James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Peter S. Du Ponceau, 10 June 1818

From Peter S. Du Ponceau

Philadelphia 10th. June 1818


I have the honor in the name & by order of the Historical Committee of the American Philosophical Society, to enclose to you the prospectus of the first Volume of their Transactions,1 now in the press, & at the same time to solicit your valuable aid & assistance towards the important Objects of their Institution. As you live in a state where no similar Establishment yet exists, you cannot, as a Citizen of Virginia, be indifferent to the progress of an Association, whose exertions, if Seconded by able & influential men, may be the means of preserving from oblivion many interesting Documents which hereafter may Serve to elucidate your own local History. The object of this address is therefore to request that you will by yourself & your friends take every proper Opportunity to encrease their store of Historical materials, of which the enclosed printed paper will Shew you the use that they intend to make. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Sir Your most obedient humble servant

Peter S. Du Ponceau2
Corresponding Secretary

I beg you will be So good as to present me respectfully to Mrs Madison.

RC (DLC); letterbook copy (PPAmP). RC cover docketed by JM.

1Du Ponceau enclosed a four-page prospectus entitled In the press, and will be published in the course of the present year by Abraham Small … Transactions of the Historical and Literary Committee of the American Philosophical Society: held at Philadelphia for promoting useful knowledge (Philadelphia, 1818). JM’s copy is in the Madison Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. The first of this three-volume series of the Transactions was published in 1819 and featured Du Ponceau’s correspondence with missionary John Heckewelder as well as his “Report to the Committee, on the Languages of the American Indians.” For a brief discussion of Du Ponceau’s research, see John C. Greene, American Science in the Age of Jefferson (Ames, Iowa, 1984), 388–403.

2Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (1760–1844), a French-born Revolutionary War veteran, was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer and an authority on international law. He published numerous books on the law as well as articles on Native American culture and language.

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