Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1819 - TO JAMES MONROE. mad. mss. - The Writings, vol. 8 (1808-1819)
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1819 - TO JAMES MONROE. mad. mss. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 8 (1808-1819) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 8.
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TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Montp., Feby 13, 1819.
I recd by the last mail your favor of the 7th. The death of Genl. Mason with the manner of it is an event truly lamentable. The only alleviation it admits is in the hope that its admonitions will not be fruitless.
The Newspapers from Washington not having come to hand regularly of late, and other matters having engaged my attention, I am but partially acquainted with what has passed in Congress on the subject of the proceedings in Florida.1 The views of the Ex. could not certainly have been better directed than to the objects of shielding the Constitution, silencing Spain & her allies, & turning every thing to the best account for the nation. It will be a most happy termination of the business if Onis shd. make good the prospect of the desired accommodation of our affairs with Spain.
It would be a happiness also, if the subject as it relates to Genl. Jackson could have an issue satisfactory to his feelings & to the scruples of his friends & admirers. Mr. Adams has given all its lustre to the proof that the conduct of the General is invulnerable to complaints from abroad; and the question between him & his Country ought to be judged under the persuasion that if he has erred it was in the zeal of his patriotism, and under a recollection of the great services he has rendered.
You have seen the agreeable result at Richmond to the Report of the University Commissioners. I do not know what steps have been taken for carrying the law into execution.
I have heard nothing from or of Mr. Jefferson since the visit of Dr Eustis & myself to Monticello. I mentioned to you the state of his health at that time & our hopes that it would be soon entirely restored. It is to be wished that he may witness & guide the launching of the Institution which he put on the stocks, and the materials for which were supplied from his Stores.
TO JAMES MONROE.1
Montpellier, February 18, 1819.
I have received your favor of the 13th. I beg that you will not think of the pecuniary subject until it be in every respect perfectly convenient to you.
The real sense of the nation with respect to the Revolutionary struggle in South America cannot, I should suppose, be mistaken. Good wishes for its success, and every lawful manifestation of them, will be approved by all, whatever may be the consequences. The nation will equally disapprove any measures unnecessarily involving it in the danger of a war, which might even do less good to the Spanish patriots than harm to the United States, or any underhand measures bringing a just stain on the national character. Those who are most disposed to censure the tardiness of the Executive in acknowledging the Independence of Buenos Ayres, which alone has the appearance of having reached maturity, should recollect that it was never declared until July, 1806, and that it has been rendered uncertain whether the declaration would preclude a modified re-establishment of a dependent State.
The account of Mr. Rush’s conversation must be founded at least in some egregious mistake. No one who is acquainted with his good sense, his self-command, his official habits, and his personal dispositions, can easily believe that he would commit either the Executive or himself in the manner stated, and still less that he would have withheld what he had done from you. Besides, what considerate citizen could desire that the Government should purchase Florida from such an adventurer as McGregor,1 whose conquest, if a real one, could give no title that would he alienable, before it should be consummated by a termination of the contest between the parties? The purchase of such a title from such a quarter would have exposed the United States to the utmost odium as to the mode of gaining the possession, without any greater security for keeping it than would attend a direct seizure on the plea of an obstinate refusal to pay an acknowledged debt.
TO RICHARD PETERS.mad. mss.
Feby 22 1819.
I perceive that I am indebted to you for the copy of an Agricultural Almanack and Memorial brought me by a late mail; for which I offer my thanks. Accept them also for the copy of Mr. Rawle’s Address which you have been so kind as to send me.1
I am particularly pleased with your scheme of a “Pattern farm.” There is no form in which Agricultural instruction can be so successfully conveyed. Nor is there any situation so favorable for the establishment of them as the neighbourhood of a large commercial City. The vessels going thence to every part of the Globe can obtain from our Consuls or from mercantile correspondents, specimens of every article vegetable & animal, which deserve experiment; and from such a position, the fruits of successful experiments can be conveniently diffused by water as well as by land. The only objection likely to be started is the expence. But I do not see that even this extends much if at all beyond the outfit. A small proportion only of the experiments would be a dead loss; Whilst many would yield lucrative samples for distributive sale.
The subject of Mr. Rawle’s Address is an important one, and he has handled it with the Ability of which he enjoys the reputation. My own ideas run much in the same channel with his. Our kind reception of emigrants is very proper, but it is dictated more by benevolent than by interested considerations, tho’ some of them seem to be very far from regarding the obligations as lying on their side. I think he has justly graduated also the several classes of emigrants. The Cultivators of the soil are of a character and in so minute a proportion to our Agricultural population, that they give no foreign tint whatever to its complexion. When they come among us too, it is with such a deep feeling of its being for good & all, that their adopted Country soon takes the place Of a native home. These remarks belong in a considerable degree to the Mechanical class. The mercantile class, has different features. Their proportional number, their capital or their credit, and their intelligence often, give them pretensions, and even an influence among the native class which you can better appreciate perhaps than I can. They are also less permanently tied to their new Country by the nature of their property & pursuits than either of the other classes a translation of them to another being more easy. And even after naturalization, the rights involved in their native allegiance, facilitate violations of the duties of their assumed one. According to the general laws of Europe, no emigrant ceases to be a subject. With this double aspect, I believe it cannot be doubted that naturalized Citizens among us have found it more easy than native ones to practise certain frauds. I have been led to think it worthy of consideration whether our law of naturalization might not be so varied as to communicate the rights of Citizens by degrees, and in that way, preclude or abridge the abuses committed by naturalized merchants particularly Ship owners. The restrictions wd. be felt it is true by meritorious individuals, of whom I could name some & you doubtless more, but this always happens in precautionary regulations for the general good. But I forget that I am only saying what Mr. Rawle has much better told you, or what, if just, will not have escaped your own reflections.
