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1826 - TO MORRIS ANTHONY. 1 - 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 MORRIS ANTHONY.1
Montplr., Jany. 27, 1826.
I have just received your favor of the 24th instant, and am much obliged by the friendly attention of which it is a proof. There must be some mistake in the case it mentions. No dividend or stock of the United States can belong to me. On my first entrance into public life I formed a resolution from which I never departed to abstain whilst in that situation from dealing in any way in public property or transactions of any kind, and I am satisfied that during my respites and since retirement from the public service I never became possessed of any stock that could give me a title to the derelict in question. It is possible that my father whose name was James and who had I believe a few public certificates accruing from property impressed or furnished for public use, may have neglected after funding them, or the unclaimed dividend may possibly belong to the estate of Bishop Madison whose name was also James.
If you will have the goodness to add to the trouble you have taken a discriptive notice of whatever circumstances of date, of place, of amount, etc., may aid in its tracing the ownership of this balance on the Books, I will put it into the hands of the Acting Executor of my father who will make the proper examination of his papers.
Mrs. M. desires me to make the proper return for your kind remembrances, and joins me in assurances of our cordial respects and good wishes, and of the pleasure we should feel in repeating them within our domicil.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Feby 24, 1826.
Yours of the 17th was duly recd.1 The awkward state of the Law Professorship is truly distressing, but seems to be without immediate remedy. Considering the hopeless condition of Mr. Gilmour, a temporary appointment, if an acceptable successor were at hand, whilst not indelicate towards the worthy moribond incumbent, might be regarded as equivalent to a permanent one. And if the hesitation of our Colleagues at Richmond has no reference to Mr. Terril, but is merely tenderness towards Mr. Gilmour, I see no objection to a communication to Mr. T. that would bring him to Virga. at once, and thus abridge the loss of time. The hardheartedness of the Legislature towards what ought to be the favorite offspring of the State, is as reproachful as deplorable. Let us hope that the reflections of another year, will produce a more parental sensibility.
I had noticed the disclosures at Richmond with feelings which I am sure I need not express; any more than the alleviation of them by the sequel. I had not been without fears, that the causes you enumerate were undermining your estate. But they did not reach the extent of the evil. Some of these causes were indeed forced on my attention by my own experience. Since my return to private life (and the case was worse during my absence in Public) such have been the unkind seasons, & the ravages of insects, that I have made but one tolerable crop of Tobacco, and but one of Wheat; the proceeds of both of which were greatly curtailed by mishaps in the sale of them. And having no resources but in the earth I cultivate, I have been living very much throughout on borrowed means. As a necessary consequence, my debts have swelled to an amount, which if called for at the present conjuncture, would give to my situation a degree of analogy to yours. Fortunately I am not threatened with any rigid pressure, and have the chance of better crops & prices, with the prospect of a more leisurely disposal of the property which must be a final resort.
You do not overrate the interest I feel in the University, as the Temple thro which alone lies the road to that of Liberty. But you entirely do my aptitude to be your successor in watching over its prosperity. It would be the pretension of a mere worshipper “remplacer” the Tutelary Genius of the Sanctuary. The best hope is, in the continuance of your cares, till they can be replaced by the stability and selfgrowth of the Institution. Little reliance can be put even on the fellowship of my services. The past year has given me sufficient intimation of the infirmities in wait for me. In calculating the probabilities of survivorship, the inferiority of my constitution forms an equation at least with the seniority of yours.
It would seem that some interposition is meditated at Richmond against the assumed powers of Internal Improvement; and in the mode recommended by Govr. Pleasants, in which my letter to Mr. Ritchie concurred, of instructions to the Senators in Congress. No better mode, can perhaps be taken, if an interposition be likely to do good; a point on which the opinion of the Virginia members at Washington ought to have much weight. They can best judge of the tendency of such a measure at the present moment. The public mind is certainly more divided on the subject than it lately was. And it is not improbable that the question, whether the powers exist, will more & more give way to the question, how far they ought to be granted.
