What about those sold? Nothing. Nada. Zip! No names, ages, genders, family members, notes or objects sent along or left behind. In such cases, we have come to expect little more. I should clarify that we do have one name, mentioned in a letter from Taylor to Madison in January of 1835. Apparently, one of those sold was a woman named Betty who supposedly became ill a month or two after her arrival in Louisiana.
Despite the non-existence of the evidentiary material listed above, the reality of the sale is not in question.
Was Martineau writing about the 16 and did she misremember information that Madison shared? Perhaps she did not hear him correctly as it has been reported that she, too, was hard of hearing. Or could it be that there was a subsequent sale of another dozen in early February?
That is where the gathering ends and the analysis begins, if the goal is to be something more than collecting data.
Earlier, I stated that the sale, at least the one sale to William Taylor, is not in question. There is ample correspondence between primary and very credible participants—James Madison, William Taylor, Dolley Madison, to name a few—that substantiates the occurrence of the sale of an undetermined number of Madison’s enslaved to William Taylor who relocated them to Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana.
If the exercise of collecting and archiving facts and figures is not the goal, then what is the purpose of pursuing this story?
Please do not misunderstand my message: facts and figures are vital to any research project and this one is no exception. However, without analysis, hypothesis and the endeavor to prove or disprove theories, the existence or lack of raw data leaves one standing forlornly outside the garden gate of humanity.
With all due respect, a multitude of scholars have produced voluminous works from the study and analysis of every scintilla of Madison’s life. The studies are valuable, justified and educational.
Fortunately, this philosophy is shared by the likes of the Montpelier Foundation, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and other historically iconic institutions. Their light helps to illuminate the path forward!
Read the story of Sally Heming’s living quarters.
Until next week, be well.