I wish you health & every other happiness.
TO ROBERT WALSH.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Mar. 2, 1819.
I recd. some days ago your letter of Feby 15, in which you intimate your intention to vindicate our Country against misrepresentations propagated abroad, and your desire of information on the subject of Negro slavery, of moral character, of religion, and of education in Virginia, as affected by the Revolution, and our public Institutions.
The general condition of slaves must be influenced by various causes. Among these are 1. the ordinary price of food, on which the quality and quantity allowed them will more or less depend. This cause has operated much more unfavorably against them in some quarters than in Virga. 2. the kinds of labour to be performed, of wch the Sugar & Rice plantations afford elsewhere & not here unfavorable examples. 3. the national spirit of their Masters, which has been graduated by Philosophical writers among the slaveholding Colonies of Europe. 4. the circumstance of conformity or difference in the physical characters of the two classes; such a difference cannot but have a material influence, and is common to all the slave-holding Countries within the American Hemisphere. Even in those where there are other than black slaves, as Indians & mixed breeds, there is a difference of Colour not without its influence. 5. the proportion which the slaves bear to the free part of the community, and especially the greater or smaller numbers in which they belong to individuals.
This last is, perhaps, the most powerful of all the causes deteriorating the condition of the slave, and furnishes the best scale for determining the degree of its hardship.
In reference to the actual condition of slaves in Virga. it may be confidently stated, as better beyond comparison, than it was before the Revolution. The improvement strikes every one who witnessed their former condition, and attends to their present. They are better fed, better clad, better lodged, and better treated in every respect: insomuch that what was formerly deemed a moderate treatment, wd. now be a rigid one, and what formerly a rigid one, would now be denounced by the Public feeling. With respect to the great article of food particularly it is a common remark among those who have visited Europe, that it includes a much greater proportion of the animal ingredient, than is attainable by the free labourers even in that quarter of the Globe. As the two great causes of the general melioration in the lot of the slaves since the establishment of our Independence, I should set down 1. the sensibility to human rights, and sympathy with human sufferings excited and cherished by the discussions preceding, & the spirit of the Institutions growing out of, that event. 2. the decreasing proportion which the slaves bear to the individual holders of them; a consequence of the abolition of entails, & the rule of primogeniture, and of the equalizing tendency of parental affection unfettered from all prejudices, as well as from the restrictions of law.
With respect to the moral features of Virga. it may be observed, that pictures which have been given of them are, to say the least, outrageous caricatures even when taken from the state of Society previous to the Revolution; and that so far as there was any ground or colour for them, then, the same cannot be found for them now.
Omitting more minute or less obvious causes tainting the habits and manners of the people under the Colonial Govt., the following offer themselves. 1. the negro slavery chargeable in so great a degree on the very quarter which has furnished most of the libellers. It is well known that during the Colonial dependence of Virga. repeated attempts were made to stop the importation of slaves each of which attempts was successively defeated by the foreign negative on the laws, and that one of the first offsprings of independent & Republican legislation was an Act of perpetual prohibition. 2. the too unequal distribution of property favored by laws derived from the British code, which generated examples in the opulent class inauspicious to the habits of the other classes. 3. the indolence of most & the irregular lives of many of the established Clergy, consisting, in a very large proportion, of foreigners, and these in no inconsiderable proportion, of men willing to leave their homes in the parent Country where their demerit was an obstacle to a provision for them, and whose degeneracy here was promoted by their distance from the controuling eyes of their kindred & friends, by the want of Ecclesiastical superiors in the Colony, or efficient ones in G. B. who might maintain a salutary discipline among them, and finally by their independence both of their congregations and of the Civil authority for their stipends. 4. A source of contagious dissipation might be traced in the British Factors chiefly from Scotland, who carried on the general trade external & internal of the Colony. These being interdicted by their principals from marrying in the Country, being little prone to apply their leisure to intellectual pursuits, and living in knots scattered in small towns or detached spots affording few substitutes of social amusement easily fell into irregularities of different sorts, and of evil example. I ought not however to make this remark, without adding not only that there were exceptions to it, but that those to whom the remark is applicable, often combined with those traits of character others of a laudable & amiable kind. Such of them as eventually married & settled in the Country were in most cases remarked for being good husbands, parents & masters, as well as good neighbours as far as was consistent with habits of intemperance, to which not a few became victims. The weight of this mercantile class, in the community may be inferred from the fact that they had their periodical meetings at the seat of Govt. at which they fixed the rate of foreign exchange, the advance on their imported merchandise universally sold on credit, and the price of Tobo. the great & indeed the only staple commodity for exportation; regulations affecting more deeply the interests of the people at large, than the ordinary proceedings of the Legislative Body. As a further mark of their importance, their influence as creditors was felt in elections of the popular branch of that Body. It had the common name of the Ledger interest. 5. Without laying undue stress on it, I may refer to the rule of septennial elections for the Legislature, which led of course to the vitiating means to which candidates are more tempted to resort by so durable, than by a shorter, period of power.
