Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1832 - TO HENRY CLAY. mad. mss. - The Writings, vol. 9 (1819-1836)
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1832 - TO HENRY CLAY. 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 HENRY CLAY.mad. mss.
Mar. 22, 1832.
I have duly recd yours of the 17th. Altho’ you kindly release me from a reply, it may be proper to say, that some of the circumstances to which you refer were not before known to me.
On the great question before Congs. on the decision of wch. so much depends out of Congs. I ought the less to obtrude an opinion as its merits essentially depend on many details which I have never investigated and of which I am an incompetent Judge. I know only that the Tariff in its present amount & form, is a source of deep & extensive discontent, and I fear that without alleviations separating the more moderate from the more violent opponents, very serious effects are threatened. Of these the most formidable & not the least probable wd. be a Southern Convention; the avowed object of some, and the unavowed object of others, whose views are, perhaps, still more to be dreaded. The disastrous consequences of disunion, obvious to all will no doubt be a powerful check, on its partisans; but such a Convention, characterized as it wd be by selected talents, ardent zeal & the confidence of those represented wd not be easily stopped in its career; especially as many of its members, tho’ not carrying with them particular aspirations for the honors, &c &c presented to ambition on a new political theatre, would find them germinating in such a hotbed.
To these painful ideas I can only oppose hopes & wishes that notwithstanding, the wide space & warm feelings which divide the parties, some accommodating arrangements may be devised that will prove an immediate anodyne, and involve a lasting remedy to the Tariff discords.
Mrs. M. charges me with her affece. remembrances to Mrs. Clay, to whom I beg to be at the same time respectfully presented, with reassurances to yrself, of my high esteem & cordial regards.
TO N. P. TRIST.mad. mss.
Montpellier, May —, 1832.
I have received your letter of the 8th, with the book referred to and dictate the acknowledgement of it to a pen that is near me. I will read the work as soon as I may be able. When that will be I cannot say. I have been confined to my bed many days by a bilious attack. The fever is now leaving me but in a very enfeebled state, and without any abatement of my Rheumatism; which, besides its general effect on my health, still cripples me in my limbs, and especially in my hands & fingers.
I am glad to find you so readily deciding that the charges against Mr. Jefferson can be duly refuted. I doubt not this will be well done. To be so, it will be expedient to review carefully the correspondences of Mr. Jefferson, to recur to the aspects of things at different epochs of the Government, particularly as presented at its outset, in the unrepublican formalities introduced and attempted, not by President Washington but by the vitiated political taste of others taking the lead on the occasion; and again in the proceedings which marked the Vice Presidency of Mr. Jefferson.
Allowances also ought to be made for a habit in Mr. Jefferson as in others of great genius of expressing in strong and round terms, impressions of the moment.
It may be added that a full exhibition of the correspondences of distinguished public men through the varied scenes of a long period, would without a single exception not fail to involve delicate personalities and apparent if not real inconsistencies.
I heartily wish that something may be done with the tariff that will be admissible on both sides and arrest the headlong course in South Carolina. The alternative presented by the dominant party there is so monstrous that it would seem impossible that it should be sustained by any of the most sympathising States; unless there be latent views apart from Constitutional questions, which I hope cannot be of much extent. The wisdom that meets the crisis with the due effect will greatly signalize itself.
The idea that a Constitution which has been so fruitful of blessings, and a Union admitted to be the only guardian of the peace, liberty and happiness of the people of the States comprizing it should be broken up and scattered to the winds without greater than any existing causes is more painful than words can express. It is impossible that this can ever be the deliberate act of the people, if the value of the Union be calculated by the consequences of disunion.
I am much exhausted and can only add an affectionate adieu.
TO N. P. TRIST.mad. mss.
Montpellier, May 29, 1832.
My Dear Sir,
Whilst reflecting in my sick bed a few mornings ago, on the dangers hovering over our Constitution and even the Union itself, a few ideas which, tho’ not occurring for the first time had become particularly impressive at the present. I have noted them by the pen of a friend on the enclosed paper, and you will take them for what they are worth. If that be anything, and they happen to accord with your own view of the subject, they may be suggested where it is most likely they will be well received; but without naming or designating in any manner, the source of them.