You cannot look back to the long period of our private friendship & political harmony, with more affecting recollections than I do. If they are a source of pleasure to you, what ought they not to be to me? We cannot be deprived of the happy consciousness of the pure devotion to the public good with which we discharged the trusts committed to us. And I indulge a confidence that sufficient evidence will find its way to another generation, to ensure, after we are gone, whatever of justice may be withheld whilst we are here. The political horizon is already yielding in your case at least, the surest auguries of it. Wishing & hoping that you may yet live to increase the debt which our Country owes you, and to witness the increasing gratitude, which alone can pay it, I offer you the fullest return of affectionate assurances.
TO NOAH WEBSTER.1
Montpelier, March 10, 1826
In my letter of Oct. 12, 1804, answering an inquiry of yours of Aug. 20, it was stated that “in 1785, I made a proposition with success in the legislature, (of Virginia,) for the appointment of commissioners, to meet at Annapolis such commissioners as might be appointed by other states, in order to form some plan for investing Congress with the regulation and taxation of commerce.” In looking over some of my papers having reference to that period, I find reason to believe that the impression, under which I made the statement, was erroneous; and that the proposition, though probably growing out of efforts made by myself to convince the legislature of the necessity of investing Congress with such powers, was introduced by another member, more likely to have the ear of the legislature on the occasion, than one whose long and late service in Congress, might subject him to the suspicion of a bias in favor of that body. The journals of the session would ascertain the fact. But such has been the waste of the printed copies, that I have never been able to consult one.
I have no apology to make for the error committed by my memory, but my consciousness, when answering your inquiry, of the active part I took in making on the legislature the impressions from which the measure resulted, and the confounding of one proposition with another, as may have happened to your own recollection of what passed.
It was my wish to have set you right on a point to which your letter seemed to attach some little interest, as soon as I discovered the error into which I had fallen. But whilst I was endeavouring to learn the most direct address, the newspapers apprised me that you had embarked for Europe. Finding that your return may be daily looked for, I lose no time in giving the proper explanation. I avail myself of the occasion to express my hopes that your trip to Europe, has answered all your purposes in making it, and to tender you assurances of my sincere esteem and friendly respects.
TO N. P. TRIST.mad. mss.
Montpellier, July 6, 1826.
I have just recd yours of the 4th. A few lines from Dr. Dunglison had prepared me for such a communication; and I never doubted that the last Scene of our illustrious friend would be worthy of the life which it closed.1 Long as this has been spared to his Country & to those who loved him, a few years more were to have been desired for the sake of both. But we are more than consoled for the loss, by the gain to him; and by the assurance that he lives and will live in the memory and gratitude of the wise & good, as a luminary of Science, as a votary of liberty, as a model of patriotism, and as a benefactor of human kind. In these characters, I have known him, and not less in the virtues & charms of social life, for a period of fifty years, during which there has not been an interruption or diminution of mutual confidence and cordial friendship, for a single moment in a single instance. What I feel therefore now, need not, I should say, cannot, be expressed. If there be any possible way, in which I can usefully give evidence of it, do not fail to afford me an opportunity. I indulge a hope that the unforeseen event will not be permitted to impair any of the beneficial measures which were in progress or in project. It cannot be unknown that the anxieties of the deceased were for others, not for himself.
Accept my dear Sir, my best wishes for yourself, & for all with whom we sympathize; in which Mrs. M. most sincerely joins.
TO GEORGE MASON.1
Montpellier, July 14, 1826.
I have received, Sir, your letter of the 6th. inst. requesting such information as I may be able to give as to the origin of the document, a copy of which was inclosed in it. The motive and manner of the request would entitle it to respect if less easily complied with than by the following statement.
During the session of the General Assembly 1784-5 a bill was introduced into the House of Delegates providing for the legal support of Teachers of the Christian Religion, and being patronized by the most popular talents in the House, seemed likely to obtain a majority of votes. In order to arrest its progress it was insisted with success that the bill should be postponed till the evening session, and in the meantime be printed for public consideration. That the sense of the people might be the better called forth, your highly distinguished ancestor Col. Geo. Mason, Col. Geo. Nicholas also possessing much public weight and some others thought it advisable that a remonstrance against the bill should be prepared for general circulation and signature and imposed on me the task of drawing up such a paper. The draught having received their sanction, a large number of printed copies were distributed, and so extensively signed by the people of every religious denomination that at the ensuing session the projected measure was entirely frustrated; and under the influence of the public sentiment thus manifested the celebrated bill “Establishing Religious Freedom” enacted into a permanent barrier against Future attempts on the rights of conscience as declared in the Great Charter prefixed to the Constitution of the State. Be pleased to accept my friendly respects.
