James Madison

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Watercolor on ivory. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Madison at age 32.

by Charles Willson Peale (1741—1827)

Oil on canvas; framed: 36 1/8 × 31 3/4 × 3 5/8 in. (91.8 × 80.6 × 9.2 cm). Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK.

by James Sharples (c. 1751—1811)

Pastel on paper. Independence National Historical Park, Portrait Collection (Second Bank of the United States), Philadelphia, PA.

by Gilbert Stuart (1755—1828)

Oil on canvas; 29.5 in. x 24.63 in. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

by Gilbert Stuart (1755—1828)

Oil on canvas; height: height: 123.19 cm (48.5 in), width: 100.97 cm (39.75 in). Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME.

by Gilbert Stuart (1755—1828)

Oil on wood; 65.3 x 54.3 cm (25 11/16 x 21 3/8 in.) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

by John Vanderlyn (1775—1852)

Oil on canvas. The White House Collection, Washington, DC.

by Chester Harding (1792—1866)

Oil on canvas. On display at Montpelier, Orange, VA; courtesy of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA.

by Asher Brown Durand (1796—1886)

Oil on canvas; 24 1/4 x 20 1/4 in. ( 61.6 x 51.4 cm). New-York Historical Society, New York, NY.

by Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton (c. 1775—1865)

Watercolor on wove paper. The Montpelier Foundation, Orange, VA.

Jefferson was in most respects a typical slaveholder. Although he always condemned slavery, he did own one of the largest slave populations in Virginia. Upon the division of his father-in-law’s estate in 1774 he became, in fact, the second-largest slaveholder in Albemarle County. Thereafter the number of his slaves remained around two hundred — with increases through births offset by periodic sales to pay off debts. Jefferson was known to be a good master, reluctant to break up families or to sell slaves except for delinquency or at their own request. Nevertheless, between 1784 and 1794 he disposed of 161 people by sale or gift. It is true that Jefferson was averse to separating young children from their parents; but once slave boys or girls reached the age of ten or twelve and their working lives began, they were no longer children in Jefferson’s mind.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)