Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1834 - TO THOMAS S. GRIMKE. mad. mss. - The Writings, vol. 9 (1819-1836)
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1834 - TO THOMAS S. GRIMKE. 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 S. GRIMKE.mad. mss.
Montpr, Jany. 6, 1834.
Your letter of the 21st of Augst last was duly recd, and I must leave the delay of this acknowledgment of it to your indulgent explanation. I regret the delay itself less than the scanty supply of autographs requested from me. The truth is that my files have been so often resorted to on such occasions, within a few years past, that they have become quite barren, especially in the case of names most distinguished. There is a difficulty also, not readily suggesting itself, in the circumstance, that wherever letters do not end on the first or third page, the mere name cannot be cut off without the mutilation of a written page. Another circumstance is that I have found it convenient to spare my pigeon holes, by tearing off the superscribed parts where they could be separated; so that autographs have been deprived even of that resource.
You wish to be informed of the errors in your pamphlet alluded to in my last. The first related to the proposition of Doctor Franklin in favor of a religious service in the Federal Convention. The proposition was received and treated with the respect due to it; but the lapse of time which had preceded, with considerations growing out of it, had the effect of limiting what was done, to a reference of the proposition to a highly respectable Committee. This issue of it may be traced in the printed Journal. The Quaker usage, never discontinued in the State and the place where the Convention held its sittings, might not have been without an influence as might also, the discord of religious opinions within the Convention, as well as among the clergy of the spot. The error into which you had fallen may have been confirmed by a communication in the National Intelligencer some years ago, said to have been received through a respectable channel from a member of the Convention. That the communication was erroneous is certain; whether from misapprehension or misrecollection, uncertain.
The other error lies in the view which your note L for the 18th page, gives of Mr. Pinckney’s draft of a Constitution for the U. S., and its conformity to that adopted by the Convention. It appears that the Draft laid by Mr. P. before the Convention, was like some other important Documents, not among its preserved proceedings. And you are not aware that insuperable evidence exists, that the Draft in the published Journal, could not, in a number of instances, material as well as minute, be the same with that laid before the Convention. Take for an example of the former, the Article relating to the House of Representatives more than any, the corner stone of the Fabric. That the election of it by the people as proposed by the printed Draft in the Journal, could not be the mode of Election proposed in the lost Draft, must be inferred from the face of the Journal itself; for on the 6th of June, but a few days after the lost Draft, was presented to the Convention, Mr. P. moved to strike the word “people” out of Mr. Randolph’s proposition; and to “Resolve that the members of the first branck of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the Legislatures of the several States. But there is other and most conclusive proof, that an election of the House of Representatives, by the people, could not have been the mode proposed by him. There are a number of other points in the published Draft, some conforming most literally to the adopted Constitution, which it is ascertainable, could not have been the same in the Draft laid before the Convention. The Conformity & even identity of the Draft in the Journal, with the adopted Constitution, on points & details the result of conflicts and compromizes of opinion apparent in the Journal, have excited an embarrassing curiosity often expressed to myself or in my presence. The subject is in several respects a delicate one, and it is my wish that what is now said of it may be understood as yielded to your earnest request, and as entirely confined to yourself. I knew Mr. P. well, and was always on a footing of friendship with him. But this consideration ought not to weigh against justice to others, as well as against truth on a subject like that of the Constitution of the U. S.
The propositions of Mr. Randolph were the result of a Consultation among the seven Virginia Deputies, of which he, being at the time Governor of the State was the organ. The propositions were prepared on the supposition that, considering the prominent agency of Virga in bringing about the Convention, some initiative step might be expected from that quarter. It was meant that they should sketch a real and adequate Govt. for the Union, but without committing the parties agst. a freedom in discussing & deciding on any of them. The Journal shews that they were in fact the basis of the deliberations & proceedings of the Convention. And I am persuaded that altho not in a developed & organized form, they sufficiently contemplated it; and moreover that they embraced a fuller outline of an adequate system, than the plan laid before the Convention, variant as that, ascertainably must have been, from the Draft now in print.