TO HENRY COLMAN.mad mss.
Montpr, August 25, 1826.
I have read with pleasure the copy of your Oration on the 4th of July, obligingly sent me, and for which I beg you to accept my thanks.
With the merits which I have found in the Oration, may I be permitted to notice a passage, which tho’ according with a language often held on the subject, I cannot but regard as at variance with reality.
In doing justice to the virtue and valour of the revolutionary army, you add as a signal proof of the former, their readiness in laying down their arms at the triumphant close of the war, “when they had the liberties of their Country within their grasp.”
Is it a fact that they had the liberties of their country within their grasp; that the troops then in command, even if led on by their illustrious chief, and backed by the apostates from the revolutionary cause, could have brought under the Yoke the great body of their fellow Citizens, most of them with arms in their hands, no inconsiderable part fresh from the use of them, all inspired with rage at the patricidal attempt, and not only guided by the federal head, but organized & animated by their local Governments possessing the means of appealing to their interests, as well as other motives, should such an appeal be required?
I have always believed that if General Washington had yielded to a usurping ambition, he would have found an insuperable obstacle in the incorruptibility of a sufficient portion of those under his command, and that the exalted praise due to him & them, was derived not from a forbearance to effect a revolution within their power, but from a love of liberty and of country which there was abundant reason to believe, no facility of success could have seduced. I am not less sure that General Washington would have spurned a sceptre if within his grasp, than I am that it was out of his reach, if he had secretly sighed for it. It must be recollected also that the practicability of a successful usurpation by the army cannot well be admitted, without implying a folly or pusillanimity reproachful to the American character, and without casting some shade on the vital principle of popular Government itself.
If I have taken an undue liberty in these remarks, I have a pledge in the candour of which you have given proofs, that they will be pardoned, and that they will not be deemed, inconsistent with the esteem and cordial respect, which I pray you to accept.
TO MARTIN VAN BUREN.mad. mss.
Montpellier, September 20, 1826.
Your letter of Aug. 30. has been longer unanswered than I could have wished; but the delay has been unavoidable.1 And I am sensible now that the subject invited more of development, than successive occurrences calling off my attention have permitted. The brief view taken of it, will at least be a proof of my disposition to comply with your request, which I regard as a private one, as you will be pleased to regard the answer to it.
I should certainly feel both gratification and obligation in giving any aid in my power towards making the Constitution more appropriate to its objects, & more satisfactory to the nation. But I feel also the arduousness of such a task, arising as well from the difficulty of partitioning and defining Legislative powers, as from the existing diversity of opinions concerning the proper arrangement of the power in question over internal improvements.
Give the power to the General Government as possessing the means most adequate, and the objections are, 1. the danger of abuses in the application of the means to objects so distant from the eye of a Government, itself so distant from the eye of the people, 2. the danger, from an increase of the patronage and pecuniary transactions of the General Government, that the equilibrium between that and the State Governments may not be preserved.
Leave the power exclusively with the States, and the objections are: 1. that being deprived by the Constitution, and even by their local relations (as was generally experienced before the present Constitution was established) of the most convenient source of revenue, the impost on commerce, improvements might not be made even in cases wholly within their own limits. 2. that in cases where roads, & canals ought to pass through contiguous States, the necessary co-operation might fail from a difficulty in adjusting conditions and details, from a want of interest in one of them, or possibly from some jealousy or rivalship in one towards the other. 3. that where roads and canals ought to pass thro’ a number of States, particular views of a single State might prevent improvements deeply interesting to the whole nation.
This embarrassing alternative has suggested the expedient which you seem to have contemplated, of dividing the power between the General & State Governmts., by allotting the appropriating branch to the former, & reserving the jurisdiction to the latter. The expedient has doubtless a captivating aspect. But to say nothing of the difficult of defining such a division, and maintaining it in practice will the nation be at the expence of constructing roads & canals, without such a jurisdiction over them as will ensure their constant subservience to national purposes? Will not the utility and popularity of these improvements lead to a constructive assumption of the jurisdiction by Congress, with the same sanction of their constituents, as we see given to the exercise of the appropriating power, already stretching itself beyond the appropriating limit.