With the exception of slavery these demoralizing causes have ceased or are wearing out; and even that as already noticed, has lost no small share of its former character. On the whole the moral aspect of the State may at present be fairly said to bear no unfavorable comparison with the average standard of the other States. It certainly gives the lie to the foreign Calumniators whom you propose to arraign.
That there has been an increase of religious instruction since the revolution can admit of no question. The English church was originally the established religion; the character of the clergy that above described. Of other sects there were but few adherents, except the Presbyterians who predominated on the W. side of the Blue Mountains. A little time previous to the Revolutionary struggle the Baptists sprang up, and made a very rapid progress. Among the early acts of the Republican Legislature, were those abolishing the Religious establishment, and putting all Sects at full liberty and on a perfect level. At present the population is divided, with small exceptions, among the Protestant Episcopalians, the Presbyterians, the Baptists & the Methodists. Of their comparative numbers I can command no sources of information. I conjecture the Presbyterians & Baptists to form each abt. a third, & the two other sects together of which the Methodists are much the smallest, to make up the remaining third. The Old churches, built under the establisht. at the public expence, have in many instances gone to ruin, or are in a very dilapidated state, owing chiefly to a transition desertion of the flocks to other worships. A few new ones have latterly been built particularly in the towns. Among the other sects, Meeting Houses, have multiplied & continue to multiply; tho’ in general they are of the plainest and cheapest sort. But neither the number nor the style of the Religious edifices is a true measure of the state of religion. Religious instruction is now diffused throughout the Community by preachers of every sect with almost equal zeal, tho’ with very unequal acquirements; and at private houses & open stations and occasionally in such as are appropriated to Civil use, as well as buildings appropriated to that use. The qualifications of the Preachers, too among the new sects where there was the greatest deficiency, are understood to be improving. On a general comparison of the present & former times, the balance is certainly & vastly on the side of the present, as to the number of religious teachers the zeal which actuates them, the purity of their lives, and the attendance of the people on their instructions. It was the Universal opinion of the Century preceding the last, that Civil Govt. could not stand without the prop of a Religious establishment, & that the Xn. religion itself, would perish if not supported by a legal provision for its Clergy. The experience of Virginia conspicuously corroborates the disproof of both opinions. The Civil Govt. tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success; Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
On the subject of education I am not eno’ informed to give a view of its increase. The system contemplated by the literary fund cannot yet be taken into the estimate, farther than as it may be an index of the progress of knowledge prerequisite to its adoption. Those who are best able to compare the present intelligence of the Mass of the people, with that antecedent to the revolution, will all agree I believe, in the great superiority of the present.
I know not how far these notices may fall within the precise scope of your meditated Exposition. Should any of them do so, I communicate them with pleasure; well assured that they will be in good hands for a good purpose. The only restriction I wish in the use of them is that my name may not be referred to.
In compliance with your request I send a copy of the observations addressed to the Agricult: Socy. of Albemarle. I regret that they are not more worthy of the place to which you destine them. I am not unaware that some of the topics introduced may be interesting ones; but they required a development very different from that which I gave them.
As you intend to notice the variance between my statement and that of Mr. Hamilton relating to certain nos. in the Federalist, I take the liberty of remarking, that independent of any internal evidences that may be discernible, the inaccuracy of Mr. H’s memory is illustrated by the circumstance, that his memorandum ascribes, not only to Mr. Jay, a paper No. 54, not written by him, but to himself a paper No. 64 written by Mr. Jay. This appears by the statement (presumed to be authentic) in the life of Mr. Jay by Delaplaine. If I have any interest in proving the fallibility of Mr. H’s memory, or the error of his statement however occasioned, it is not that the authorship in question is of itself a point deserving the solicitude of either of the parties; but because I had, at the request of a confidential friend or two, communicated a list of the nos. in that publication with the names of the writers annexed, at a time & under circumstances depriving me of a plea for so great a mistake in a slip of the memory or attention. Be pleased to accept my esteem & friendly respects.
TO RICHARD RUSH.mad. mss.
Montpr, May 10, 1819.
