Episode 4: A Tale of Two Stepsons

The floundering stepsons of the Founding Fathers

John Parke Custis by Charles Willson Peale and John Payne Todd by Joseph Wood

George Washington is known as the Father of His Country, and James Madison is known as the The Father of the Constitution. Neither one had any biological children of their own, but both had stepsons named John who were tremendous sources of anxiety and pain.

In this episode of the podcast, we look at the challenges Washington faced with the “voluptuous” John Parke “Jacky” Custis, and the agony James and Dolley Madison went through because of the debauchery loving John Payne Todd.

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John “Jacky” Parke Custis and Martha “Patsy” Parke Custis by Charles Volkmar After John Wollaston, 1757



My original (and unfairly harsh) article about Jacky Custis: George Washington’s Disappointing Stepson

Letters between Jonathan Boucher and George Washington – Founders Online
Letter from James Madison to John Payne Todd – Founders Online
The Bad Boy: Payne Todd by William Seale
Payne Todd: Prodigal Son
You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe
Dolley Madison’s Son Payne Todd: The Final Blow by Feather Schwartz
Mrs. James Madison: The Incomparable Dolley by Ethel Stephens Arnett


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We’ll be back next week to bust some persistent myths.


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