchase, no small accomplishment, you know, doubling the size of the United
States. Sort of an interesting historical telling of what happened at the Louisiana
Purchase is that Jefferson got cold feet. He decided that maybe it wasn’t constitutional
for him to buy all of Louisiana. He worried about it. He said, well, if Louisiana today,
why not Holland tomorrow? And Madison, who was a very strict constructionist of the Constitution,
thought, you know, Jefferson had just gone a little crazy over this; that there was no
reason in the world that buying Louisiana wasn’t included under the President’s treaty
power, which is, in fact, what the Louisiana Purchase was; it was a treaty that was signed
by the President and ratified by the Senate. And he also pointed out to Jefferson that
the Constitution provided for new states. And where were the new states supposed to
come from if the President didn’t already have the right to acquire territory?
So, again, he steps up and plays a crucial role. He was the first president, when he
became president, to take the nation to war under the Constitution. And though that war
was one that had the fact that Washington was burned, as I’m sure all of you who live
here know, just about 200 years ago, August 14, the British arrived and set the torch
to the public buildings, the Capitol, the White House. You would think that would ruin
a president. Wouldn’t you? Well, it didn’t. Madison responded with cool courage, such
calming demeanor, that at the end of his presidency when the treaty ending the War of 1812 had
been signed and when Jackson had had that remarkable victory in New Orleans after the
treaty but a victory that showed the world how an American military power could be, at
the end of his presidency Madison was beloved. It’s almost hard for us these days to understand
that since presidents who serve eight years usually end up not beloved. You have to go
a while and rebuild your reputation. But Madison’s reputation was there from the beginning. His
countrymen loved him. I can’t conclude a presentation of Madison’s
many accomplishments without mentioning his friend, he called her, his beloved, he called
her, Dolley Madison. She was quite amazing. Madison was a bachelor for a very long time.
And one day he saw her name then was the Widow Todd. She had recently been widowed in the
yellow fever epidemic that nearly destroyed Philadelphia in 1793. She survived and one
of her babies survived though not her husband and the other child. But he saw the Widow
Todd walk down the streets of Philadelphia. And how did the British say it? He was God
smacked. He was smitten. She was beautiful. She was tall and shapely. She had dark hair,
a fair skin that her mother had taught her to protect from the sun, you know, blue eyes,
ruby red lips. She was the whole package. And Madison was not the first person to fall
in love with her, but he managed to arrange a meeting. And one of those funny little things
that happen in history, he arranged a meeting through a Princeton classmate of his, a fellow
named Aaron Burr. Burr knew the Widow Todd and he got her to agree to a meeting with
Madison. And Dolley appeared in a mulberry, satin dress, yellow glass beads. James was
convinced. So they were married a few months later.
I have always been a little bit of a skeptic about how much a political wife’s activities
matter. Just don’t get your husband in trouble is sort of my thinking on the subject. But
Dolley was definitely an asset. In 1800 when the Madisons came here, he to be Secretary
of State, Washington was a very unpleasant place. There were few houses and the Madisons
managed to snag one on F Street.But most members of Congress lived in boardinghouses that were
small and miserable. One Congressman said it was like living like bears and all we do
is talk politics from morning till night. But Dolley opened the doors to their F Street
house, invited everybody. She didn’t care if you were a Federalist or a Republican,
come over, have some good comfort food, enjoy yourself.
She saw herself, I think, as part of the entertainment. She had these fantastic outfits. One that
strikes me still is a pink velvet dress with a great white turbine with a peacock feather
out of it, lots of gold chains. People were enchanted by her. This helped James, there’s
no doubt about it. But this showed him at his best; you know, the host with his lovely
wife. There’s even a letter, maybe more than one, from members of Congress saying what
an asset she was in the presidential nominating process of 1808. The caucuses and the Congress
in those days chose the nominees. So when people thought of James Madison, they thought
of not only his vast intellect, his remarkable experience and his many achievements, they
thought of him with the enveloping warmth of that house that Dolley was hostess of.
So, he was lucky in marriage. He was fortunate to have lived in a time when his talents were
in demand. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if Bill Gates had been born
in 1900? You know, these remarkable talents weren’t in demand. And here’s Madison with
this insight, this experience in the art of politics and governance. He lived at exactly
the right time, a time that must have been thrilling for him.
