To George Washington
Philada. Decr. 1. 1796
J. Madison presents his respectful compliments to the President & returns the Treatise on small Canals &c, with his acknowledgments for the perusal of it.1 He is not enough conversant with such subjects to decide on the merits of the various plans & machinery recommended by the Author. In general his principles appear to be both effective & practicable; but the question of their utility must be decided by a very accurate comparison of expence & saving, which can not easily be made without partial experiments at least; and which must vary also in different countries, & different situations of Society. The author however is certainly entitled to much praise for his ingenuity & laudable zeal for improvement; and has probably by his work really contributed to it, either immediately, or by the use that may be made of his ideas by others.
RC (DLC: Washington Papers); FC (DLC). RC docketed by Washington. FC in an unidentified hand; headed, possibly by JM, “(Copy from J. M. to Geo. Washn.).”
1. Washington had received a copy of Robert Fulton’s A Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation; Exhibiting the Numerous Advantages to Be Derived from Small Canals … (London, 1796). See Washington to Fulton, 14 Dec. 1796 (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , 35:335).