James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Charles Jared Ingersoll, 2 March 1811

To Charles Jared Ingersoll

Washington Mar. 2. 1811


I have recd your letter of the 26. Ult: referring to a pamphlet previously sent me; and for which now that I know to whom I am indebted, I return my thanks.

Having recd. the pamphlet at a moment, which permitted a very hasty perusal only, my judgment of it ought to have the less value even with those most partial to it. I am able to say, however, without compliment, that the perusal of the work afforded me pleasure, as being a seasonable antidote to t⟨he⟩ misconceptions & perversions which prevail agst. the true character of our nation & its Republican polity; and as presenting features of lear[n]ing, reflection & discrimination, doing credit to the Author; a credit which seems to be the greater when it is known that he is a young one. In expressing this opinion, I must at the same time do it with a reserve as to some views of characters & things,1 which I can not but ascribe to errors which time will remove from all candid & discerning minds. Accept my esteem & friendly respects

James Madison

RC (NjP: Crane Collection).

1One can only speculate about JM’s initial reactions to Ingersoll’s attempts to satirize certain European misconceptions about the U.S., namely the report in Charlemont’s first letter to Inchiquin that “the reigning president, unless fame belies him, is much addicted to gallantry, and not very fastidious in his loves.” In Inchiquin’s fourth letter to Pharamond, this report was corrected to the extent that the president was said to have “no harem, and but one wife.” In Inchiquin’s sixth letter discussing the merits of the first four presidents, Ingersoll’s remarks about JM were more circumspect. After penning some frank, and even severe, criticisms of the presidential conduct of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Ingersoll, writing in 1809, declared that “as Mr. Madison has but just entered on the chief magistracy, his probation is to come, and his estimate can be conjectured only.… Mr. Madison having distinguished himself as an accomplished speaker, and an able writer, it remains to be seen whether he will prove himself an enlightened executive statesman.” The difficulties facing JM, Ingersoll noted, were many, and his country expected much from “his zeal, moderation and abilities” (see Inchiquin, the Jesuit’s Letters, pp. 6, 35, 78–79).

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