Your favor of Der. 13 came safely to hand, but was months on its way. I have looked over with amusement the two posthumous works of Watson & Walpole. The former has an importance to which the latter cannot pretend: But both; in drawing aside the Curtain from the secrets of Monarchy, offer at once lessons & eulogies to Republican Govt. As you have in hand a remnant of the fund from the Bill on Mr. Baring, I avail myself of your kindness so far as to request that you will procure for me & forward the last & fullest Edition of the posthumous Works of Gibbon. If the cost should exceed the fund let me know; if it shd. leave any little balance, this may be laid out in some literary article of your choice for which it will suffice. As you sent a copy of what was addressed to the Agricult Socy of Alb: to Sir Jno. Sinclair,1 I owe perhaps an apology for not doing it myself, having been favd. with several marks of that sort of attention from him. The truth is I did not wish to attach to so inadequate a discussion of the subject; the importance implied by regarding it as worth his acceptance; and if any unsought opportunity shd. make it proper you will oblige me by intimating to him such a view of the omission.
It is much to be regretted that the B. Govt. had not the magnanimity nor the forecast to include in the late treaty a final adjustment of all the questions on which the two Countries have been at variance.2 A more apt occasion cannot be expected, and it must be evident, that if not adjusted by treaty, the first War in Europe will leave G. B. no alternative but an ungracious & humiliating surrender of her pretensions, or an addition of this Country to the number of her enemies. With regard to the W. Ind trade she is not less inconsiderate. Nothing but a retrograde course by Congs not to be presumed, can save her from ultimate defeat in the Legislative contest.
The P. is executing the Southern half of his projected tour, and is every where greeted with Public testimonies of affection & confidence. Whatever may be the motives of some who join in the acclamations the unanimity, will have the good effect of strengthening the administration at home and inspiring respect abroad.
Our printed journals of every denomination, will present to you, the perplexed situation of our monied & mercantile affairs, & the resulting influence on the general condition of the Country. The pressure is severe, but the evil must gradually cure itself. The root of it lies more particularly in the multitude & mismanagement of the Banks. It has always been a question with some how far Banks when best constituted, and when limited to mercantile credits, furnished settoffs in the abuse of them by the imprudent, agst. the advantage of them to the Prudent. But there are few now who are not sensible, that when distributed thro’out the land, and carrying or rather hawking their loans at every man’s door they become a real nuisance. They not only furnish the greedy & unskilful with means for their ruinous enterprises; but seduce the mass of the people, into gratifications, beyond their resources; and these gratifications consisting chiefly of imported articles, it follows that the entire country consumes more of them than it can pay for. Hence the balance of trade agst. it, hence the demand on the banks for specie to pay it; hence their demands on their debtors and hence the bankruptcies of both. This is the little circle of causes & effects, which shew that the Banks are themselves, the principal authors of the state of things of which they are the victims. A better state of things it is to be hoped will grow out of their ashes.
In the mean time the policy of the great nations with which we have most intercourse, co-operates in augmenting the temporary difficulties experienced. Whether it may not in the end have a more salutary operation for us than for themselves remains to be seen. G. B. is endeavoring to make herself independt. of us & of the world for supplies of food. In this she is justified by cogent views of the subject; altho’ with her extensive capital & maritime power she wd. seem in little danger of being unable at any time to supply her deficiency; whilst the tendency of this policy is to contract the range of her commerce, on which she depends for her wealth & power. If agricultural nations cannot sell her the products of their soil, they cannot buy the products of her looms. They must plough less, and manufacture more. The fall in the price of our Wheat & flour is already reanimating, the manufacturing spirit, and enforcing that of economy. She is endeavoring also to make herself independent of the U. S. for the great article of Cotton wool, by encouraging E. Inda. substitutes. If she pays that part of her dominions for its raw material by the return of it in a manufactured State, the loss of our Custom may be balanced, perhaps for a time, overbalanced. But a proportional loss of our Custom great & growing as it is, must be certain. One-half of our ability to purchase British manufactures is derived from the Cotton sold to her. The effect of her Inda. importations in reducing the demand & the price of that article is already felt, both in the necessity & the advantage of working it up at home.
France too is making herself independent of the U. S. for one of their great Staples. Before our Revolution she consumed, if I rightly remember, abt. thirty thousand Hhds of Tobo. Her market now receives but a very few thousand & it is said that land eno’ is appropriated in France for the culture of the balance. If France means to be a commercial & maritime power this policy does not bespeak wisdom in her Councils. She ought rather to promote an exchange of her superfluous wines & silks, for a foreign article, which not being a necessary of life need not be forced into cultivation at home, which she will rarely if ever be unable to procure when she pleases from abroad, and which is well adapted by its bulk to employ shipping & marines. The price of this article like that of Cotton has rapidly fallen, & will contribute of course to turn the attention here to the obligation of substituting internal manufactures for imports which the exports will not balance. Neither G. B. nor F. seems sufficiently aware that a self-subsisting system in some nations must produce it in others, and that the result of it in all must be most injurious to those whose prosperity & power depend most on the freedom & extent of the commerce among them.
I find myself very pertinently called off from speculations wch. whether just or otherwise cannot be new to you, by a charge from Mrs. M. to present her very affectionate regards to Mrs. Rush, with many thanks for the repetitions of her kind offers. I pray that my respectful ones may be added, and that you will accept for yourself assurances of my great esteem and unvaried friendship.
TO J. Q. ADAMS.mad. mss.
Montpellier June 7, 1819.