It seems indeed to be understood, that the policy & advantage of roads & canals have taken such extensive & permanent hold of the public will, that the constructive authority of Congress to make them, will not be relinquished, either by that, or the Constituent Body. It becomes a serious question therefore, whether the better course be not to obviate the unconstitutional precedent, by an amendatory article expressly granting the power. Should it be found as is very possible, that no effective system can be agreed on by Congress, the amendment will be a recorded precedent against constructive enlargements of power; and in the contrary event, the exercise of the power will no longer be a precedent in favour of them.
In all these cases, it need not be remarked I am sure, that it is necessary to keep in mind, the distinction between a usurpation of power by Congress against the will, and an assumption of power with the approbation, of their constituents. When the former occurs, as in the enactment of the alien & sedition laws, the appeal to their Constituents sets everything to rights. In the latter case, the appeal can only be made to argument and conciliation, with an acquiescence, when not an extreme case, in an unsuccessful result.
If the sole object be to obtain the aid of the federal treasury for internal improvements by roads & canals, without interfering with the jurisdiction of the States, an amendment need only say, “Congress may make appropriations of moneys for roads and canals, to be applied to such purposes by the Legislatures of the States within their respective limits, the jurisdiction of the States remaining unimpaired.”
If it be thought best to make a constitutional grant of the entire Power, either as proper in itself, or made so by the moral certainty, that it will be constructively assumed, with the sanction of the national will, and operate as an injurious precedent, the amendment cannot say less, than that “Congress may make roads & canals, with such jurisdiction as the cases may require.”
But whilst the terms “common defence & general welfare,” remain in the Constitution unguarded agst. the construction which has been contended for, a fund of power, inexhaustible & wholly subversive of the equilibrium between the General and the State Govts is within the reach of the former. Why then, not precede all other amendments by one, expunging the phrase which is not required for any harmless meaning; or making it harmless by annexing to it the terms, “in the cases required by this Constitution.”
With this sketch of ideas, which I am aware may not coincide altogether with yours, I tender renewed assurances of my esteem & friendly wishes.1
TO SAMUEL HARRISON SMITH.1
Montpellier, Novr. 4, 1826.
I have recd. your letter of Ocr. 25 requesting from me any information which would assist you in preparing a memoir of Mr Jefferson for the Columbian Institute. Few things would give me more pleasure than to contribute to such a task; and the pleasure would certainly be increased by that of proving my respect for your wishes. I am afraid however, I can do little more than refer you to other sources, most of them probably already known to you.
It may be proper to remark that Mr. Ths. Jefferson Randolph, Legatee of the Manuscripts of Mr. Jefferson, is about to publish forthwith a Memoir left by his grandfather in his own hand writing, and if not in every part intended by him for the press, is thought to be throughout in a state well fitted for it. The early parts are I believe purely, and in some instances, minutely biographical; and the sequel, embracing a variety of matter, some of it peculiarly valuable, is continued to his acceptance of the Secretaryship of State under the present constitution of the U. States. Should this work appear in time, it would doubtless furnish your pencil with some of the best materials for your portrait.1
The period between his leaving Congress in 1776, and his mission to France, was filled chiefly by his labours on the Revised Code,—the preparation of his “Notes on Virginia” (an obiter performance):—his Governorship of that State:—and by his services as a member of Congress, and of the Committee of the States at Annapolis.
The Revised code in which he had a masterly share, exacted perhaps the most severe of his public labours. It consisted of 126 Bills, comprizing and recasting the whole statutory code, British & Colonial, then admitted to be in force, or proper to be adopted, and some of the most important articles of the unwritten law, with original laws on particular subjects; the whole adapted to the Independent & Republican form of Government. The work tho’ not enacted in the mass, as was contemplated, has been a mine of Legislative wealth, and a model of statutory composition, containing not a single superfluous word, and preferring always words & phrases of a meaning fixed as much as possible by oracular treatises, or solemn adjudications.
His “Notes on Virginia” speak for themselves.