Memo.—No provision in the Draft of Mr. P. printed in the Journal for the mode of Electing the President of the U. S.
TO HENRY LEE.mad. mss.
Montpr., March 3, 1834.
Your letter of Novr. 14 came safely tho’ tardily to hand.
I must confess that I perceive no ground on which a doubt could be applied to the statement of Mr. Jefferson which you cite. Nor can it I think be difficult to account for my declining an Executive appointment under Washington and accepting it under Jefferson, without making it a test of my comparative attachment to them, and without looking beyond the posture of things at the two epochs.
The part I had borne, in the origin and adoption of the Constitution, determined me at the outset of the Govt. to prefer a seat in the House of Representatives; as least exposing me to the imputation of selfish views; and where, if anywhere I could be of service in sustaining the Constitution agst. the party adverse to it. It was known to my friends wen making me a candidate for the Senate, that my choice was the other branch of the Legislature. Having commenced my Legislative career as I did, I thought it most becoming to proceed under the original impulse to the end of it; and the rather as the Constn. in its progress, was encountering trials, of a new sort in the formation of new Parties attaching adverse constructions to it.
The Crisis at which I accepted the Executive appointment under Mr. Jefferson is well known. My connexion with it, and the part I had borne in promoting his election to the Chief Magistracy, will explain my yielding to his pressing desire that I should be a member of his Cabinet.
I hope you received the copies of your father’s letters to me, which were duly forwarded; and I am not without a hope that you will have been enabled to comply with my request of Copies of mine to him.
With friendly salutations.
TO WILLIAM COGSWELLmad. mss.
Montpellier, March 10, 1834.
Your letter of the 18th Ult. was duly received. You give me a credit to which I have no claim, in calling me “the writer of the Constitution of the U. S.” This was not, like the fabled Goddess of Wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads & many hands.
Your criticism on the Collocation of books in the Library of our University, may not be without foundation. But the doubtful boundary between some subjects, and the mixture of different subjects in the same works, necessarily embarrass the task of classification.
Being now within a few days of my 84th year, with a decaying health & faded vision, and in arrears also of the reading I have assigned to myself, I have not been able sooner to acknowledge your politeness in sending me the two pamphlets. The sermon combats very ably the veteran error of entwining with the Civil an Ecclesiastical polity. Whether it has not left unremoved a fragment of the argumentative root of the combination is a question which I leave others to decide.
With friendly respects & salutations
TO JOHN M. PATTON.mad. mss.
March 24, 1834.
I have duly recd the copy of your speech on the “Virginia Resolutions.” Tho’ not permitting myself to enter into a discussion of the several topics embraced by them, for which indeed my present condition would unfit me, I will not deny myself the pleasure, of saying that you have done great justice to your views of them. I must say at the same time that the warmth of your feelings has done infinitely more than justice to any merits that can be claimed for your friend.
Should the controversy on removals from office, end in the establishment of a share in the power, as claimed for the Senate, it would materially vary the relations among the component parts of the Govt and disturb the operation of the checks & balances as now understood to exist. If the right of the Senate be, or be made a constitutional one, it will enable that branch of the Govt to force on the Executive Department a continuance in office, even of the Cabinet officers, notwithstanding a change from a personal & political harmony with the President, to a state of open hostility towards him. If the right of the Senate be made to depend on the Legislature, it would still be grantable in that extent; and even with the exception of the Heads of Departments and a few other officers, the augmentation of the Senatorial patronage, and the new relation between the Senate directly, and the Legislature indirectly, with the Chief Magistrate, would be felt deeply in the general administration of the Government. The innovation, however modified would more than double the danger of throwing the Executive machinery out of gear, and thus arresting the march of the Govt. altogether.
