American Presidents CHAT

Chat Transcript from April 9th 1999

C-SPANModerator Welcome to the chat room with Gerard Gawalt. Mr. Gawalt is an American History Specialist in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress.

C-SPANModerator Mr. Gawalt works with Presidential Papers. Tell us why the Madison Papers are at the Library of Congress?

GerardGawalt The government purchased the Madison Papers in 1849 and first deposited them in the State Department. In l903 all non essential documents were transferred from the state department to the Library of Congress. The government actually paid for the Madison Papers twice, when Mrs. Madison's son squandered the first purchase amount of $25,000. The government then put the second payment in trust for Dolley Madison.

craig What was Madison's opinion regarding including the Bill of Rights as part of the Constitution?

GerardGawalt Madison thought that a Bill of Rights was really not necessary in a constitutional sense-in fact might be limiting- but he realized the political necessity of adding a list of amendments.

archer Was Madison responsible for writing the final draft of the Preamble of the constitution? I think it is a beautiful piece of writing.

GerardGawalt Gouverneur Morris of New York is largely credited withe the style of the constitution, and in fact he wrote the final version.

craig During his presidency, did Madison have much interaction with Andrew Jackson, and if so, what was their relation like?

GerardGawalt During Madison's presidency Jackson was one of several army commanders. His great success came at the end of the war in New Orleans. His previous invasion of Cherokee Country often exceeding his orders almost got him fired from his command. Tennessee Governor Blount acted as Jackson's protector during this phase of his career. Jackson was not Madison's type of person.

joan How active was Dolley in the political life of James Madison when he was president?

GerardGawalt Dolley acted as hostess of the White House or President's House. She was regarded as gracious and an asset to th career of Madison. She made her single greatest contribution during the British attack on Washington when she was left with the resonsiblity for evacuating the President's House and the official papers etc. which he did with great courage and efficiency which was lacking in other attempts to evacuate official papers from the Capitol.

archer What was Madison's role in developing the policy in the Tripolitan war and the Barbary pirates?

GerardGawalt Madison was Secretary of State during the Jefferson administration and as such essentially both offered advice and executed Jefferson's orders. The decisions to fight the Barbarry pirates rather than pay, was made largely because the North Africans wanted more than the US could afford. Madison also entertained several visiting ambassadors from the Morrocan states.

joan Was Dolley Madison really known for making cakes and ice cream? or was the use of her name an early/clever marketing strategy?

GerardGawalt Dolley Madison was responsible for the cooking at the President's House, but her slaves probably did the actual cooking and food preparation. Ice cream was a favorite food for entertaining then as it is now.

phisy relationship between George and Dewitt Clinton?

GerardGawalt Madison was a political rival of the Clinton's. George was one of his vice presidents but the rivalry between Virginia and New York factions of the Republican party remained strong. In fact DeWitt Clinton unsuccessully ran against James Monroe. Madison and the Clintons would be like the Rockefellers and Goldwater in the 1960's republican party. If you want to know the personal relations of George and DeWitt-George Was DeWitt's uncle.

Ahmed How did James Madison pass away? Did he have a particular illness later in life?

GerardGawalt Madison died of simple old age. There was no specific cause of death that I know of such as Washington's strep throat or Monroe's tuberculosis.

archer They said on the program that some people close to Madison called him Jimmy. Was it common to use nicknames at that time?

GerardGawalt Madison was often called Jimmy because his father James remained alive well into James Madison's adult life. Nicknames were often meant to be degrading rather than complimentary. Jimmy was in this case a reminder that he was James Junior.

Ahmed Why is the Bill of Rights separate from the constitution? I think it should be one thing.

GerardGawalt The Bill of Rights is part of the constitution. Amendments were added to the constitution rather than attempting to rewrite the altered sentences or words of the constitution. The concept was not just Madsiln's idea, and in fact Roger Sherman of Connecticut was often credited with the suggestion in the Senate that the amendment she a dd ed rather than inserted because it was simply easier.

J. Taylor Are there any notable impersonators of Madison at Montpelier

GerardGawalt Not that I know of. Are you a candidate. You need to be about 5 feet three inches tall, very thin, with a weak voice, but be incredibly well versed in Greek and Latin.

presidentsfan I've seen two different spellings of Mrs. Madison's name, Dolly (on the plaque outside her home in Lafayette Square) and Dolley on this web page. Which is correct?

GerardGawalt Her biographers refer to her as Dolley which is a nickname for Dorothea.

Bioman I notice that Madison and Aaron Burr died in the same year, 1836. Is there a connection?

GerardGawalt Although Burr was responsible for the death of Madison's opponent Hamilton, there is no connection other than coincidence that Madison and Burr died in the same year.

joan On the program they showed some pictures of Dolley Madison. Was she considered, by the standards of the day, to be attractive?

GerardGawalt Dolley was considered beautiful when she was younger and gracious and stately when she was older. In her younger years she had reddish hair and a thin figure which later became more statuesque.

craig Did Madison suffer any political damage in opposing the Alien and Sedition Acts?

GerardGawalt Madison and Jefferson did not openly write the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions which opposed the Alien and Sedetion Acts. However opposition to them was one of the major points of Jefferson's election campaign. Fortunately for Jefferson the bills were timed to end on the same day as his inauguration. So he did not have to get them repealed. Some Federalists were prosecuted under the state libel laws.

phisy Why was the war of 1812 labeled Mr. Madison's war?

GerardGawalt Madison was president and the time and was a vocal proponent of the war and of course it's major supporter. His opponent's labeled the war Mr. Madison's war.

presidentsfan Was Madison hurt politically for the war of 1812 and the loss of the capital?

GerardGawalt Madison was in his second term by the time that Washington was burned. Fortunately, for Madison the war ended on a highnote at New Orleans so he escaped much of the blame that was being heaped on him in 1814. His opponents the Federalists at times refused to allow their states to support the war.

C-SPANModerator Gerard, you wrote earlier about the Madison Papers at the Library of Congress. Is there any current research being done with the Madison Papers that you would like to discuss?

GerardGawalt I personally have been studying Madison's farming activities and his use of slave, indentured, and free labor.

C-SPANModerator Are the Madison papers available on the internet?

GerardGawalt No they are not on the internet, but the Washington Papers are and the Jefferson Papers (first installment) will be on April 13.

Ahmed Did James Madison fight or was he involved in any way in the revolutionary war?

GerardGawalt Madison was a colonel in the militia, but he saw no action. Monroe was the only president who fought in the war to be wounded. Madison was at least not accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy as was Jefferson by his opponents.

C-SPANModerator Thank you for joining our chatroom with Gerard Gawalt and for visiting You can e-mail follow-up questions to Mr. Gawalt at

Created by America's Cable Companies.