Letter from Sarah Stewart to Dolley Payne Todd Madison (July 5, 1844)

Log cabin with stone chimney, resdience of former enslaved George Gilmoew

In this letter, dated July 5, 1884, Sarah Stewart, an enslaved domestic at Montpelier, writes to her enslaver, Dolley Madison, reporting that the Orange County sheriff had seized many of the people enslaved by the Madisons to pay their debts. Stewart implores Madison to ask her neighbors to purchase those enslaved people who had been seized to prevent their being permanently separated from their families by slave traders taking part in the domestic slave trade. Ultimately, the enslaved community at Montpelier was largely broken up because of Madison’s financial difficulty.


Orange July 5th 1844

My Misstress

I don’t like to send you bad news but the condition of all of us your servants is very bad, and we do not know whether you are acquainted with it. The sheriff has taken all of us and says he will sell us at next court unless something is done before to prevent it. We are afraid we shall be bought by what are called negro buyers and sent away from our husbands and wives. If we are obliged to be sold perhaps you could get neighbours to buy us that have husbands and wives, so as to save us some misery which will in a greater or less degree be sure to fall upon us at being seperated from you as well as from one & another. We are very sure you are sorry for this state of things and we do not like to trouble you with it but think my dear misstress what our sorrow must be. The sale is only a fortnight from next monday but perhaps you could make some bargain with some body by which we could be kept together. I get a young lady to write in my name but it is intended for us all. The husband of Caty is with you what is to be done with her and her children. Your dutiful servant



Mrs Dolley P Madison
Washington City

APA Citation:
Stewart, Sarah. Letter from Sarah Stewart to Dolley Payne Todd Madison (July 5, 1844). (2022, April 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Stewart, Sarah. "Letter from Sarah Stewart to Dolley Payne Todd Madison (July 5, 1844)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (26 Apr. 2022). Web. 19 Jun. 2024
Last updated: 2022, April 26
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