James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Dearborn, 30 April 1810

From Henry Dearborn

Boston April 30th. 1810

Dear Sir,

With this you will receive a thing called a sermon, in which you will see exhibited a correct picture of New Engld. Federalism, excepting one strong feature, which the painter has not exhibited, viz. a deep rooted hostility to our present sistem of Government but he deserves great credit for having given a correct picture of the veracity, Charity, & candor of his party.1 Whether we shall succeed in obtaining a Republican majority in our Legislature or not, is uncertain,2 I think the chances about eaqual. We are now anxious to hear the result of the Newyork Elections. Mrs. Dearborn joins me in the most friendly & respectfull salutations to your self & Mrs. Madison.

H. Dearborn.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1JM’s reaction to Dearborn’s enclosure (see JM to Dearborn, 7 May 1810) leaves little doubt that it was David Osgood’s A Discourse Delivered at Cambridge in the Hearing of the University, April 8, 1810 (Cambridge, Mass., 1810; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819 (22 vols. to date; New York, 1958-). description ends 20966). Taking 2 Samuel 15:6, “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel,” as his text, Osgood told the story of David and Absalom as a parable for the times. George Washington was David, Jefferson was Absalom, while JM was cast in the role of “Ahitophel, the Machiavel of the age” (p. 5). In case his audience missed the point, Osgood made his message explicit by concluding with a severe critique of Republican foreign policy, in which JM was depicted as a tool of Napoleon. The students of Harvard, on 9 Apr., passed a vote of thanks to Osgood for his “impressive and valuable discourse.”

2At the time Dearborn wrote, the state of parties in the Massachusetts General Court after the recent elections was uncertain. The final partisan identity of General Court members for the sessions of 1810 and 1811 was 302 Federalists, 264 Republicans, and 76 of unknown political affiliation. A sufficient number of the latter members voted with the Republicans to enable them to elect a Speaker of the House and thus control the sessions of 1810 and 1811 (James M. Banner, Jr., To the Hartford Convention: The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts, 1789–1815 [New York, 1970], pp. 362, 367).

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