For his administration of the Govt. of Virginia, the latter chapters of the 4th vol. of Burke’s history continued by Gerardine, may be consulted. They were written with the advantage of Mr. Jefferson’s papers opened fully by himself to the author. To this may now be added his letter just published from Mr. Jefferson to Majr. H. Lee, which deserves particular notice, as an exposure & correction of historical errors, and rumoured falsehoods, assailing his reputation.
His services at Annapolis will appear in the Journals of Congress of that date. The answer of Congress to the resignation of the Commander in Chief, an important document, attracts attention by the shining traces of his pen.
His diplomatic agencies in Europe are to be found only in the unpublished archives at Washington, or in his private correspondence, as yet under the seal of confidence. The Memoir in the hands of his Grandson will probably throw acceptable lights on this part of his history.
The University of Virginia, as a temple dedicated to science & Liberty, was after his retirement from the political sphere, the object nearest his heart, and so continued to the close of his life. His devotion to it was intense, and his exertions unceasing. It bears the stamp of his genius, and will be a noble monument of his fame. His general view was to make it a nursery of Republican patriots as well as genuine scholars. You will be able to form some idea of the progress and scope of the Institution from the 2 inclosed Reports from the Rector for the Legislature (the intermediate Report is not at hand) which as they belong to official sets, you will be so good as to send back at your entire leisure. I may refer also to a very graphic & comprehensive exposé of the present state of the University, lately published in the “National Intelligencer,” which will have fallen under your eye.
Your request includes “his general habits of study.” With the exception of an intercourse in a session of the Virginia Legislature in 1776, rendered slight by the disparity between us, I did not become acquainted with Mr. Jefferson till 1779, when being a member of the Executive Council, and he the Governor, an intimacy took place. From that date we were for the most part separated by different walks in public & private life, till the present Govr. brought us together, first when he was Secretary of State and I a member of the House of Reps.; and next, after an interval of some years, when we entered, in another relation, the service of the U. S. in 1801. Of his earlier habits of study therefore I can not particularly speak. It is understood that whilst at College [Wm. & Mary] he distinguished himself in all the branches of knowledge taught there; and it is known that he never after ceased to cultivate them. The French language he had learned when very young, and became very familiar with it, as he did with the literary treasures which it contains. He read, and at one time spoke the Italian also; with a competent knowledge of Spanish; adding to both the Anglo-Saxon, as a root of the English, and an element in legal philosophy. The Law itself he studied to the bottom, and in its greatest breadth, of which proofs were given at the Bar which he attended for a number of years, and occasionally throughout his career. For all the fine arts, he had a more than common taste; and in that of architecture; which he studied in both its useful, and its ornamental characters, he made himself an adept; as the variety of orders and stiles, executed according to his plan founded on the Grecian & Roman models and under his superintendance, in the Buildings of the University fully exemplify. Over & above these acquirements, his miscellaneous reading was truly remarkable, for which he derived leisure from a methodical and indefatigable application of the time required for indispensable objects, and particularly from his rule of never letting the sun rise before him. His relish for Books never forsook him, not even in his infirm years and in his devoted attention to the rearing of the University, which led him often to express his regret that he was so much deprived of that luxury, by the epistolary tasks, which fell upon him, and which consumed his health as well as his time. He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age. It may be said of him as has been said of others that he was a “walking Library,” and what can be said of but few such prodegies, that the Genius of Philosophy ever walked hand in hand with him.
I wish, Sir, I could have made you a communication less imperfect. All I say beyond it is that if in the progress of your pen, any particular point should occur on which it may be supposed I could add to your information from other sources, I shall cheerfully obey your call as far as may be in my power.
The subject of this letter reminds me of the “History of the administration of Mr. Jefferson,” my copy of which, with other things disappeared from my collection during my absence from the care of them. It would be agreeable to me now to possess a copy and if you can conveniently favor me with one, I shall be greatly obliged.
Accept, Sir, assurances of my continued esteem & regard, with a tender of my best respects to Mrs. Smith.
TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Novr, 1826.
