To John Blair Smith
May 27. 1785.
I have before me your note requesting my information relative to a fact asserted on your part, and denied on that of Carter H. Harrison Esqr. Your own feelings will suggest to you my motives for wishing not to be made a Witness or Judge in any case where the characters of Gentlemen are concerned. Under the circumstances of the present in which I am only called on by one of the parties, & therefore might err through the want of suggestions to my memory from the other, I am persuaded you will readily excuse my declining the answer which you request.1
FC (DLC). In JM’s hand and docketed by him. Headed, “Copy of Answer.”
1. Brant assumed that JM’s conception of gentlemanly behavior precluded involvement in this personal dispute (Madison, II, 349), though JM had given his opinion a year earlier in another situation (Opinion in Controversy between Joseph Jones and William Lee, 26 June 1784). Considering Harrison’s prominence in the House of Delegates, another explanation of JM’s circumspect conduct might relate to his conception of practical politics.