I have duly received your letter of the 1st:instant. On recurring to my papers for the information it requests, I find that the speech of Col: Hamilton in the Convention of 1787,1 in the course of which he read a sketch of a plan of Government for the U. States, was delivered on the 18th of June; the subject of debate being a resolution proposed by Mr. Dickinson “that the Articles of Confederation ought to be revised and amended so as to render the Government of the U. States adequate to the exigencies, the preservation, and the prosperity of the Union.” I pray you accept, Sir, assurances of my great consideration and esteem.
TO ROBERT J. EVANS.mad. mss.
Montpellier, June 15, 1819.
I have recd. your letter of the 3d instant,1 requesting such hints as may have occurred to me on the subject of an eventual extinguishment of slavery in the U. S.
Not doubting the purity of your views, and relying on the discretion by which they will be regulated, I cannot refuse such a compliance as will at least manifest my respect for the object of your undertaking.
A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual. 2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned. 3. consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation.
That it ought, like remedies for other deeprooted and wide-spread evils, to be gradual, is so obvious that there seems to be no difference of opinion on that point.
To be equitable & satisfactory, the consent of both the Master & the slave should be obtained. That of the Master will require a provision in the plan for compensating a loss of what he held as property guarantied by the laws, and recognised by the Constitution. That of the slave, requires that his condition in a state of freedom, be preferable in his own estimation, to his actual one in a state of bondage.
To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U. S. the freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or allotted to a White population. The objections to a thorough incorporation of the two people are, with most of the Whites insuperable; and are admitted by all of them to be very powerful. If the blacks, strongly marked as they are by Physical & lasting peculiarities, be retained amid the Whites, under the degrading privation of equal rights political or social, they must be always dissatisfied with their condition as a change only from one to another species of oppression; always secretly confederated agst. the ruling & privileged class; and always uncontroulled by some of the most cogent motives to moral and respectable conduct. The character of the free blacks, even where their legal condition is least affected by their colour, seems to put these truths beyond question. It is material also that the removal of the blacks be to a distance precluding the jealousies & hostilities to be apprehended from a neighboring people stimulated by the contempt known to be entertained for their peculiar features; to say nothing of their vindictive recollections, or the predatory propensities which their State of Society might foster. Nor is it fair, in estimating the danger of Collisions with the Whites, to charge it wholly on the side of the Blacks. There would be reciprocal antipathies doubling the danger.
The colonizing plan on foot, has as far as it extends, a due regard to these requisites; with the additional object of bestowing new blessings civil & religious on the quarter of the Globe most in need of them. The Society proposes to transport to the African Coast all free & freed blacks who may be willing to remove thither; to provide by fair means, &, it is understood with a prospect of success, a suitable territory for their reception; and to initiate them into such an establishment as may gradually and indefinitely expand itself.
The experiment, under this view of it, merits encouragement from all who regard slavery as an evil, who wish to see it diminished and abolished by peaceable & just means; and who have themselves no better mode to propose. Those who have most doubted the success of the experiment must at least have wished to find themselves in an error.
But the views of the Society are limited to the case of blacks already free, or who may be gratuitously emancipated. To provide a commensurate remedy for the evil, the plan must be extended to the great Mass of blacks, and must embrace a fund sufficient to induce the Master as well as the slave to concur in it. Without the concurrence of the Master, the benefit will be very limited as it relates to the Negroes; and essentially defective, as it relates to the U. States; and the concurrence of Masters, must, for the most part, be obtained by purchase.
Can it be hoped that voluntary contributions, however adequate to an auspicious commencement, will supply the sums necessary to such an enlargement of the remedy? May not another question be asked? Would it be reasonable to throw so great a burden on the individuals distinguished by their philanthropy and patriotism?
The object to be obtained, as an object of humanity, appeals alike to all; as a National object, it claims the interposition of the nation. It is the nation which is to reap the benefit. The nation therefore ought to bear the burden.
Must then the enormous sums required to pay for, to transport, and to establish in a foreign land all the slaves in the U. S. as their Masters may be willg. to part with them, be taxed on the good people of the U. S. or be obtained by loans swelling the public debt to a size pregnant with evils next in degree to those of slavery itself?
Happily it is not necessary to answer this question by remarking that if slavery as a national evil is to be abolished, and it be just that it be done at the national expence, the amount of the expence is not a paramount consideration. It is the peculiar fortune, or, rather a providential blessing of the U. S. to possess a resource commensurate to this great object, without taxes on the people, or even an increase of the public debt.
I allude to the vacant territory the extent of which is so vast, and the vendible value of which is so well ascertained.
Supposing the number of slaves to be 1,500,000, and their price to average 400 drs, the cost of the whole would be 600 millions of dollrs. These estimates are probably beyond the fact; and from the no. of slaves should be deducted. 1. those whom their Masters would not part with. 2. those who may be gratuitously set free by their Masters. 3. those acquiring freedom under emancipating regulations of the States. 4. those preferring slavery where they are, to freedom in an African settlement. On the other hand, it is to be noted that the expence of removal & settlement is not included in the estimated sum; and that an increase of the slaves will be going on during the period required for the execution of the plan.