The Legislative power is of an elastic & Protean character, but too imperfectly susceptible of definitions & landmarks. In its application to tenures of office, a law passed a few years ago, declaring a large class of offices, vacant at the end of every four years and of course to be filled by new appointments. Was not this as much a removal as if made individually & in detail? The limitation might have been 3, 2, or 1 year; or even from session to session of Congs. which would have been equivalent to a tenure at the pleasure of the Senate.
The light in which the large States would regard any innovation increasing the weight of the Senate, constructed and endowed as it is may be inferred from the difficulty of reconciling them to that part of the Constitution when it was adopted.
The Constitution of the U.S. may doubtless disclose from time to time faults which call for the pruning or the ingrafting hand. But remedies ought to be applied not in the paroxysms of party & popular excitements: but with the more leisure & reflection, as the Great Departments of Power according to experience may be successively and alternately in, and out of public favour; and as changes hastily accommodated to these vicissitudes would destroy the symmetry & the stability aimed at in our political system. I am making observations however very superfluous when addressed to you, and I quit them with a tender of the cordial regards & salutations wch I pray you to accept.
TO EDWARD COLES.mad. mss.
Aug. 29, 1834.
. . . . . . . . .
You have certainly presented your views of the subject with great skill & great force.1 But you have not sufficiently adverted to the position I have assumed, and which has been accorded, or rather assigned to me by others, of being withdrawn from party agitations, by the debilitating effects of age and disease.
And how could I say that the present exciting questions in which you expect me to engage, are not party questions? How could I say that the Senate was not a Party, because representing the States, and claiming the support of the people; or that the other House representing the people and confiding in their support, with the Executive at their head, was less than a Party? How could I say that the former is the Nation, and the latter but a faction.
What a difference again between my relation to the Resolutions of 98-99, charged on my individual responsibility, and my common relation only to the Constitutional questions now agitated, to which might be added the difference of my present condition, from what it was at the date of my published exposition of those Resolutions, and the habit now of invalidating opinions emanating from me by a reference to my age & infirmities?
Would not candour & consistency oblige me in denouncing the heresies of one side, not to pass in silence those of the other? For claims are made by the Senate in opposition to the principles & practice of every Administration, my own included, and varying materially, in some instances, the relations between the Great Departments of the Government. A want of impartiality in this respect, would enlist me into one of the parties, shut the ear of the other; and discredit me with those, if there be now such, who are wavering between them.
How, in justice or in truth, could I join in the charge agst the P. of claiming a power over the public money, including a right to apply it to whatever purpose he pleased, even to his own? However unwarrantable the removal of the deposits, or culpable the mode of effectuating it, the act has been admitted by some of his leading opponents, to have been, not a usurpation as charged, but an abuse only of power. And however unconstitutional the denial of a Legislative power over the Custody of the Public money, as being an Executive Prerogative, there is no appearance of a denial to the Legislature of an absolute and exclusive right to appropriate the public money, or of a claim for the Executive of an appropriating power, the charge nevertheless, pressed with most effect against him. The distinction is so obvious, and so essential, between a Custody and an appropriation, that candor would not permit a condemnation of the wrongful claim of custody, without condemning at the same time, the wrongful charge of a claim of appropriation.
Candour would require from me also a notice of the disavowal by the President, doubtless real, tho’ informal, of the obnoxious meaning put on some of his acts, particularly his Proclamation; a notice which would detract from my credit with those who carefully keep the disavowal out of view, in their strictures on the Proclamation. When I remarked to you my entire condemnation of the Proclamation, I added “in the sense wch. it bore, but which it appeared, had been disclaimed.” In fact I have in conversations, from wch I apprehended no publicity, frankly pointed at what, I regarded as heretical doctrines on every side, my wish to avoid publicity being prescribed by my professed as well as proper abstraction from the polemic scene. I have accordingly, in my unavoidable answers to dinner invitations received from quarters adverse to each other, but equally expressing the kindest regard for me, endeavored to avoid involving myself in their party views, by confining myself to subjects in which all parties profess to concur, and to the proceedings of Virga. generally referred to in the invitations, and with respect to which my adherence was well known.