I received some days ago your letter of Augt 28. If I did not invite an earlier one by my example it was because I often heard of you, and was unwilling to add a feather to the oppressive weight of correspondence which I well know to be your unavoidable lot. You will never doubt that your happiness is very dear to me; and I feel the sentiment growing stronger as the loss of others dear to us both shortens the list to which we belong. That which we have lately sustained at Monticello is irreparable; but was attended with every circumstance that could soothe us under it. I wish I was not obliged to add, “with one affecting exception.” His family so long in the lap of all the best enjoyments of life, is threatened with the contrast of pinching poverty. The expences of his numerous household, his extensive hospitalities, and a series of short crops and low markets, to which are to be added old debts contracted in public service abroad and new ones for which private friendship had made him responsible; all these causes together, had produced a situation of which he seems not to have been fully aware, till it was brought home to his reflections by the calls of creditors, (themselves pressed by the difficulties of the times,) and by the impossibility of satisfying them without a complete sacrifice of his property, perhaps not even by that at such a crisis. In this posture of things, he acquiesced in an appeal to the Legislature for the privilege of a Lottery. This was granted, and arrangements made which promised relief, with a residuary competence for his beloved daughter & her children. The general sensation produced by the resort to a Lottery, and by the occasion for it, unfortunately led some of his most enthusiastic admirers, to check the progress of the measure by attempting to substitute patriotic subscriptions, which they were so sanguine as to rely on, till the sad event on the 4 of July, benumbed, as it ought not to have done, the generous experiment; with a like effect, which ought still less to have happened, on the Lottery itself. And it is now found that the subscriptions do not exceed ten or twelve thousand dollars, and the tickets, but a very inconsiderable number, whilst the debts are not much short of one hundred thousand dollars; an amount which a forced sale, under existing circumstances, of the whole estate, (negroes included,) would not perhaps reach. Faint hopes exist that renewed efforts may yet effectuate such a sale of tickets as may save something for the family; and fainter ones that the Legislature of the state may interpose a saving hand. God grant it! But we are all aware of the difficulties to be encountered there. I well know my dear Sir, the pain which this melancholy picture will give you, by what I feel at the necessity of presenting it. I have duly adverted to the generous hint as to the E. Florida location. But for any immediate purpose, it is, in any form whatever, a resource perfectly dormant, and must continue so too long for the purpose in question. Your allusion to it is nevertheless a proof of the goodness which dwells in your heart; and whenever known will be so regarded. The urgency of particular demands has induced the Executor Thomas Jefferson Randolph, who is the Legatee of the Manuscripts, to undertake an immediate publication of a Memoir, partly biographical, partly political and miscellaneous, left in the handwriting of his Grandfather, the proceeds of which he hopes will be of critical use; and if prompt & extensive opportunities be given for subscriptions, there may be no disappointment. The work will recommend itself not only by personal details interwoven into it, but by Debates in Congress on the question of Independence, and other very important subjects coeval with its Declaration, as the Debates were taken down and preserved by the illustrious member. The memoir will contain also very interesting views of the origin of the French Revolution, and its progress & phenomena, during his Diplomatic residence at Paris, with reflections on its tendencies & consequences. A trial will probably be made to secure the copyright of the publication, both in England and in France. In the latter case your friendly counsel will of course be resorted to and I mention it that you may in the mean time be turning the subject in your thoughts. The manuscripts of which the Memoir makes a part are great in extent, and doubtless rich in matter; and discreet extracts may perhaps prove a further pecuniary resource, from time to time, but how soon and in what degree, I have not the means of judging. Mrs. Randolph with her two youngest children, left Montpellier some days ago, on her way to pass the winter with Mrs. Coolidge. Such a change of scene had become essential to her health as well as to her feelings. She has made up her mind for the worst results; a merit which quickens the sympathy otherwise so intense. She was accompanied by her son, Ths. J. Randolph who will endeavor to make arrangements with the Northern Printers for the volume to be published. It will be an Octavo of about three hundred pages.
Your sketch of European prospects is valuable for its facts, & especially for its authenticity. The contents of the foreign Gazettes find their way to us thro’ our own; but do not convey every thing as ours do to you. You will have seen the mortifying scenes produced in Congress by the Panama Mission. The fever of party spirit was an endemic which drew into it every ill humour, till the whole body was infected. The malady however was far less malignant out of doors than within; and I hope our S. American friends will make allowances till a development of the real feelings here shall be seen. The Congress at Panama, after a partial execution of its business, has adjourned to Mexico. One of our envoys, Mr. Anderson died on his way there, and Mr. Sergeant the other is still here. Who is to be his associate in the place of Mr. A. is not known; nor is it known when he or they are to set out. Bolivar appears to have given a Constitution to the new State in Peru, of a countenance not altogether belonging to the American family. I have not yet seen its details; whether it shews him an apostate, or the people there, in his view, too benighted as yet for self-government, may possibly be a question.
