James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Edrington, 1 February 1813

From Edmund Edrington

Staunton Va. Feby. 1st. 1813


You will no doubt be surprised at being addressed by an obscure individual and an utter stranger to you; and perhaps still more so when the cause which has induced him to address you is know[n]: it is to ask a favour, and a pecuniary one too, that I have presumed to trespass upon your important engagements: I am a young man of a respectable but not wealthy family, and of a somewhat better education than poor boys usually recieve in our state; I have a small farm and a few slaves; with this I was satisfied; but to save a large and respectable family from ruin and absolute want I some time since assumed for them a responsibility which I am unable to meet; and unless I can obtain a loan of 2000$, all the little I have will be taken from me; I shall be cut short in the prosecution of a study (that of Medicine) in which I have been some time engaged, and an aged mother, who is dependent on me, will be brought to taste the bitterness of poverty and want. I feel great diffidence in making this application; but when I reflect that it is a loan only that I ask, that such a loan would enable me to save my property from sacrifice, and cheerfully to pursue my studies; that I can give the most unquestionable security on property for the repayment of the money at the end of two years: I have some hope of success: It is not known to any person, nor shall it be known, that I have made this application to you: If you can save me from ruin, it could be done through the instrumentality of a friend, and you not known in the transaction, or I would go to Washington if necessary: I can produce the most satisfactory and creditable testimonials as to my character and conduct: I am known to Mr. Taliaferro who represents the District of which King George is a component part, but I would rather not be known unless you can render me the great kindness I ask. I shall be very thankful to hear from you, that if my application is successful I may go on my way rejoicing, if otherwise I may be delivered from a state of suspense.1

In publica commoda peccem, si longiore sermone Morer tua tempora.2 Most respectfully Your Excellency’s Obdt. Servt.

Edmund Edrington


1In a letter to JM of 14 Feb. 1813, Edrington thanked the president for his prompt reply of “the 8th. Inst.” (not found). Presumably JM did not provide the requested loan, because Edrington remarked that the reply “has saved me from expectations which I might have hoped would be fulfilled” (DLC).

2“In publica commoda peccem, si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Caesar”: “I should sin against the public weal if with long talk, O Caesar, I were to delay your busy hours” (Horace, Epistles, 2.1.3–4, in Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, Loeb Classical Library [1970 reprint], 396, 397).

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