He also, another of his attributes, is that he worked harder than anyone I have ever read
or written about. Getting to the Constitutional Convention early was part of it but he was
always reading, always thinking, looking ahead. I guess the conclusion to this would be as
fortunate as he was to have lived when he did and to have accomplished as much as he
did, we are the ones most fortunate. The framework he established for this great country.
So thank you very much. I would be happy
to take questions. [Applause]
There are microphones. I was supposed to remind you
of that.
Yes, sir?>>Madison and slavery.
>>Lynne Cheney: I think he regarded it as his greatest personal failing. He and Jefferson
was both eloquent about the immorality of slavery. They knew it was wrong. Jefferson
was also eloquent about the danger posed to the Union. He called the Missouri Compromise
a fire barrel in the night, you know, the conflagration is coming. But they couldn’t
figure out how to get out of it. It doesn’t seem like a worthy excuse. But
you go through Madison�and it’s not. It’s not. Because slavery is so wrong. But by the
time Madison was growing old and thinking about how his estate should be disposed, it
was almost impossible to free a slave. Virginia had made laws that a freed slave had to be
removed. Surrounding states had made law that freed slaves couldn’t come there. For a while,
freed slaves in Virginia could go to Illinois but then later on not.
Madison became part of an organization called the American Colonization Society. The idea
of which was that freed slaves could be transported to Africa, to Liberia. Well, it was not sensible.
It wasn’t reasonable. Madison was so smart, he had to know it. There were so many slaves
who regarded Virginia as home, for example. The families at Montpelier went back as far
as Madison’s family in Virginia. Slaves freed didn’t want to go to Liberia. It cost a lot.
The American Colonizations decided they could not raise enough money to send every slave,
should they be freed, to Africa. I look on his clinging to this as a kind of
desperation. He couldn’t figure out, couldn’t figure out, how to get out of it. This was
the only thing he found. He knew it didn’t make sense. But I think he died knowing that
this was a place where he had failed. He said early in his life that he wanted to
find a way to live without [Inaudible] and he never did and Jefferson never did and Washington
didn’t. Monroe didn’t either. The Virginia presidents it was a great failing.
I’m sorry. I’m pointed this way. Would you like to ask?
>>I’m a college student. And ever since I was very, very young I’ve always been very
interested in history. I’ve always been very interested in history. As a matter of fact,
when I was 9 years old, I read David McCullough’s biography of Adams cover to cover. What do
you think is especially important today for young people to know about the early years
of our country’s history?>>Lynne Cheney: Thank you for being a student
of history. You’re such a baby. I think how old I was when I read it. I’m glad you did
it at 9 years old. Keep going. It’s one of my great worries that we don’t
teach history to our children in a way that they listen and that we’re increasingly not
doing it at all. The emphasis on the common core curriculum, for example, is on reading
critically. And that’s great, and the curriculum promises that there will be some of the founding
documents that the students will learn to read critically, but I have to say the Constitution
doesn’t mean as much as it should to a child, to an ordinary person, unless you have the
context. Unless someone’s teaching of how it’s a declaration, for example, the men who
put their name to the document were risking their lives. They knew they could be hanged
if this didn’t work out. And the odds were it wasn’t going to work out. So there was
bravery there. The genius of Madison, the hard work of Madison, the persistence of the
framers, all of those things I think we need to teach our children in addition to how to
read these documents critically. And I don’t think we’re doing a very good
job of it. So it’s been kind of a hobby horse of mine for a long time. I wrote children’s
books in part to give parents a way to teach history to their children. And I hope that
by writing the Madison biography I’m able to put a little context around the magnificent
documents that are displayed here in the Archives. Thanks for your question.
>>Legal scholars have always been bothered that there isn’t enough written about the
deliberations on either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, and Madison
took notes. Obviously he wasn’t supposed to, was this a legal thing that he violated? Was
it just some oral agreement that we’re not going to do notes? How much trouble could
he have gotten into for doing his notes?>>Lynne Cheney: Washington had made it pretty
clear that these proceedings were secret. One day somebody dropped a paper in the Constitutional
Convention and Washington picked it up and sort of looked over at the delegates and everyone
shuttered because Washington had that much authority in a glance. But Washington knew
what Madison was doing. Madison sat right up at the front next to Washington to do it.There
was also a secretary there, but basically he just said, you know, at 9:00 they met and
at 4:00 they adjourned; that kind of thing. But there was an agreement that the notes
wouldn’t be made public until after the people at the convention died. Madison was the last
to die. So upon his death there was nothing. I think it would have been a matter of honor
before to not reveal them. Yes?