On the whole the aggregate sum needed may be stated at about 600 Mils of dollars.
This will require 200 mils of Acres at 3 dolrs. per Acre; or 300 mils. at 2 dollrs. per Acre a quantity which tho’ great in itself, is perhaps not a third part of the disposable territory belonging to the U. S. And to what object so good so great & so glorious, could that peculiar fund of wealth be appropriated? Whilst the sale of territory would, on one hand be planting one desert with a free & civilized people, it would on the other, be giving freedom to another people, and filling with them another desert. And if in any instances, wrong has been done by our forefathers to people of one colour, by dispossessing them of their soil, what better atonement is now in our power than that of making what is rightfully acquired a source of justice & of blessings to a people of another colour?
As the revolution to be produced in the condition of the negroes must be gradual, it will suffice if the sale of territory keep pace with its progress. For a time at least the proceeds wd. be in advance. In this case it might be best, after deducting the expence incident to the surveys & sales, to place the surplus in a situation where its increase might correspond with the natural increase of the unpurchased slaves. Should the proceeds at any time fall short of the calls for their application, anticipations might be made by temporary loans to be discharged as the land should find a Market.
But it is probable that for a considerable period, the sales would exceed the calls. Masters would not be willing to strip their plantations & farms of their laborers too rapidly. The slaves themselves, connected as they generally are by tender ties with others under other Masters, would be kept from the list of emigrants by the want of the multiplied consents to be obtained. It is probable indeed that for a long time a certain portion of the proceeds might safely continue applicable to the discharge of the debts or to other purposes of the Nation. Or it might be most convenient, in the outset, to appropriate a certain proportion only of the income from sales, to the object in view, leaving the residue otherwise applicable.
Should any plan similar to that I have sketched, be deemed eligible in itself no particular difficulty is foreseen from that portion of the nation which with a common interest in the vacant territory has no interest in slave property. They are too just to wish that a partial sacrifice shd. be made for the general good; and too well aware that whatever may be the intrinsic character of that description of property, it is one known to the constitution, and, as such could not be constitutionally taken away without just compensation. That part of the Nation has indeed shewn a meritorious alacrity in promoting, by pecuniary contributions, the limited scheme for colonizing the Blacks, & freeing the nation from the unfortunate stain on it, which justifies the belief that any enlargement of the scheme, if founded on just principles would find among them its earliest & warmest patrons. It ought to have great weight that the vacant lands in question have for the most part been derived from grants of the States holding the slaves to be redeemed & removed by the sale of them.
It is evident however that in effectuating a general emancipation of slaves, in the mode which has been hinted, difficulties of other sorts would be encountered. The provision for ascertaining the joint consent of the masters & slaves; for guarding agst. unreasonable valuations of the latter; and for the discrimination of those not proper to be conveyed to a foreign residence, or who ought to remain a charge on Masters in whose service they had been disabled or worn out and for the annual transportation of such numbers, would Require the mature deliberations of the National Councils. The measure implies also the practicability of procuring in Africa, an enlargement of the district or districts, for receiving the exiles, sufficient for so great an augmentation of their numbers.
Perhaps the Legislative provision best adapted to the case would be an incorporation of the Colonizing Society or the establishment of a similar one, with proper powers, under the appointment & superintendence of the National Executive.
In estimating the difficulties however incident to any plan of general emancipation, they ought to be brought into comparison with those inseparable from other plans, and be yielded to or not according to the result of the comparison.
One difficulty presents itself which will probably attend every plan which is to go into effect under the Legislative provisions of the National Govt. But whatever may be the defect of existing powers of Congress, the Constitution has pointed out the way in which it can be supplied. And it can hardly be doubted that the requisite powers might readily be procured for attaining the great object in question, in any mode whatever approved by the Nation.
If these thoughts can be of any aid in your search of a remedy for the great evil under which the nation labors, you are very welcome to them. You will allow me however to add that it will be most agreeable to me, not to be publickly referred to in any use you may make of them.
TO SPENCER ROANE.mad. mss.
Septr. 2; 1819.
I have recd. your favor of the 22d Ult1 inclosing a copy of your observations on the Judgment of the Supreme Court of the U. S. in the case of M’Culloch agst. the State of Maryland; and I have found their latitudinary mode of expounding the Constitution, combated in them with the ability and the force which were to be expected.
It appears to me as it does to you that the occasion did not call for the general and abstract doctrine interwoven with the decision of the particular case. I have always supposed that the meaning of a law, and for a like reason, of a Constitution, so far as it depends on Judicial interpretation, was to result from a course of particular decisions, and not these from a previous and abstract comment on the subject. The example in this instance tends to reverse the rule and to forego the illustration to be derived from a series of cases actually occurring for adjudication.
I could have wished also that the Judges had delivered their opinions seriatim. The case was of such magnitude, in the scope given to it, as to call, if any case could do so, for the views of the subject separately taken by them. This might either by the harmony of their reasoning have produced a greater conviction in the Public mind; or by its discordance have impaired the force of the precedent now ostensibly supported by a unanimous & perfect concurrence in every argument & dictum in the judgment pronounced.
