James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Nicholas Gouin Dufief, 7 April 1814

From Nicholas Gouin Dufief

Philada April 7. 1814


I, very much, regret the necessity which compels me to apply to You as an individual and a gentleman for a line in answer, that I never sold or forwarded to you a work intitled “La création du Monde, par Bécourt.” A report that I Supplied you with this book has induced the Grand Jury of Philadelphia to prefer an indictment against me as the publisher thereof.1 You will, therefore, lay me under peculiar obligation and do an act of Justice at the Same time by enabling me to contradict it. I have the Honour to be Sir, your very Humble & obedient Servant

N. G. Dufief


1Dufief referred to Regnault de Bécourt’s La création du monde, ou Système d’organisation primitive suivi de l’explication des principaux phénomènes qui se sont opérés dans la nature, depuis l’origine de l’univers jusqu’à nos jours (Philadelphia, 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 27858). No evidence has been found that JM owned a copy of the book, which challenged orthodox religious tenets. Thomas Jefferson, however, expecting it to be a work of geology or astronomy, had requested that Bécourt send him a copy, with payment to be made through Dufief (ca. 1776–1834), a Philadelphia language teacher and bookseller. Dufief’s role in the transaction occasioned the charge that he had sold the book; to refute it he asked and received Jefferson’s statement of the facts (PJM-RS, description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (1 vol. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:13 n. 2; Looney et al., Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, 7:284–85, 303–4).

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