Front Page Titles (by Subject) MADISON'S WILL. 1 - The Writings, vol. 9 (1819-1836)
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MADISON’S WILL. 1 - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 9 (1819-1836) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 9.
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April 19, 1835.
I, James Madison, of Orange County, do make this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all wills by me heretofore made.
I devise to my dear wife during her life the tract of land whereon I live, as now held by me, except as herein otherwise devised, and if she shall pay the sum of nine thousand dollars . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . within three years . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . after my death, to be distributed as herein after directed, then I devise the same land to her in fee simple. If my wife shall not pay the said sum of money within the period before mentioned, then and in that case it is my will and I hereby direct that at her death the said land shall be sold for cash or on a credit, as may be deemed most for the interest of those entitled to the proceeds thereof. If my wife shall pay the said sum of money within the time before specified as aforesaid, so as to become entitled to the fee simple in the said land, then I bequeath the said sum of money to be equally divided among all my nephews and nieces, which shall at that time be living, and in case of any of them being dead, leaving issue at that time living, then such issue shall take the place of it’s or their deceased parent. It is my further will that in case my wife shall not pay the said sum of money within the time before named and it shall therefore be necessary to sell the said land at her death as before directed, then after deducting the twentieth part of the purchase money of the said land, which deducted part I hereby empower my wife to dispose of by her Will, I bequeath the residue of the purchase money and in case of her dying without having disposed of such deducted part by her Will, I bequeath the whole of the purchase money of the said land to my nephews and nieces or the issues of such of them as may be dead in the manner before directed in regard to the money to be paid by her in case she shall pay the same. I devise my grist mill, with the land attached thereto, to my wife during her life, and I hereby direct the same to be sold at her death and the purchase money to be divided as before directed in regard to the proceeds of the tract whereon I live. I devise to my niece, Nelly C. Willis and her heirs the lot of land lying in Orange County purchased of Boswell Thornton on which is a limestone quarry and also my interest in a tract of land lying in Louisa County, reputed to contain two hundred acres and not far from the said Limestone quarry. I devise my house and lot or lots in the city of Washington to my beloved wife and her heirs.
I give and bequeath my ownership in the negroes and people of colour held by me to my dear wife, but it is my desire that none of them should be sold without his or her consent or in case of their misbehaviour; except that infant children may be sold with their parent who consents for them to be sold with him or her, and who consents to be sold.
I give all my personal estate of every description, ornamental as well as useful, except as herein after otherwise given, to my dear wife; and I also give to her all my manuscript papers, having entire confidence in her discreet and proper use of them, but subject to the qualification in the succeeding clause.
Considering the peculiarity and magnitude of the occasion which produced the convention at Philadelphia in 1787, the Characters who composed it, the Constitution which resulted from their deliberation, it’s effects during a trial of so many years on the prosperity of the people living under it, and the interest it has inspired among the friends of free Government, it is not an unreasonable inference that a careful and extended report of the proceedings and discussions of that body, which were with closed doors, by a member who was constant in his attendance, will be particularly gratifying to the people of the United States, and to all who take an interest in the progress of political science and the cause of true liberty. It is my desire that the report as made by me should be published under her authority and direction, as the publication may yield a considerable amount beyond the necessary expenses thereof; I give the net proceeds thereof to my wife charged with the following legacies to be paid out of that fund only—first I give to Ralph Randolph Gurley, Secretary of the American Colonization society and to his executors and administrators, the sum of two thousand dollars, in trust nevertheless, that he shall appropriate the same to the use and purposes of the said society, whether the same be incorporated by law or not. I give fifteen hundred dollars to the University of Virginia, one thousand dollars to the College at Nassau Hall at Princeton, New Jersey, and one thousand dollars to the College at Uniontown, Pennsylvania and it is my will that if the said fund should not be sufficient to pay the whole of the three last legacies, that they abate in proportion.
I further direct that there be paid out of the same fund to the guardian of the three sons of my deceased nephew, Robert L. Madison, the sum of three thousand dollars, to be applied to their education in such proportions as their guardian may think right—I also give, out of the same fund to my nephew Ambrose Madison two thousand dollars to be applied by him to the education of his sons in such proportions as he may think right, and I also give out of the same fund the sum of five hundred dollars to each of the daughters of my deceased niece, Nelly Baldwin and if the said fund shall not be sufficient to pay the whole of the legacies for the education of my great nephews as aforesaid and the said legacies to my great nieces, then they are to abate in proportion.
I give to the University of Virginia all that portion of my Library of which it has not copies of the same editions, and which may be thought by the Board of Visitors not unworthy of a place in it’s Library, reserving to my wife the right first to select such particular books & pamphlets as she shall choose, not exceeding three hundred volumes.
In consideration of the particular and valuable aids received from my brother in law, John C. Payne and the affection which I bear him, I devise to him and his heirs two hundred and forty acres of land on which he lives, including the improvements, on some of which he has bestowed considerable expense to be laid off adjoining the lands of Reuben and James Newman in a convenient form for a farm so as to include woodland and by the said Mr Newmans. I bequeath to my step son, John Payne Todd the case of Medals presented me by my friend George W. Erving and the walking staff made from a timber of the frigate Constitution and presented me by Commodore Elliot, her present Commander.
I desire the gold mounted walking staff bequeathed to me by my late friend Thomas Jefferson be delivered to Thomas J. Randolph as well in testimony of the esteem I have for him as of the knowledge I have of the place he held in the affection of his grand-father. To remove every doubt of what is meant by the terms tract of land whereon I live, I here declare it to comprehend all land owned by me and not herein otherwise devised away. I hereby appoint my dear wife to be sole executrix of this my Will and desire that she may not be required to give security for the execution thereof and that my estate be not appraised. IN testimony hereof—I have this fifteenth day of April, one thousand eight hundred and thirty five—signed, sealed, published and declared this to be my last Will & Testament.
We have signed in presence of the testator and of each other,
James Madison. (Seal)
Reuben Newman Sr.
Reuben Newman Jr.
I, James Madison do annex this Codicil to my last will—as above & to be taken as part thereof. It is my will that the nine thousand dollars to be paid by my wife and distributed among my nephews & Nieces, may be paid into the Bank of Virginia, or into the Circuit Superior Court of Chancery for Orange, within three years after my death.
I direct that the proceeds from the sale of my Grist Mill & the land annexed sold at the death of my wife shall be paid to Ralph Randolph Gurly, secretary of the American Colonization society and to his executors & administrators, in trust and for the purposes of the said society, whether the same be incorporated by law or not.
This Codicil is written wholly by and signed by my own hand this nineteenth day of April 1835. James Madison.
At a monthly Court held for the county of Orange at the Courthouse on Monday the 25th of July, 1836, This last Will and testament of James Madison deceased, with the codicil thereto being offered for probate by Dolly P. Madison, the will was duly proved by the oaths of Robert Taylor, Reuben Newman Sr., and Sims Brockman, attesting witnesses thereto and there being no subscribing witnesses to the codicil, Robert Taylor William Madison and Reynolds Chapman were sworn severally and deposed that they were well acquainted with the hand writing of the said James Madison, deceased, and verily believed that the said codicil and the name of the said James Madison thereto affixed were wholly written by the testator, whereupon the said Will with the Codicil thereto was established as the last Will and Testament of the said James Madison, deceased, and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of Dolly P. Madison the executrix named in the will, who made oath according to law and entered into bond without security, (the will directing that none should be required) in the penalty of one hundred thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs—Certificate was granted her for obtaining a probate thereof in due form.
C. W. Woolfolk, Clerk
Orange Circuit Court, Va.
[1 ]Orange C. H. Records.