But what is of most importance is the high sanction given to a latitude in expounding the Constitution which seems to break down the landmarks intended by a specification of the Powers of Congress, and to substitute for a definite connection between means and ends, a Legislative discretion as to the former to which no practical limit can be assigned. In the great system of Political Economy having for its general object the national welfare, everything is related immediately or remotely to every other thing; and consequently a Power over any one thing, if not limited by some obvious and precise affinity, may amount to a Power over every other. Ends & means may shift their character at the will & according to the ingenuity of the Legislative Body. What is an end in one case may be a means in another; nay in the same case, may be either an end or a means at the Legislative option. The British Parliament in collecting a revenue from the commerce of America found no difficulty in calling it either a tax for the regulation of trade, or a regulation of trade with a view to the tax, as it suited the argument or the policy of the moment.
Is there a Legislative power in fact, not expressly prohibited by the Constitution, which might not, according to the doctrine of the Court, be exercised as a means of carrying into effect some specified Power?
Does not the Court also relinquish by their doctrine, all controul on the Legislative exercise of unconstitutional powers? According to that doctrine, the expediency & constitutionality of means for carrying into effect a specified Power are convertible terms; and Congress are admitted to be Judges of the expediency. The Court certainly cannot be so; a question, the moment it assumes the character of mere expediency or policy, being evidently beyond the reach of Judicial cognizance.
It is true, the Court are disposed to retain a guardianship of the Constitution against legislative encroachments. “Should Congress,” say they, “under the pretext of executing its Powers, pass laws for the accomplishment of objects not entrusted to the Government, it would become the painful duty of this Tribunal to say that such an act was not the law of the land.” But suppose Congress should, as would doubtless happen, pass unconstitutional laws not to accomplish objects not specified in the Constitution, but the same laws as means expedient, convenient or conducive to the accomplishment of objects entrusted to the Government; by what handle could the Court take hold of the case? We are told that it was the policy of the old Government of France to grant monopolies, such as that of Tobacco, in order to create funds in particular hands from which loans could be made to the Public, adequate capitalists not being formed in that Country in the ordinary course of commerce. Were Congress to grant a like monopoly merely to aggrandize those enjoying it, the Court might consistently say, that this not being an object entrusted to the Governt. the grant was unconstitutional and void. Should Congress however grant the monopoly according to the French policy as a means judged by them to be necessary, expedient or conducive to the borrowing of money, which is an object entrusted to them by the Constitution, it seems clear that the Court, adhering to its doctrine, could not interfere without stepping on Legislative ground, to do which they justly disclaim all pretension.
It could not but happen, and was foreseen at the birth of the Constitution, that difficulties and differences of opinion might occasionally arise in expounding terms & phrases necessarily used in such a charter; more especially those which divide legislation between the General & local Governments; and that it might require a regular course of practice to liquidate & settle the meaning of some of them. But it was anticipated I believe by few if any of the friends of the Constitution, that a rule of construction would be introduced as broad & as pliant as what has occurred. And those who recollect, and still more those who shared in what passed in the State Conventions, thro’ which the people ratified the Constitution, with respect to the extent of the powers vested in Congress, cannot easily be persuaded that the avowal of such a rule would not have prevented its ratification. It has been the misfortune, if not the reproach, of other nations, that their Govts. have not been freely and deliberately established by themselves. It is the boast of ours that such has been its source and that it can be altered by the same authority only which established it. It is a further boast that a regular mode of making proper alterations has been providently inserted in the Constitution itself. It is anxiously to be wished therefore, that no innovations may take place in other modes, one of which would be a constructive assumption of powers never meant to be granted. If the powers be deficient, the legitimate source of additional ones is always open, and ought to be resorted to.
Much of the error in expounding the Constitution has its origin in the use made of the species of sovereignty implied in the nature of Govt. The specified powers vested in Congress, it is said, are sovereign powers, and that as such they carry with them an unlimited discretion as to the means of executing them. It may surely be remarked that a limited Govt. may be limited in its sovereignty as well with respect to the means as to the objects of his powers; and that to give an extent to the former, superseding the limits to the latter, is in effect to convert a limited into an unlimited Govt. There is certainly a reasonable medium between expounding the Constitution with the strictness of a penal law, or other ordinary statute, and expounding it with a laxity which may vary its essential character, and encroach on the local sovereignties with wch. it was meant to be reconcilable.
The very existence of these local sovereignties is a controul on the pleas for a constructive amplification of the powers of the General Govt. Within a single State possessing the entire sovereignty, the powers given to the Govt. by the People are understood to extend to all the Acts whether as means or ends required for the welfare of the Community, and falling within the range of just Govt. To withhold from such a Govt. any particular power necessary or useful in itself, would be to deprive the people of the good dependent on its exercise; since the power must be there or not exist at all. In the Govt. of the U. S. the case is obviously different. In establishing that Govt. the people retained other Govts. capable of exercising such necessary and useful powers as were not to be exercised by the General Govt. No necessary presumption therefore arises from the importance of any particular power in itself, that it has been vested in that Govt. because tho’ not vested there, it may exist elsewhere, and the exercise of it elsewhere might be preferred by those who alone had a right to make the distribution. The presumption which ought to be indulged is that any improvement of this distribution sufficiently pointed out by experience would not be withheld.