I am still confined to my bed with my malady, my debility, and my age, in triple alliance against me. Any convalescence therefore must be tedious, not to add imperfect.
I have not yet ventured on the perusal of the book you sent me. From passages read to me, I perceive “that the venom of its shafts” are not without “a vigor in the bow.”
With all my good wishes.
29 May, 1832.
(The paper referred to as inclosed in the foregoing letter.)
The main cause of the discords which hover over our Constitution and even the union itself, is the tariff on imports; and the great complaint against the tariff is the inequality of the burthen it imposes on the planting and manufacturing States, the latter bearing a less share of the duties on protected articles than the former. This being the case, it seems reasonable that an equality should be restored as far as may be, by duties on unprotected articles consumed in a greater proportion by the manufacturing States. Let then a selection be made of unprotected articles, and such duties imposed on them as will have that effect. The unprotected article of tea for example, known to be more extensively consumed in the manufacturing than in the planting States, might be regarded, as pro tanto, balancing the disproportionate consumption of the protected article of coarse woolens in the South. As the repeal of the duty on tea and some other articles has been represented by southern politicians as more a relief to the North than to the South it follows, that the North in these particulars, has for many years paid taxes not proportionately borne by the South.
Justice certainly recommends some equalizing arrangement; and in a compound tariff, itself necessary to produce an equilibrium of the burthen, (a duty on any single article tho’ uniform in law being ununiform in its operation,) such an arrangement might not be impracticable.
Two objections may perhaps be made first, that it might produce an increase of surplus revenue, which there is an anxiety to avoid. But as a certain provision for an adequate revenue will always produce a surplus to be disposed of, such an addition, if not altogether avoidable, would admit a like disposition. In any view, the evil could not be so great as that for which it is suggested as a remedy.
The second objection is, that such an adjustment between different sections of the nation might increase the difficulty of a proper adjustment between different descriptions of people, particularly between the richer and the poorer. But here again the question recurs, whether the evil as far as it may be unavoidable, be so great as a continuance of the threatening discords which are the alternative.
It cannot be too much inculcated that in a Government like ours, and, indeed, in all governments, and whether in the case of indirect or direct taxes, it is impossible to do perfect justice in the distribution of burthens and benefits, and that equitable estimates and mutual concessions are necessary to approach it.
TO C. E. HAYNES.mad. mss.
Montpellier, August 27, 1832.
. . . . . . . . .
The distinction is obvious between, 1st, Such interpositions on the part of the States against unjustifiable acts of the Federal Government as are within the provisions and forms of the Constitution. These provisions & forms certainly do not embrace the nullifying process proclaimed in South Carolina which begins with a single State and ends with the ascendency of a minority of States over a majority; of 7 over 17; a federal law, during the process, being arrested within the nullifying State; and, if a revenue law, frustrated thro’ all the States; 2 interpositions not within the purview of the Constitution by the States in the sovereign capacity in which they were parties to the constitutional compact. And here it must be kept in mind that in a compact like that of the U. S. as in all other compacts, each of the parties has an equal right to decide whether it has or has not been violated and made void. If one contends that it has, the others have an equal right to insist on the validity and execution of it.
It seems not to have been sufficiently noticed that in the proceedings of Virginia referred to, the plural terms States was invariably used in reference to their interpositions; nor is this sense affected by the object of maintaining within their respective limits the authorities rights and liberties appertaining to them, which could certainly be best effectuated for each by co-operating interpositions.
It is true that in extreme cases of oppression justifying a resort to original rights, and in which passive obedience & non-resistence cease to be obligatory under any Government, a single State or any part of a State might rightfully cast off the yoke. What would be the condition of the Union, and the other members of it, if a single member could at will renounce its connexion and erect itself, in the midst of them, into an independent and foreign power; its geographical relations remaining the same, and all the social & political relations, with the others converted into those of aliens and of rivals, not to say enemies, pursuing separate & conflicting interests? Should the seceding State be the only channel of foreign commerce for States having no commercial ports of their own, such as that of Connecticut, N. Jersey, & North Carolina, and now particularly all the inland States, we know what might happen from such a state of things by the effects of it under the old Confederation among States bound as they were in friendly relations by that instrument. This is a view of the subject which merits more developments than it appears to have received.
