The Library of America’s blog, Reader’s Almanac, features a guest post by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, author of A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons. Jennings had this to say in his 1865 Reminiscences about Dolley Madison after her tenure as first lady had ended. Jennings’ book is available in full at the web site Documenting the American South, a project of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
Mrs. Madison was a remarkably fine woman. She was beloved by every body in Washington, white and colored. Whenever soldiers marched by, during the war, she always sent out and invited them in to take wine and refreshments, giving them liberally of the best in the house. Madeira wine was better in those days than now, and more freely drank. In the last days of her life, before Congress purchased her husband’s papers, she was in a state of absolute poverty, and I think sometimes suffered for the necessaries of life. While I was a servant to Mr. [Daniel] Webster, he often sent me to her with a market-basket full of provisions, and told me whenever I saw anything in the house that I thought she was in need of, to take it to her. I often did this, and occasionally gave her small sums from my own pocket, though I had years before bought my freedom of her.