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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. mad. mss. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 9 (1819-1836) 
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. 9.
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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Decr 31, 1824.
I have received yours without date inclosing the letter of Mr. Cabell & your answer. I approve entirely the course you recommend to the friends of the University at Richmond, on the proposed removal of the College at Williamsburg. It would be fortunate if the occasion could be improved for the purpose of filling up the general Plan of Education, by the introduction of the grade of Seminaries between the Primary Schools and the University. I have little hope however that the College will accede to any arrangement which is to take from it a part of its funds, and subject it to the Legislative Authority. And in resisting this latter innovation, it will probably be supported by all the Sectarian Seminaries, tho’ to be adopted as legal establishments of the intermediate grade. It is questionable also whether the sectarian Seminaries would not take side with William & Mary in combating the right of the Public to interfere in any manner with the property it holds. The perpetual inviolability of Charters, and of donations both Public & private, for pious & charitable uses, seems to have been too deeply imprinted on the Public mind to be readily given up. But the time surely cannot be distant when it must be seen by all that what is granted by the Public Authority for the Public good, not for that of individuals, may be withdrawn and otherwise applied, when the Public good so requires; with an equitable saving or indemnity only in behalf of the individuals actually enjoying vested emoluments. Nor can it long be believed that Altho’ the owner of property cannot secure its descent but for a short period even to those who inherit his blood, he may entail it irrevocably and forever on those succeeding to his creed however absurd or contrary to that of a more enlightened Age. According to such doctrines, the Great Reformation of Ecclesiastical abuses in the 16th Century was itself the greatest of abuses; and entails or other fetters attached to the descent of property by legal acts of its owners, must be as lasting as the Society suffering from them.
It may well be supposed, Should William & Mary be transplanted to Richmond, that those interested in the City will unite with those partial to the College, and both be reinforced by the enemies of the University, in efforts to aggrandize the former into a Rival of the latter; and that their hopes of success will rest a good deal on the advantage presented at Richmond to Medical Students in the better chance of Anatomic subjects; and in the opportunity of Clinical Lectures; and to Law Students in the presence of the Upper Courts. It will not surprize if some of the most distinguished of the Bar and Bench should take the Lecturing Chair either for profit, or to give an attractive eclât to the regenerated Institution. As the Medical & Law Departments may invite the greatest number of Pupils, and of course be the most profitable to Professors, the obligation on us is the greater to engage for the University conspicuous qualifications for those Chairs. I trust this has been done in the Medical appointment actually made, & hope we shall not be unsuccessful in making the other. In opening the door a little wider for the admission of students of the Ancient Languages, it will be found, I think, that we did well: considering the competition for students that may be encountered, and the importance of filling our Dormitories at an early period.
I return the letter of Mr. Cabell, and as your answer may be a fair Copy for your files I return that also.
Yours always & affectionately
I write a few lines to Govr. Barbour, on the Virga. claim in which the University is interested; tho: it is I believe only applying the spur to a willing steed.
TO HENRY LEE.mad. mss.
Montpr, January 14, 1825.
I have recd. Sir yours of the 6th inst, and have looked over the printed sheet inclosed in it. Of the literary character of the paper I may express a laudatory opinion, without risk of contravening that of others. As a political disquisition, it embraces questions both of magnitude and of nicety, on which opinions may be various, and of which a critical review does not lie within the compass of a letter, were it permitted by leisure and favoured by the circumstances of the moment.1
The nature & extent of the obligation on a representative to be guided by the known will of his Constituents, though an old question, seems yet to be in a controvertible state. In general it may be said to be often a verbal controversy. That the obligation is not in strictness constitutional or legal, is manifest; since the vote of the Representative is equally valid & operative whether obeying or violating the instruction of his constituents. It can only be a moral obligation to be weighed by the conscience of the Representative, or a prudential one to be enforced by the penal displeasure of his Constituents.
In what degree a plurality of votes is evidence of the will of the Majority of voters, must depend on circumstances more easily estimated in a given case than susceptible of general definition. The greater the number of candidates among whom the votes are divided, the more uncertain, must, of course, be the inference from the plurality with respect to the majority.
In our complex system of polity, the public will, as a source of authority, may be the Will of the People as composing one nation; or the will of the States in their distinct & independent capacities; or the federal will as viewed, for example, thro’ the Presidential Electors, representing in a certain proportion both the Nation & the States. If in the eventual choice of a President the same proportional rule had been preferred, a joint ballot by the two Houses of Congress would have been substituted for the mode which gives an equal vote to every State however unequal in size. As the Constitution stands, and is regarded as the result of a compromise between the larger & smaller States, giving to the latter the advantage in selecting a president from the Candidates, in consideration of the advantage possessed by the former in selecting the Candidates from the people, it cannot be denied whatever may be thought of the Constitutional provision, that there is, in making the eventual choice, no other controul on the votes to be given, whether by the representatives of the smaller or larger States, but their attention to the views of their respective Constituents and their regard for the public good.
You will not forget that the above remarks, being thrown out merely in consequence of your application, are for yourself, not for others. Though penned without the most remote allusion to the particular case before the Public, or even a knowledge of its actual posture & aspects, they might be misconstrued by the propensity of the conjuncture to view things thro’ that medium.
I return the two letters inclosed in yours, which I ought not to do without expressing the high respect I entertain for both the writers; Offering to yourself my wishes for your useful success in whatever line of literature you may finally determine to exercise your talents.
[1 ]The House of Representatives was about to vote for the candidates for the Presidency and elected John Quincy Adams over Crawford and Jackson, on February 9th.