I have sketched these few ideas more from an unwillingness to decline an answer to your letter than from any particular value that may be attached to them. You will pardon me therefore for requesting that you will regard them as for yourself, & not for publicity, which my very advanced age renders every day more and more to be avoided.
Accept Sir, a renewal of my respects & regard.
TO REV. — ADAMS.chic. hist. soc. mss. 1832.
I recd in due time the printed copy of your Convention sermon on the relation of Xnity to Civil Govt with a manuscript request of my opinion on the subject.
There appears to be in the nature of man what insures his belief in an invisible cause of his present existence, and anticipation of his future existence. Hence the propensities & susceptibilities in that case of religion which with a few doubtful or individual exceptions have prevailed throughout the world.
Waiving the rights of Conscience, not included in the surrender implied by the social State, and more or less invaded by all religious Establishments, the simple question to be decided is whether a support of the best & purest religion, the Xn religion itself ought not so far at least as pecuniary means are involved, to be provided for by the Govt. rather than be left to the voluntary provisions of those who profess it. And on this question experience will be an admitted Umpire, the more adequate as the connection between Govts. & Religion have existed in such various degrees & forms, and now can be compared with examples where connection has been entirely dissolved.
In the Papal System, Government and Religion are in a manner consolidated, & that is found to be the worst of Govts
In most of the Govts of the old world, the legal establishment of a particular religion and without or with very little toleration of others makes a part of the Political and Civil organization and there are few of the most enlightened judges who will maintain that the system has been favorable either to Religion or to Govt
Until Holland ventured on the experiment of combining a liberal toleration with the establishment of a particular creed, it was taken for granted, that an exclusive & intolerant establishment was essential, and notwithstanding the light thrown on the subject by that experiment, the prevailing opinion in Europe, England not excepted, has been that Religion could not be preserved without the support of Govt. nor Govt be supported witht an established religion that there must be at least an alliance of some sort between them.
It remained for North America to bring the great & interesting subject to a fair, and finally to a decisive test.
In the Colonial State of the Country, there were four examples, R. I. N. J. Penna. and Delaware, & the greater part of N. Y. where there were no religious Establishments; the support of Religion being left to the voluntary associations & contributions of individuals; and certainly the religious condition of those Colonies, will well bear a comparison with that where establishments existed.
As it may be suggested that experiments made in Colonies more or less under the Controul of a foreign Government, had not the full scope necessary to display their tendency, it is fortunate that the appeal can now be made to their effects under a compleat exemption from any such controul.
It is true that the New England States have not discontinued establishments of Religion formed under very peculiar circumstances; but they have by successive relaxations advanced towards the prevailing example; and without any evidence of disadvantage either to Religion or good Government.
And if we turn to the Southern States where there was, previous to the Declaration of independence, a legal provision for the support of Religion; and since that event a surrender of it to a spontaneous support by the people, it may be said that the difference amounts nearly to a contrast in the greater purity & industry of the Pastors and in the greater devotion of their flocks, in the latter period than in the former. In Virginia the contrast is particularly striking, to those whose memories can make the comparison. It will not be denied that causes other than the abolition of the legal establishment of Religion are to be taken into view in accountg for the change in the Religious character of the community. But the existing character, distinguished as it is by its religious features, and the lapse of time now more than 50 years since the legal support of Religion was withdrawn sufficiently prove that it does not need the support of Govt. and it will scarcely be contended that Government has suffered by the exemption of Religion from its cognizance, or its pecuniary aid.
The apprehension of some seems to be that Religion left entirely to itself may run into extravagances injurious both to Religion and to social order; but besides the question whether the interference of Govtin any form wd not be more likely to increase than controul the tendency, it is a safe calculation that in this as in other cases of excessive excitement, Reason will gradually regain its ascendancey. Great excitements are less apt to be permanent than to vibrate to the opposite extreme
Under another aspect of the subject there may be less danger that Religion, if left to itself, will suffer from a failure of the pecuniary support applicable to it than that an omission of the public authorities to limit the duration of their Charters to Religious Corporations, and the amount of property acquirable by them, may lead to an injurious accumulation of wealth from the lavish donations and bequests prompted by a pious zeal or by an atoning remorse. Some monitory examples have already appeared.
