Dolley Madison’s Son Payne Todd: The Final Blow

Presidential History Blog

dolley in 1840 The Venerable Mrs. Madison

Dolley Madison’s son, Payne Todd, had always been a disappointment.

Payne Todd in Brief

Dolley Madison (1768-1849) had been married to John Todd, a Quaker lawyer, for three years. Then he died, leaving her with a two-year-old son.

When she remarried, her new husband was the only father Payne Todd (1792-1852) knew. James Madison, more grandfather than father, was indulgent, supportive, helpful and affectionate. But like his wife, he was disinclined to administer the discipline that all children require from time to time. 

On the asset side, Payne grew up to be good looking like his mother, courteous and well mannered. His courtly bows were praised. His disposition was charming, again like his mother. He made friends easily.

But try as they did, neither James nor Dolley Madison seemed to make academics, hard work or profitable employment part of Payne’s agenda.

By the time he…

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2 thoughts on “Dolley Madison’s Son Payne Todd: The Final Blow

  1. Fascinating! I remember an American History professor in graduate school giving a talk on the children of the Founding Fathers, and how they were (with the exception of John Quincy Adams) monumental screw-ups. A sad end for sweet Dolley Madison and her only son.


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