Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Family Life

The mild-mannered James Madison had no children of his own, and his wife's son, John Payne Todd, age eighteen in 1808, spent as much time away from the Madison household at school as he did at home. The President enjoyed few leisure hobbies other than playing chess and devouring classical literature in the original Greek and Latin. He did take an occasional horseback ride, and he enjoyed walking in the woods observing nature. But principally, family life at the White House consisted of little private time with Dolley or John. Rather, James Madison, following the inclinations of his wife, socialized, partied, danced, and dined grandly in what appears to have been one continuous entertainment saga. By the end of Madison's second term, moreover, the young John Todd had proven himself to be a rather witless playboy, given to alcohol, low-class women, and free spending, much to the dismay of both the President and the First Lady.