TYLER, John. Autograph letter signed ("John Tyler") as President, TO DOLLEY PAYNE MADISON (1768-1849), Winchester Springs, Virginia, 26 September 1844. 1 1/3 pages, 4to (9 7/8 x 7¾ in.), discreetly silked, otherwise in excellent condition, framed.
TYLER DECLINES TO APPOINT THE TROUBLESOME SON OF FORMER FIRST LADY DOLLEY MADISON
An apologetic letter turning down a request of Dolley Madison that her son from her first marriage , John Payne Todd (1792-1852), be named U.S. consul at Liverpool. The son, unfortunatly, proved a troublesome headache to his parents. As he grew into young adulthood, John avoided responsibilities, preferring the life of a socialite in Washington. In an effort to give the boy direction, Madison arranged for him to serve overseas as Albert Gallatin's personal secretary, but the elder statesmen reported that "Payne Todd had lived frivolously and extravagantly in Europe, accepting little responsibility and indulging in every dissipation" (Ketcham, James Madison, p. 594). Madison took it upon himself to make good the boy's mounting debts without informing his mother, and it was only after the former President's death in 1836 that Dolley became fully aware of the extent of her son's gambling debts.
President Tyler politely denies Mrs. Madison's request that her son, then 52 years old, receive the consular appointment: "Your letter soliciting the appointment of Consul at Liverpool for Mr. Todd has claimed from me and received all the consideration which an anxious desire to meet your wishes, and the exalted respect in which I hold you, was so well calculated to elicit. After full consideration dear Mrs. Madison, I have brought myself to conclude that it is a place which emphatically calls for mercantile knowledge, which can only be acquired by a long association with merchants in a mercantile community and that it would neither suit Mr. Todd or he it." Tyler sympathetically adds that "His pursuits have estranged him from the mercantile world; its habits, its manners and its thoughts and have been of a character which would be better adapted to a situation abroad in connexion with a foreign embassy. Should any place of this latter character arise during the brief space which remains of my term of service, it will give me much pleasure to consider of any application that Mr. Todd may make."
Dolley's unremitting efforts to meet her son's substantial debts contributed to her painful decision to sell the magnificent home, Montpelier, this same year.
Provenance: Lindley and Charles Eberstadt (sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, 13 October 1964, lot 73).