Altho’ I have confined myself to the single question concerning the rule of interpreting the Constitution, I find that my pen has carried me to a length which would not have been permitted by a recollection that my remarks are merely for an eye to which no aspect of the subject is likely to be new. I hasten therefore to conclude with assurances &c &c.
TO EDWARD COLES.1chic. hist. soc. mss.
Montpellier, Sept. 3, 1819.
I have received, my dear Sir, your agreeable letter of July 20 wch. was very long on the way.
We congratulate you much on the various successes of your western career. The first thing that strikes is the rapidity of your promotions. Bounding over the preliminary sailorship, the first step on the deck of your Bark, pardon me, of the nobler structure, your Ark, makes you a Pilot. The name of Pilot is scarcely pronounced, before you are a Captain. And in less than a twinkling of an eye, the Captain starts up a Commodore. On the land, a scene opens upon us in which you equally figure. We see you at once a ploughman, a rail splitter, a fence builder, a cornplanter, a Haymaker, and soon to be a wheat sower. To all these rural felicities, which leave but a single defect on your title of Husband-man, you add the polished pleasures of a Town, you mean a City, life. And to cap the whole, you enjoy the official dignity of Register of the land office in the important Territory of Illinois. We repeat our congratulations on all these honors & employments, and wish that the emoluments may fully equal them.
You are well off, for this year at least, in being where you can expect bread from corn planted in July. Here famine threatens us, in the midst of fields planted in April. So severe a drought is not remembered. We have had no rain, scarcely, throughout the months of June, July & Aug’st, and the earth previously but little charged with moisture. On some farms, among them my two small ones near me, there has been no rain at all, or none to produce a sensible effect. In some instances there will not be the tythe of a crop, and the drought has been very general not only in this, but in other States. It has been, I understand particularly severe throughout the Tobacco Districts in Virg’a and must make this crop very scanty. It is at this critical moment feeling in all its force, the want of rain. I fear that Albemarle has no better than neighbour’s fare. Fortunately for us the wheat crop was everywhere very fine, and well harvested.
The season has been as remarkable too for the degree & constancy of its heat, as for its dryness. The Thermometer in the coolest part of my largest room was on two days, at 92°, for several at 90 & 91, and generally from 84 to 5-6-7-8. Our springs & wells have not yet entirely failed; but without copious rains this must quickly be the case.
You are pursuing, I observe, the true course with your negroes, in order to make their freedom a fair experiment for their happiness. With the habits of the slave, and without the instruction, the property, or the employments of a freeman, the manumitted blacks, instead of deriving advantage from the partial benevolence of their Masters, furnish arguments against the general efforts in their behalf. I wish your philanthropy could compleat its object, by changing their colour as well as their legal condition. Without this, they seem destined to a privation of that moral rank & those social participations which give to freedom more than half its value.
Mrs. Madison as well as myself, is much gratified by your promise to devote the next winter to your native haunts. We hope your arrangements will give us an ample share of your time. We will then take the case of your Bachelorship, into serious & full consideration. Mrs. M. is well disposed to give all her aid, in getting that old thorn out of your side, and putting a young rib in its place. She very justly remarks, however, that with your own exertions, hers will not be wanted & without them not deserved.
Accept our joint & affectionate wishes for your health & every other happiness.
END OF VOLUME VIII
[1 ]Florida affairs and the Seminole Campaign were taken up by the House December 14, 1818.
[1 ]From Madison’s Works (Cong. Ed.)
[1 ]He had a plan to take Amelia Island and then the Floridas. See Am. State Papers, For. Offs., iv., p. 603.
[1 ]An Address before the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, Philadelphia, 1819.
[1 ]On May 12, 1818, Madison delivered an address on Agriculture before the Agricultural Society of Albemarle, which was printed by order of the Society. It may be found in Madison’s Works (Cong. Ed.) iii., p. 97.
[2 ]The reference is to the treaty of 1818, negotiated by Gallatin and Rush on the part of the United States.—Treaties and Conventions (1873), p. 350.
[1 ]See ante, Vol. III., p. 182.
[1 ]Evans wrote that he was convinced the time had arrived for adopting a plan of eventual emancipation.—Mad. MSS. He was the author of certain newspaper articles printed over the name of Benjamin Rush.
[1 ]Roane sent Madison on August 22d. his articles in The Richmond Inquirer under the name Algernon Sidney in which he asserted the doctrine of state supremacy. For the full text of the momentous opinion of Chief Justice Marshall see 4 Wheaton, 600.
[1 ]Coles was Madison’s secretary from 1810 to 1816 and in 1819 went to Edwardsville, Ill., where he freed all his slaves, giving to each man 160 acres of land. He was governor of Illinois from 1823 to 1826. See Sketch of Edward Coles, Second Governor of Illinois, by Elihu B. Washburne, Chicago, 1882.