Whilst I thus frankly express my view of the subject presented in your sermon, I must do you the justice to observe that you very ably maintained yours. I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions & doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst by an entire abstinance of the Govt. from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, & protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others.
I owe you Sir an apology for the delay in complying with the request of my opinion on the subject discussed in your sermon; if not also for the brevity & it may be thought crudeness of the opinion itself. I must rest the apology on my great age now in its 83d. year, with more than the ordinary infirmities, and especially on the effect of a chronic Rheumatism, combined with both, which makes my hand & fingers as averse to the pen as they are awkward in the use of it.
Be pleased to accept Sir a tender of my cordial & respectful salutations.
TO ANDREW STEVENSON1
Montpr. Novr 20, 1832
My dear Sir
I return you many thanks for the warm cap which came safe to hand a few days ago. It is as comfortable as it may be fashionable, which is more than can be said of all fashions. I recd. at the same time a duplicate of the excellent pair of gloves as well which Mrs. Stevenson, allow me rather to say, my cousin Sally has favored me. Being the work of her own hands they will impart the more warmth to mine. As they are a gift not a Gauntlet, I may express thro’ her husband, the heartfelt acknowledgments with which they are accepted. Mrs Madison has also provided well for my feet. I am thus equipt cap-a-pie, for the campaign agst. Boreas, & his allies the Frosts & the snows. But there is another article of covering, which I need most of all & which my best friends can not supply. My bones have lost a sad portion of the flesh which clothed & protected them, and the digestive and nutritive organs which alone can replace it, are too slothful in their functions.
I congratulate Richmond & my friends there on the departure of the atmospheric scourge which carried so many deaths and still more of terror with it. I join in the prayer that as it was the first it may also be the last visit.
Mrs. Stevenson in her letter to Mrs. Madison mentions that since you left us, you have had a sharp bilious attack, adding for our gratification that you had quite recovered from it. It is very important that you shd carry a good share of health into the chair at the capitol, we cannot expect that it will be a seat of Roses, whatever our hopes, that it may be without the thorns that distinguished the last season.
Inclosed is a letter from Mrs M. to Mrs. S. As she speaks for me as I do for her, Mrs. S. & yourself will have at once joint & several assurances of our constant affection and of all our good wishes.
TO N. P. TRIST.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Decr 23, 1832.
I have received yours of the 19th, inclosing some of the South Carolina papers. There are in one of them some interesting views of the doctrine of secession; one that had occurred to me, and which for the first time I have seen in print; namely that if one State can at will withdraw from the others, the others can at will withdraw from her, and turn her, nolentem, volentem, out of the union. Until of late, there is not a State that would have abhorred such a doctrine more than South Carolina, or more dreaded an application of it to herself. The same may be said of the doctrine of nullification, which she now preaches as the only faith by which the Union can be saved.
I partake of the wonder that the men you name should view secession in the light mentioned. The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater right to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of —98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created. In the Virginia Resolutions and Report the plural number, States, is in every instance used where reference is made to the authority which presided over the Government. As I am now known to have drawn those documents, I may say as I do with a distinct recollection, that the distinction was intentional. It was in fact required by the course of reasoning employed on the occasion. The Kentucky resolutions being less guarded have been more easily perverted. The pretext for the liberty taken with those of Virginia is the word respective, prefixed to the “rights” &c to be secured within the States. Could the abuse of the expression have been foreseen or suspected, the form of it would doubtless have been varied. But what can be more consistent with common sense, than that all having the same rights &c, should unite in contending for the security of them to each.
It is remarkable how closely the nullifiers who make the name of Mr. Jefferson the pedestal for their colossal heresy, shut their eyes and lips, whenever his authority is ever so clearly and emphatically against them. You have noticed what he says in his letters to Monroe & Carrington Pages 43 & 203, vol. 2,1 with respect to the powers of the old Congress to coerce delinquent States, and his reasons for preferring for the purpose a naval to a military force; and moreover that it was not necessary to find a right to coerce in the Federal Articles, that being inherent in the nature of a compact. It is high time that the claim to secede at will should be put down by the public opinion; and I shall be glad to see the task commenced by one who understands the subject.