You call my attention with much emphasis to “the principle openly avowed by the President & his friends, that offices & emoluments were the spoils of victory, the personal property of the successful candidate for the Presidency, to be given as rewards for electioneering services; and in general to be used as the means of rewarding those who support, and of Punishing those who do not support, the dispenser of the fund.” I fully Agree in all the odium you attach to such a rule of action. But I have not seen any avowal of such a principle by the President, and suspect that few if any of his friends would openly avow it. The first, I believe who openly proclaimed the right & policy in a successful candidate for the Presidency to reward friends & punish enemies, by removals and appointments is now the most vehement, in branding the practice. Indeed, the principle if avowed without the practice, or practised without the avowal, could not fail to degrade any Administration; both together completely so. The odium itself would be an antidote to the poison of the example, and a security agst. the permanent danger apprehended from it.
What you dwell on most is, that nullification is more on the decline, and less dangerous than the popularity of the President, with which his unconstitutional doctrines is armed. In this I cannot agree with you. His popularity is evidently and rapidly sinking under the unpopularity of his doctrines. Look at the entire States which have abandoned him. Look at the increasing minorities in States where they have not yet become majorities. Look at the leading partizans who have abandoned and turned against him; and at the reluctant and qualified support given by many who still profess to adhere to him. It cannot be doubted that the danger and even existence of the parties which have grown up under the auspices of his name, will expire with his natural or his official life, if not previously to either.
On the other hand what more dangerous than Nullification, or more evident than the progress it continues to make, either in its original shape or in the disguises it assumes. Nullification has the effect of putting powder under the Constitution & Union, and a match in the hand of every party, to blow them up at pleasure. And for its progress, hearken to the tone in which it is now preached; cast your eye on its increasing minorities in most of the S. States without a decrease in any one of them. Look at Virginia herself and read in the Gazettes, and in the proceedings of popular meetings, the figure which the anarchical principle now makes, in contrast with the scouting reception given to it but a short time ago.
It is not probable that this offspring of the discontents of S. Carolina, will ever approach success, in a majority of the States. But a susceptibility of the contagion in the Southern States is visible; and the danger is not to be concealed that the sympathies arising from known causes, and the inculcated impression of a permanent incompatibility of interests between the South & the North, may put it in the power of popular leaders aspiring to the highest stations, and despairing of success on the Federal theatre, to unite the South, on some critical occasion, in a course that will end in creating a new theatre of great tho’ inferior extent. In pursuing this course, the first and most obvious step is nullification; the next secession; & the last, a farewell separation. How near was this course being lately exemplified? and the danger of its recurrence in the same, or some other quarter, may be increased by an increase of restless aspirants, and by the increasing impracticability of retaining in the Union a large & cemented section against its will. It may indeed happen that a return of danger from abroad, or a revived apprehension of danger at home, may aid in binding the States in one political system, or that the geographical and commercial ligatures, may have that effect; or that the present discord of interests between the North & the South, may give way to a less diversity in the applications of labour, or to the mutual advantage of a safe & constant interchange of the different products of labour in different sections. All this may happen, and with the exception of foreign hostilities, hoped for. But in the mean time local prejudices and ambitious leaders may be but too successful, in finding or creating occasions, for the nullifying experiment of breaking a more beautiful China vase1 than the British Empire ever was, into parts which a miracle only could reunite.
I have thought it due to the affectionate interest you take in what concerns me to submit the observations here sketched, crude as they are. The field they open for reflection I leave to yours, and to your opportunity which I hope will be a long one, of witnessing the developments & vicissitudes of the future.
TO WILLIAM H. WINDER.1mad. mss.
Montpr., Sepr. 15, 1834.
I am sensible of the delay in acknowledging your letter of NA and regret it. But apart from the crippled condition of my health, which almost forbids the use of the pen, I could not forget that I was to speak of occurrences after a lapse of 20 years, and at an age in its 84th year; circumstances so readily and for the most part justly referred to, as impairing the confidence due to recollections & opinions.
