James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tench Coxe, 23 February 1814

From Tench Coxe

Philadelphia Feb. 23. 1814


I think it my duty confidentially to make known to you, that I have drawn a respectful memorial to the S. of the U.S. upon the subject of the difficulties, which I conjectured would arise there, and some which from symptoms I suspect, base and malignant as they are, to have been imposed upon that honorable body.1

How highly ought I, under all the circumstances with which you are surrounded to appreciate your goodness & the genuine honor of the distinction which it has conferred on my little services. Be assured, Sir, that nothing but circumscribed means shall ever induce me to lose sight of this [sic] principles of public spirit by which a few upright & prudent men in every state must still labor in the cause of a country on which & on its followers depend the fate of our fellow men throughout the world. With perfect respect and faithful attachment I have the honor to be, Sir, yr. mo. obt. servant

Tench Coxe

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1For the difficulties to which Coxe alluded, see his letter to JM, 3 Jan. 1814, and n. 1. Coxe’s memorial, which JM submitted to the Senate on 28 Feb. 1814 (Senate Exec. Proceedings, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends 2:499), has not been found. It probably consisted in part of information contained in Coxe’s undated draft of a reply to an affidavit supposedly made by “silver smith and worker in metals” George Armitage of Philadelphia, accusing Coxe of soliciting and accepting bribes in his former position as purveyor of public supplies (Papers of Tench Coxe in the Coxe Family Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania [PHi microfilm ed.; 122 reels; Philadelphia, 1977], reel 89; filed at 2 Feb. 1814). Coxe categorically denied the charges. He stated that Armitage had offered him “a gilt medal of commodore Prebble in a silver case … as a compliment,” and that he had refused but “finally consented” to accept it with the understanding that he would donate it to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which he did. Armitage’s affidavit had been unknown to him until quite recently, Coxe wrote, although he had been cursorily informed of such a document attributed to a person named Armistead. He assumed that this person was actually Armitage, who had written JM two years previously to complain about Coxe (see Armitage to JM, 28 Jan. 1812, PJM-PS, description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 4:151–52), and who resented Coxe’s reluctance to grant him contracts.

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