James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Nathaniel Irwin, 15 March 1811

From Nathaniel Irwin

Bucks County near Newville Penna.
March 15th. 1811


Not having the honour of being known to Mr Granger, I have presumed to transmit the inclosed through your hands;1 & to beg you will let him know how far the writer is entitled to credit. In such a case, I know, that simple justice is all that even a friend could expect of you. Happily, in the present instance, I have no occasion to draw on your friendship, having no more interest in the object, than another Citizen who sends & receives as much by Mail. With increasing respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, your quondam friend, & present hble servt

Nathl Irwin2

P. S. A Bal[t]imore paper announces, that the president has been heard to say, that a summer session of Congress would be necessary, to commence about the 20th: May.3 Should this be the case, & health permit, I will visit the City of Washington at that period, and (among other gratifications) will have the pleasure once more before I die, of seeing the man I once called my friend, supporting with dignity, the first Office in the U. States. If, Sir, your mind is nearly made up on the subject, perhaps it is not too much to expect a confidential line of information.

N. I.

RC (DLC). Enclosure not found, but see n. 1. On the RC, JM wrote at the foot of the page: “Mr. Irwin is a very respectable Clergyman; and throughout his active life has been a steady friend to the Independence & liberties of his Country. / J. M.”

1Irwin apparently enclosed a letter for the postmaster general, dated 14 Mar. 1811, complaining of irregularities in the delivery of the mail. Nine days later Granger returned Irwin’s letter to JM, along with a copy of his response informing Irwin that the matter had been corrected. He disagreed, however, with Irwin’s suggestion that the mail might be delivered better by sulky than by stagecoach (Granger to JM, 23 Mar. 1811 [NN; 1 p.], enclosing a copy of Granger to Irwin, 23 Mar. 1811 [DLC]).

2Nathaniel Irwin (1746–1812) had made JM’s acquaintance during their student days at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, and he corresponded occasionally with JM thereafter. Upon graduating in 1770, Irwin became a Presbyterian minister, and in 1772 he was called to the pulpit of the Neshaminy Church in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His political career was limited to his service in the 1788 Pennsylvania ratifying convention, but throughout his life he played a prominent role in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church (Harrison, Princetonians, 1769–1775, pp. 88–92).

3A report to this effect appeared in the Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Advertiser on 8 Mar. 1811. After mentioning that the state of “foreign relations” was the reason for the extra session, the editor expressed the hope that the Twelfth Congress would “retrieve that respect for the legislative character which the last two had forfeited by their imbecility. They must cease to legislate upon contingent circumstances, and attend more to principle, not in the abstract, but by an assertion of the national rights for the maintenance of which the physical resources of the nation are commensurate and pledged.”

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