chapter  1
11 Pages

A Triumphal Finish

The Madisons Leave Washington
WithAllgor Catherine

April 6, 1817, was a bright spring day in Washington City, the nation's capital. Down on the Potomac River, newly ex-president James Madison and his wife and political partner, Dolley Payne Todd Madison, boarded a steamboat. Both James and Dolley Madison were celebrated in print, with gifts, and at "balls public and private". During the Madisons' tenure, Washington had acquired new status and importance to Americans across the country. James Madison was a believer in the importance of what he called "veneration" in cementing bonds of affection and unity among citizens of the new United States. For the Americans who toasted and saluted him in 1817, James Madison's legacy was precisely that he had not been powerful and active but had held the country together during a dangerous time. His "weakness" ensured that the nation would emerge from wartime with all constitutional protections intact. Americans of James's time also recognized that his political style was consistent with his personal character.