James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Peter Stephen DuPonceau, 15 November 1810

From Peter Stephen DuPonceau

Philadelphia 15th. Novr. 1810


I had the honor of mentioning to you when you was last in this City in 1805. that I had made, for my private use, a Translation of the first Book of Bynkershoek’s Quæstiones Juris Publici.1 I have Since been induced to publish it, & I beg leave to present you with the first Copy of it that has issued from the press. It is an homage due to the Statesman who has best understood & appreciated the merits of my Author, & who has given to the World the most correct Character of his Writings. Permit me to offer it to you also as a feeble testimony of my respect & veneration for your Character, & of my attachment to your person. I have the honor to be With the greatest consideration & respect Sir Your most obedient and very humble servant

Peter S. Du Ponceau2


1DuPonceau published the first book of Cornelius van Bynkershoek’s Quaestionum juris Publici … (1737 ed.), with notes, as A Treatise on the Law of War … Being the First Book of HisQuestiones juris publici” (Philadelphia, 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 19697). In the introduction to his translation (p. xix), DuPonceau commended JM for his “correct and judicious praise” of Bynkershoek in his 1806 pamphlet, An Examination of the British Doctrine, Which Subjects to Capture a Neutral Trade, Not Open in Time of Peace.

2Peter Stephen DuPonceau (1760–1844), born and educated in France, came to the U.S. in 1777 as a secretary to Baron von Steuben. He also served Robert R. Livingston in the same capacity during the latter’s tenure as secretary for foreign affairs in the 1780s. In 1785 he commenced the practice of law in Philadelphia where he subsequently became known for his translations of works on constitutional and international law as well as for his contributions to history and philology.

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