>>So early on you mentioned the ranking of the presidents where Madison was ranked behind
Grover Cleveland. So looking at it from a country standpoint, what are the mistakes
Madison made as president? What are the opportunities missed that might have caused his ranking
to go lower? Not just singing his praises.>>Lynne Cheney: You know, I don’t think that
those things exist. Not that he didn’t make mistakes. Of course he made mistakes. But
when you think of his contributions, I would put Madison maybe right behind George Washington.
It’s hard to conceive of anyone but Washington, you know, being number one. I can’t think
of great mistakes. He was a wonderful president. He was committed to freedom of speech. He
fought the Alien and Sedition Acts. The ultimate failing was slavery. That’s how I think of
Madison. He judged some people wrongly. I guess that’s a failing. He put his faith in
people who didn’t always live up to what he had expected. But I think that happens to
every president. He had a little trouble with his cabinet, but that happens.
[Laughter] At one point in the book I noted that his
response to fighting, internal infighting in his cabinet, was to try to ignore it and
rise above it, which is a tactic that many presidents have tried and a few have succeeded
with. I don’t have a very good answer for your question,
but thanks for asking.>>How would you explain what seems to me
to be a continuing fact that Thomas Jefferson outshines in the national mind of the accomplishments
of Madison? It seems to me that Madison far outshines Jefferson’s accomplishments in the
final analysis. What do you think?>>Lynne Cheney: I think so ,too. But I think
you can’t deny the advantage to being tall. [Laughter]
It’s true now as it was then. I do remember in the 1976 debate that the Carter forces
thought it was such a disadvantage for him to be shorter than Ford that they actually
convinced Gerald Ford to stand in a hole. He shouldn’t have gone along with that.
There’s also something we like�we like to read about characters who have pretty big
flaws. You know, those are the pretty interesting characters, the ones that are enormously flawed.
They have good gossip behind them. As the archivist mentioned, I was an English
major for years and years and years. And one of the great questions that English majors
always ask has to do with Milton’s Paradise Lost, is, why is the devil more interesting
than God? You know, it’s the same thing. It is more interesting. Because the devil is
always plotting, just kind of arouses your curiosity. So maybe that’s part of it.
Jefferson,as we know�as I learned so much about, he was so soaring in his thought and
inspiring, but sometimes it just didn’t make sense. And he was lucky to have Madison as
a friend because Madison brought him back to earth. They had this one debate in which
Jefferson declared that we needed to totally change the government, totally renew the government
every 19 years. And the reason for that was that he calculated that that was the age of
a generation, 19 years, and that nobody should have to live with the laws of the dead; that
the earth belonged to the living. So this was his plan. He laid it out at great length
in a letter. And Madison wrote back and with as much tact as you could possibly imagine,
as politely as you can think, he pointed out that, well, if you calculate a generation
at 19 years, that’s fine, but they didn’t all drop dead at once.
[Laughter] And there were new ones coming along, older
ones dying. So the scheme just wasn’t very workable.
I don’t know. Maybe Jefferson’s flaws make him more interesting, but I do think the height
is really important. [Laughter]
Yes?>>There is the Madison of the Constitutional
Convention, the Madison of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and Madison in his final
years with the controversy with Calhoun about what was original intent. Do you see in the
absolute consistency or did Madison respond to the crises of the day with new thoughts
and changed opinions?>>Lynne Cheney: You know, it’s a little of
both. The Madison of the Constitution was worried about the state. He looked at Virginia
and saw religious freedom being suppressed; you know, Baptists were beaten and jailed.