Another mortifying topic is the Greek equipment at N. York. It appears the ample fund for two Frigates at an early day has procured but one which has but recently sailed. The indignation of the public is highly excited; and a regular investigation of the lamentable abuse is going on. In the mean time Greece is bleeding in consequence of it, as is every heart that sympathizes with her noble cause. You will see by our Gazettes also that the community is drawn into a premature ferment by the partisans of the Presidential Candidates, the actual incumbent, & Genl. Jackson in whose favor, all the opponents of the other are at present concentrating all their efforts. The race, according to appearances is likely to be a close one. But there is time enough for the political vicissitudes which often occur.
You possess, notwithstanding your distance, better information concerning Miss Wright and her experiment than we do here.1 We learn only that she has chosen for it a remote spot in the western part of Tennessee, & has commenced her enterprise; but with what prospects we know not. I wrote to her without delay according to my purpose intimated to you, a letter of some length, in answer to one from her. Mrs. Madison wrote at the same time. I hope those letters, mine at least, reached her; not because it contained anything of much importance, but because it was dictated by the respect we feel for her fine genius and exalted benevolence. Her plan contemplated a provision for the expatriation of her Elèves, but without specifying it; from which I infer the difficulty felt in devising a satisfactory one. Could this part of the plan be ensured the other essential part, would come about of itself. Manumissions now more than keep pace with the outlets provided, and the increase of them is checked only by their remaining in the country. This obstacle removed and all others would yeild to the emancipating disposition. To say nothing of partial modes, what would be more simple, with the requisite grant of power to Congress, than to purchase all female infants at their birth, leaving them in the service of the holder to a reasonable age, on condition of their receiving an elementary education. The annual number of female births may be stated at twenty thousand, and the cost at less than one hundred dollars each, at the most; a sum which would not be felt by the nation, and be even within the compass of State resources. But no such effort would be listened to, whilst the impression remains, and it seems to be indelible, that the two races cannot co-exist, both being free & equal. The great sine qua non, therefore is some external asylum for the coloured race. In the mean time the taunts to which this misfortune exposes us in Europe are the more to be deplored, because it impairs the influence of our political example; tho’ they come with an ill grace from the quarter most lavish of them, the quarter which obtruded the evil, and which has but lately become a penitent, under suspicious appearances. . . .
TO THOMAS COOPER.1
Montpellier, Dec. 26, 1826.
. . . Have you ever adverted to the alledged minuteness of the Roman farms, & the impossibility of accounting for their support of a family. All the ancient authors, agricultural & Historical, speak of the ordinary size as not exceeding duo jugera, equal according to the ascertained measure, to about one & a quarter of our acres, & none of the modern writers, I have met with, question the statement. Neither Hume nor Wallace, tho’ led to a critical investigation of it, in comparing the populousness of ancient & modern nations, notice the difficulty. Dixon too in his elaborate researches into ancient husbandry, if I do not misrecollect, starts no doubt on the subject. Now it is impossible that a family, say of six persons could procure from such a speck of earth, by any known mode of culture, a supply of food such as then used with the materials for clothing or a surplus from the soil that would purchase it, to say nothing of fuel and the wood necessary for the other wants of the farm. We hear much also of the plough & the oxen on the Roman farms. How were these fed? A yoke would devour more than the whole product.
Cincinnatus himself is reported to have owned but 8 jugera, if I mistake not, one half of which, he lost, by a suretyship. Even that aristocratic allowance is not free from the remarks here made. The subject is curious, and involves 3 questions, 1. Whether the size of the farm, tho’ never called in question, has been rightly stated? 2. If rightly stated & no extraneous resources existed, how were the families subsisted? 3. If there were extraneous resources what were they? We read of no pastures or forests in common, and their warlike expeditions, tho’ in the neighborhood, as it were, and carried on by the farmers themselves, could yield no adequate supplies to solve the problem.