You wish me to express personally “my approval of your father’s character & conduct at the battle of Bladensburg,” on the ground “of my being fully acquainted with everything connected with them and of an ability to judge of which no man can doubt.”
You appear not to have sufficiently reflected, that having never been engaged in military service, my judgt. in the case could not have the weight with others, which your partiality assumes for it, but might rather expose me to a charge of presumption in deciding on points purely of a professional description. Nor was I on the field as a spectator, till the order of the battle had been formed & had approached the moment of its commencement.
With respect to the order of the battle, that being known, will speak for itself; and the gallantry, activity & zeal of your father during the action had a witness in every observer. If his efforts were not rewarded with success, candour will find an explanation in the peculiarities he had to encounter; especially in the advantage possessed by the veteran troops of the Enemy over a militia, which however brave & patriotic, could not be a match for them in the open field.
I cannot but persuade myself that the evidence on record, and the verdict on the Court of enquiry, will outweigh & outlive censorious comments doing injustice to the character & memory of your father. For myself, I have always had a high respect for his many excellent qualities, and am gratified by the assurance you give me, of the place I held in his esteem & regard.
TO MANN BUTLER.mad. mss.
Oct. 11, 1834.
I have recd your letter of the 21 ult. in which you wish to obtain my recollection of what passed between Mr. John Brown and me on the overtures of Gardoqui “that if the people of Kentucky would erect themselves into an independent State, and appoint a proper person to negotiate with him, he had authority for that purpose and would enter into an arrangement with them for the exportation of their produce to New Orleans.”
My recollection, with which, references in my manuscript papers accord, leaves no doubt that the overture was communicated to me by Mr. Brown. Nor can I doubt, that, as stated by him, I expressed the opinion and apprehension, that a knowledge of it in Kentucky might in the excitements there, be mischievously employed. This view of the subject evidently resulted from the natural and known impatience of the W people on the waters of the Mississippi for a market for the products of their exuberant soil; from the distrust of the Federal policy produced by the project of surrendering the use of that river for a term of many years; and from a coincidence of the overture, in point of time, with the plan on foot, for consolidating the Union by arming it with new powers, an object, to embarrass & defeat which the dismembering aims of Spain would not fail to make the most tempting sacrifices, and to spare no intrigues.1
I owe it to Mr. Brown, with whom I was in intimate friendship, when we were associates in public life, to observe that I always regarded him whilst steadily attentive to the interests of his constituents, as duly impressed with the importance of the Union and anxious for its prosperity.
Of the other particular enquiries in your letter my great age now in its 84th year, and with more than the usual infirmities, will I hope absolve me from undertaking to speak, without more authoritative aids to my memory than I can avail myself of. In what relates to Genl. Wilkinson, official investigations in the archives of the War Department, and the files of Mr Jefferson, must of course be among the important sources of light you wish for.
It would afford me pleasure to aid the interesting work which occupies your pen by materials worthy of it. But I know not that I could point to any which are not in print or in public offices, and which if not already known to you are accessible to your researches. I can only therefore wish for your historical task all the success which the subject merits, and which is promised by the qualifications ascribed to the author.
I regret the tardiness of this acknowledgment of your letter. My feeble condition and frequent interruptions are the apology, which I pray you to accept with my respects & my cordial salutation.
[1 ]August 17, 1834, from Albemarle County, Coles wrote to Madison urging him to express his views on the powers of the President, on the veto power, and on the spoils system.—Chic. Hist. Soc. MSS.
[1 ]See Franklin’s letter to Lord Howe in 1776.—Madison’s Note The letter is of July 20 and may be seen in the Writings of Benjamin Franklin (Smyth) vi., 458.
[2 ]The son of General William H. Winder.
[1 ]Madison’s advices concerning affairs in Kentucky had come chiefly from John Brown, George Muter, and John Campbell. See ante, Vol. II.