He looked at Rhode Island and saw this cockamamie financial system where the legislature would
print money when it needed it. And, of course, that led to inflation. And shopkeepers wouldn’t
take the money. So the legislature passed the law forcing them to. The states were conducting
their own foreign policies. They were trying to attack neighboring states. At the Constitutional
Convention Madison’s main concern was a central government strong enough so that the states
didn’t pull the Union apart. Then he met Alexander Hamilton. At first they
worked well together writing “The Federalist Papers” together. But then when Hamilton became
Secretary of Treasury, it was quite clear that his understanding of the Constitution
was very different from Madison’s; that Hamilton saw the Constitution as a document for the
federal government to undertake whatever was in the general welfare, which meant anything.
Madison understood that as rhetoric left over from the Articles of the Confederation. No,
in Madison’s view, this was the government that had very clearly specified powers and
not very many of them. So, in the beginning the dangers Madison thought
was with the states and you needed a strong central government. But then the danger became
too strong a central government. So you can say Madison changed his mind when the situation
changed radically, I think it would be [Inaudible] not to. So he became an advocate of a central
government staying in its place, the states having more power than he had originally contemplated.
Now, what else? Oh, the resolutions. Well, the idea that the central government shouldn’t
become too powerful was reinforced more and more for him during the Adams Administration.
When there was a law passed about anyone who offered rigorous criticism of the government
was guilty and could be thrown in jail, many congressmen or several congressmen were thrown
in jail, newspaper editors were thrown in jail. Madison at that point wrote the Virginia
Resolutions in which he said that when the government does something that’s unconstitutional,
the states have the right�his word was interpose. Now, Jefferson went further and said nullify.
And Madison spent much of his life trying to walk back that phrase of Jefferson’s. Because
Madison didn’t think that a state could nullify, but he did think that they could make a fuss,
interpose, try to change public opinion. I see that as a continuation of his idea that
while you don’t want the states to be too powerful, but the real threat he saw in his
more mature years was a federal government that could be oppressive.
>>First of all, thank you very much for the talk. I appreciate it and look forward to
having you sign my copy of your book.>>Lynne Cheney: Good. Buy many for Christmas.
[Laughter]>>My question is about the Bill of Rights.
It might be a bit simplistic. When you go up to the Rotunda and look at it, it appears
there are 12. Am I seeing things incorrectly? Is there an explanation?
>>Lynne Cheney: In the beginning there were 17. Madison, the primary author of the Bill
of Rights, had 17, including one�remember, this is the time when he still worried about
the states; including one which gave the Congress the right to nullify state law.
The House passed, sent to the Senate, they paired them down to 12. The First Amendment
was the First Amendment that we think of. First one�I see Jackie behind you. The first
one had to do with representation of Congress, that the Congress ought to be able to change
the ratio of representation so that the body wouldn’t get out of hand. As the population
grew, you needed to change the ratio to keep the size of the body down. And the second
one had to do with Congress not being able to pass a pay raise for it without ensuing
election, without an election coming between. Those two didn’t make it through. The others
did. First became the First Amendment. And finally, the one about pay raises did become
law. Tell me when, Jackie.
>>I’m sorry; I don’t remember.>>1992.
>>Lynne Cheney: Thank you very much. So all of those years later that amendment was finally
ratified, the states. So that’s the answer. That’s a good, clear-cut answer.
>>You put me on the spot there for a second. Sorry I didn’t remember the year.
First of all, congratulations on this work. It is viewed now as kind of the most heralded
work on Madison’s life. So congratulations to you. That kind of leads to my question
because I know how much hard work goes into creating the work and researching it. So I
wondered if you could give us a better sense of just how long the process took to do the
research versus how long it is to actually do the writing. And then I’d love to know
actually which one you enjoy more. [Laughter]
>>Lynne Cheney: Well, Jacqueline is an expert� there’s expertise behind this question because
I bothered her for five years. Some documents I just couldn’t get out of the Archives on
my own. So much of it is available online, but Jacqueline knew the right keys to press.
So I’m so grateful for your help. I mentioned I was an English major, so I spent
a long part of my life telling freshmen how to write essays and term papers. Here were
the rules. You get some note cards. You go to the library, and you start taking notes
on your cards. You don’t put any more than one idea on a card or you’ll get confused.
Then you get all of your cards together and make an outline. And then you write.
Well, that isn’t the truth. I don’t know. Maybe somebody can write that way. I thought
I was doing them a favor. The process I find is you read and read and read and read. And
you kind of get a broad, general idea of what you’re doing. And then you sit down to write.
