chapter  9
13 Pages

Washington Divided

Dolley’s Work for Unity Under Fire
WithAllgor Catherine

Dolley Madison's most famous day—August 24, 1814, the day of the invasion of Washington—presents in microcosm all of her work for unity. Dolley's social strategies had always worked. Her first drawing room in those dark days enjoyed a record attendance, and her popularity, and consequently that of the Madison administration, soared. With the city established, and the example of her success, more families followed in Dolley's wake. In her private letters to family and friends, Dolley confessed to being overwhelmed by "company". In 1816, she reported, "one hundred young ladies in the city—not 10 of them belong to the place". The fruits of Dolley's quest for unity manifested itself during this time. The existing historical record does not show conversations directly addressing the issue that Dolley might have had, though no doubt they took place. Still, the cumulative effect of her work spoke for her.