The mail has furnished me with a copy of your Lectures on Civil Government, and on the Constitution of the U. S. I find in them much in which I concur; parts on which I might say non liquet, and others, from which I should dissent: but none, of which interesting views are not presented. What alone I mean to notice, is a passage in which you have been misled by the authorities before you, & by a misunderstanding of the term “national,” used in the early proceedings of the Convention 1787. Both Mr. Yates and Mr. Martin brought to the Convention, predispositions against its object, the one from Maryland, representing the party of Mr. Chase opposed to federal restraints on State Legislation; the other from New York the party unwilling to lose the power over trade, through which the State levied a tribute on the consumption of its neighbours. Both of them left the Convention long before it completed its work, and appear to have reported in angry terms what they had observed with jaundiced eyes. Mr. Martin is said to have recanted at a later day, and Mr. Yates, to have changed his politics & joined the party adverse to that, which sent him to the Convention.
With respect to the term “national” as contradistinguished from the term “federal” it was not meant to express the extent of power, but the mode of its operation which was to be, not like the power of the old confederation operating on States but like that of ordinary government operating on individuals; and the substitution of “United States” for “National,” noted on the journal was not designed to change the meaning of the latter, but to guard against a mistake or misrepresentation of what was intended. The term “national” was used in the original propositions offered on the part of the Virginia Deputies, not one of whom attached to it, any other meaning than that here explained. Mr. Randolph himself, the organ of the Deputation on the occasion, was a strenuous advocate for the federal quality of limited & specified powers; and finally refused to sign the Constitution, because its powers were not sufficiently limited and defined.
We feel great pleasure in inferring from your communication, that your health, so severely assailed at Richmond, has been effectually restored. With the best wishes for its continuance, and the addition of all other blessings, I renew to you the expression of my great esteem & friendly regards.
[1 ]From the original kindly loaned by Frederick D. McGuire, Esq., of Washington, D. C.
[1 ]See Jefferson’s recital of his financial reverses in his letter.—Jefferson’s Writings (P. L. Ford), xii., 457.
[1 ]From “A Collection of Papers on Political, Literary and Moral Subjects.” By Noah Webster, LL.D. New York, 1843, p. 172.
[1 ]Jefferson died July 4th.
[1 ]Copy of the original in the Virginia Historical Society. The enclosure was a copy of the Memorial and Remonstrance against religious assessments. See ante, Vol. II., p. 183.
[1 ]Van Buren wrote from Albany that he intended to propose an amendment to the constitution on the subject of internal improvements in the next Congress, having already done so in the last two sessions. He would be pleased if Madison would draft the amendment.—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]On October 15 Madison wrote to Van Buren acknowledging the receipt of the report of the committee on roads and canals: “The committee have transcended all preceding advocates of the doctrine they espouse, in appealing to the old articles of Confederation for its support. Whatever might have been the practice under those articles it would be difficult to shew that it was always kept within the prescribed limits. The Revolutionary Congress was the Offspring of the great crisis, and the exercise of its powers prior to the final ratification of the articles, governed by the law of necessity, or palpable expediency. And after that event there seems to have been often more regard to the former latitude of proceeding than to the text of the Instrument; assumptions of power apparently useful, being considered little dangerous in a Body so feeble, and so completely dependent on the authority of the States. There isno evidence however that the old Congs. ever assumed such a construction of the terms ‘Com̃on defence & general welfare’ as is claimed for the new. Nor is it probable that Gen: Washington in the sentiments quoted from or for him, had more in view than the great importance of measures beyond the reach of individual States, and, if to be executed at all, calling for the general authority of the Union. Such modes of deducing power, may be fairly answered by the question, what is the power that may not be grasped with the aid of them?”—Mad. MSS.
[1 ]From the original owned by the late J. Henley Smith of Washington. Smith’s address was printed in 1827 (Washington): “Memoir of the life, character and writings of Thomas Jefferson; delivered in the Capitol, before the Columbian institute on the sixth of January, 1827, and published at their request.”
[1 ]The work was printed by Thomas Jefferson Randolph. It may be seen in the Works of Jefferson (P. L. Ford), Federal Edition, i., 3.
[1 ]She came to the United States in 1825 at Lafayette’s suggestion.
[1 ]From the original kindly loaned by Mrs. Sally Newman, “Hillton,” Va.