You probably� I don’t take notes very much. I print things out on my printer when I come
across them online or I make copies when they’re not online. But you sit down to write. And
by the time you have gotten to about the third sentence you’ll figure out something you don’t
know. In the Madison book, well, what was the weather
like when he arrived in Philadelphia on May�5, 1787? What did the town look like? He’s made
it from the stagecoach stop to the boardinghouse he stayed in?
You understand then how really interesting these questions are. It happened to be raining.
There was a thunderstorm. He would have walked through the market on Market Street, which
was very busy in the middle of the day. By the time he walked through, business was winding
down; besides it was raining. So you then look for those things.
I will tell you that I like the research more than the writing. Somebody I know or I’ve
read about said that, you know, every word on the paper was kind of written in blood
because it’s so hard to get to the right place. It’s revising and revising and revising and
revising; whereas the research is more like a mystery. You have a question, and it is
so exciting when you find the answer. Thank you for your help. And thanks to the
Archives for being this vast treasure house for the American people, for people of the
world.>>Thank you for answering the question. And
even though, perhaps, the research might seem more exciting than the writing, the fact that
whether you read that book, you are in the scene, really experiencing what it was like,
is really extraordinary.>>Lynne Cheney: Thank you. I think to some
people that comes naturally to. I have to work really hard to get there.
>>I have a followup question on your research, which, again, thank you so much. It’s so extensive.
I feel like if I’m� my daughter, who’s 12, if she were doing a report on Madison, I have
a great place to send her. I did take her to Montpelier this summer, you have to know,
and she enjoyed it.>>Lynne Cheney: Good.
>>I was curious why your source for Thomas Jefferson in his relationship with the Hemings
family was a book by Gordon Reed which appears to be more of a novel than nonfiction.
>>Lynne Cheney: You know, there was great scholarly outcry when the idea that Jefferson
had had a relationship with Sally Hemings was claimed. I think I was probably among
the outraged. How could you say this about a national treasure? Now I believe it. And
I think it is documented in many ways. One, in Sally’s descendants, but secondly, just
in the human story. Jefferson had lost a wife that he loved beyond measure. He apparently
promised her he would never marry again. And he didn’t marry again. And I think Sally Hemings,
you know, from all appearances, she was not a victim in the relationship though I suppose
when there’s a difference in status that’s always a problem.
The story I think has convinced most scholars� I know there’s still people writing the opposite.
I do tell a story in my book about Sally who, like most southern women, was no doubt taught
to ignore master/slave relationship. If you read Mary Chestnut’s diary of Civil War, you
realize how common these relationships were between masters and slave women. But slave
women were taught to look the other way. There’s one point where I think Dolley might
have gotten tired of that. She went to visit Jefferson. Sally was, depending on how you
tell the story, Sally was pregnant. And Mrs.Madison offered her�said I’ll give you a gift if
you’ll name the baby after my husband. Now, I don’t know, maybe I’m looking at this too
closely. But all of Sally’s children were named after people important to Jefferson.
And so I think Dolley was saying, hey, maybe time you named one after his best friend.
Well, at the same time she was revealing her knowledge of the situation. She wasn’t quite
looking the other way. So I’m among the convinced, but I know there are some who aren’t.
Yes?>>What was the problem with Patrick Henry?
That there was apparently a falling out between them.
>>Lynne Cheney: Well, Patrick Henry didn’t like the Constitution. In a famous phrase,
he said, it squints of monarchy. It squints at monarchy. He thought it made too strong
a central government and he didn’t want any part of it. He was a rigorous and feared opponent.
I don’t think there ever was really a reconciliation between the pro Constitutionalists like Madison
and Henry. But his story is a remarkable one. What an orator. What a gift of pros he brought
to the nation. So it was basically about the Constitution.
>>Thank you.>>Lynne Cheney: Well, I think I’ve satisfied
everyone’s questions. What’s my next job here?>>To sign the books.
>>Lynne Cheney: Right here?>>At the bookstore.
>>Lynne Cheney: Ok. I’d be happy to sign any books. If you have three or four, I don’t
mind. [Laughter]
[Applause] [The presentation ended at 12:50 p.m.] 1

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