I know nothing of what is passing at Richmond, more than what is seen in the newspapers. You were right in your foresight of the effect of the passages in the late Proclamation. They have proved a leaven for much fermentation there, and created an alarm against the danger of consolidation, balancing that of disunion. I wish with you the Legislature may not seriously injure itself by assuming the high character of mediator. They will certainly do so if they forget that their real influence will be in the inverse ratio of a boastful interposition of it.
If you can fix, and will name the day of your arrival at Orange Court House, we will have a horse there for you; and if you have more baggage than can be otherwise brought than on wheels, we will send such a vehicle for it. Such is the state of the roads produced by the wagons hurrying flour to market, that it may be impossible to send our carriage which would answer both purposes.
TO JOSEPH C. CABELL.mad. mss.
Montpr. Dec. 27 1832. 4 o’c p. m.
I have this moment only recd. yours of the 22d.1 I regret the delay as you wished an earlier answer than you can now have, tho’ I shall send this immediately to the P. O. My correspondence with Judge Roane originated in his request that I wd. take up the pen on the subject he was discussing or about to discuss. Altho’ I concurred much in his views of it, I differed as you will see with regard to the power of the Supreme Court of the U. S. in relation to the State Court. This was in my last letter which being an answer did not require one, and none was recd. My view of the supremacy of the Fedl. Court when the Constn was under discussion will be found in the Federalist. Perhaps I may, as cd not be improper, have alluded to Cases (of which all Courts must judge) within the scope of its functions. Mr. Pendleton’s opinion that there ought to be an appeal from the Supreme Court of a State to the Supreme Court of the U. S. contained in his letter to me, was I find avowed in the Convention of Va., and so stated by his Nephew latterly in Congs. I send you a copy of Col. J. Taylor’s argt. on the Carriage tax: if I understand the beginning Pages he is not only high-toned as to Judl. power, but regards the Fedl. Courts as the paramount Authy. Is it possible to resist the nullifying inference from the doctrine that makes the State Courts uncontrollable by the Supr. Ct. of the U. S.?
I cannot lay my hand on my letter to Judge Roane. The word omitted, I presume, is argt. It is a common Compt among the French as you know to say you have given all its lustre &c. Will it not suffice for you to say, You had formerly a sight of the letter or of a Copy of it. Shd the fact be denied, meet it as you please.
My letter was not written to A. Everett, but to his brother in Congs in answer to one from him. It was his Act in handing it to the Review. As his motives were good, I wd not wish his feelings to be touched by anything sd on the occasion. What is sd in that letter, as to the origin of the Constn I considered as squaring with the account given in the Fedlist. of the mixture of Natl. & Federal features in the Constitution. That view of it was well recd at the time by its friends, and I believe has not been controverted by the Repn party. A marked & distinctive feature in the Resoln of 98 is that the plural no is invariably used in them & not the singular, and the course of the reasoning, required it.
As to my change of opinion abt. the Bank, it was in conformity to an unchanged opinion that a certain course of practice required it.
The tariff is unconnected with the resos of 98. In the first Congs. of 89 I sustained & have in every situation since adhered to it. I had flattered myself, in vain it seems, that whatever my political errors may have been, I was as little chargeable with inconsistencies, as any of my fellow laborers thro’ so long a period of political life. Please return me Taylor’s pamphlet, and the letter also wch. I observe is not fit to be preserved; and I will if you think it worth while, send a copy. I have written it with sore eyes & at night as well as In much haste. Yours with cordial regards
[1 ]Copy from the original draft kindly contributed by Frederick D. McGuire, Esq., of Washington. Stevenson was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1827 to 1834.
[1 ]The reference is to the edition of 1829. See the letters in the Writings of Jefferson (P. L. Ford) iv., 265, 423.
[1 ]Cabell wrote from Richmond that the House of Delegates had proposed to print Madison’s letter to Everett of August 28, 1831 (see ante, p. 383) with the report of 1799 on the Resolutions of the previous year; that in the course of the debate Madison had been accused of inconsistency. Cabell would like to read Madison’s letter of June 29, 1821, to Judge Roane and to be permitted to say that Roane had in the month of April preceding written to Madison “for advice & aid upon the subject of the letters of Algernon Sydney.” Cabell had seen the letters to Roane and had kept copies of them. He wanted a word in the letter of June 29th, 1821, supplied.—Mad. MSS. For the letters to Roane see ante, p. 65.