The Last of the Founding Fathers

28/06/12 9:39 PM

I couldn’t let today go by without remembering James Madison. One hundred and seventy-four years ago, the last of the Founding Fathers passed away at the age of 84 years old. Days before he passed, friends had been encouraging him to take some stimulants to help him live until the 4th of July and the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. If he had died to the 4th, he would have had the same date of death as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. At his death, he was the last of the Founding Fathers.

Paul Jennings, a personal manservant and slave of James Madison, was with Mr. Madison at his death. Below is the account of his last moments:

“I  was always with Mr. Madison till he died, and shaved him every other day for  sixteen years. For six months before his death, he was unable to walk, and  spent most of his time reclined on a couch; but his mind was bright, and with  his numerous visitors he talked with as much animation and strength of voice as  I ever heard him in his best days. I was present when he died. That morning  Sukey brought him his breakfast, as usual. He could not swallow. His niece,  Mrs. Willis, said, “What is the matter, uncle Jeames?” “Nothing more than a  change of mind, my dear.” His head instantly dropped, and he ceased breathing  as quietly as the snuff of a candle goes out. He was eighty-four years old, and  was followed to his grave by an immense precession of white and colored people.”

—From “A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison” by Paul Jennings

Here is an interesting side note: The niece that last spoke to Mr. Madison was Nellie Madison Willis. If you read our post about the Family Feud between Francis Fitzhugh Conway and William Thornton, you will recognize Nellie’s name as the object of both gentleman’s affection.

Below is the obituary from the Journal of Commerce:

“Conscience is the most sacred of all property.”    James Madison

Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Year of the Virginia Historic Homes | 35 Comments »

35 Comments on “The Last of the Founding Fathers”

  1. belocchio Says:

    I am so enjoying the history and stories of James Madison.

  2. I do too. He is so under rated at times!

  3. Reblogged this on katherinehpurdy and commented:
    More Virginia History from the Belle Grove Plantation. Can you imagine staying in such a beautiful and historic B&B?

  4. Thank you for sharing us again with your readers! It does mean so much to us! Please don’t forget to check out our other site (Indiegogo) and see the video of the house. You can see our osprey flying over the house!

  5. Your B&B has some much history to it. I am so looking forward to spending some time there on more than one occasion!

  6. Thank you! We love the history that it has and look forward to finding out more as we start working around the house and plantation. Please don’t forget to stop by our other site (Indiegogo) and check out our video of the house! You can see “Dolley” flying over! Also if you have chance, please consider leaving us a comment. It helps us build points to put us on the feature page and will help us raise the funds badly needed to restore the outbuildings. Thank you so much!!

  7. I did enjoy the video and will be giving a donation this weekend! Getting ready to re-post your original donation invite! 🙂

  8. Thank you!! It is very much appreciated!

  9. By the way, if you have not seen my post about Community Blog Day (, please review it. If you are going to have a gift shop/donations/charity for the B&B, please feel free to add your link to to the directory with the appropriate category.

  10. Great Idea! I have left our information and shared it with our Facebook! Thank you!!

  11. Yes, I am placing it in the directory today!

  12. Such beautiful expression in the servant’s writing, and again in the obituary. What a treasure you are giving to us. I needed this after the controversies to today in the news.

  13. Thank you! Paul Jennings was with Mr. Madison for many years. So you know he had a love for him that went beyond the servant and master relationship. I thought it would be important to remember him today. Controversies or not, he was still a great man and we are honored that we are able to be where he drew his first breath.

  14. Reblogged this on The Busy Post and commented:
    Sadly ironic!

    On the anniversary of the death of James Madison, “Father of the Constitution” & last surviving Founding Father, SCOTUS comes out with a decision like they did today!

  15. I thought of that when I was writing it. I wonder what James would says 😉

  16. He would say that his Constitution is no longer the document that limits the Governments involvement in the citizenry’s lives.

    Then, hopefully, he’d go ‘teach’ Roberts a thing or two-and nnot just about The Constitution.

  17. Well he is the last president to serve as a true Commander in Chief. He was the last sitting President to take soldiers into battle. I don’t think he would back down from a fight. 🙂

  18. Who is the closest to that today?

    Allen West?

  19. 🙂

  20. Another great post. Thanks

  21. Thank you! I felt he needed to be remembered. He is always over looked.

  22. Interesting fact about the previous Presidents dying on 4th July.

  23. Wasn’t it? I mean can you image that if he had passed on the 4th, four of the five Founding Fathers would have dead on the day of their great accomplishment!

  24. Victoria Says:

    Great story…thank you for sharing that account of one of our forefathers! Awesome!

  25. Thank you. We have really enjoyed sharing our research. We look forward to being about to share more soon! We hope you will consider making a small donation to our campaign as we work to save our beloved outbuildings. Who knows, James Madison could have walked here.

  26. Well done! Thanks so much for continuing to share lessons from our history.

  27. We have enjoyed finding that history and are even more excited to share it with you! We hope you will consider helping save that history by making a small donation to our campaign! We really want to save these outbuildings. Who knows, James Madison could have walked here!!

  28. All those founding fathers died on the 4th of July!? Whoa! Fun fact!

  29. It’s that amazing! We have enjoyed finding and sharing this history with you all! We hope you will consider making a small donation to our campaign as we work to save our beloved outbuildings. Who knows, James Madison could have walked here.

  30. Great post! We “pinned” it on our Founding Fathers Pinterest board. 🙂

  31. Thank you! We really appreciating you sharing this with your readers! We could use all the help we can get!!

  32. I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award.

  33. Thank you! We really appreciate that! : )

  34. baconbiscuit212 Says:

    84! Wow. That’s pretty amazing even by today’s measure. Amazing, really.

  35. I agree. He was one tough old bird : )