James Madison Papers

To James Madison from David Rogerson Williams, 22 December 1815

Executive Office So Carolina
Centre Hall 22nd. Decr. 1815


The inclosed extract from the proceedings of the Legislature of this State, explain fully the cause of my addressing you. The veneration I feel for the source from whence they proceed qualifies the discharge of the duty enjoined on me & to which I am equally quickened by a sense of the correctness of the course taken & the vital importance of the object in view.

The adversity which, has overwhelmed in the old world, the advocates of free government & the principles they have espoused, admonish us with unusual urgency to a full & adequate preparation for the defence of our institutions, only less hated here, than those assimilated to them in Europe have been, by the chiefs of arbitrary governments, because more remote from them. That defence can only be full when every freeman in the nation has arms in his own hands. The Constitution of the United States vests the power to provide them in the General Government & it’s means are ample. Under proper organization and with arms the militia must continue, as it has proved the nation’s safe reliance. The State sovereignties depend on it, and the Administration of the General Government also. It is therefore with peculiar force and justice I am directed to call on you for that which, a wise forecast and the provisions of the Constitution demand not more I persuade myself, than your own judgement. The legislature believe they are entitled to such a portion of the arms that have been procured by the appropriation for "arming the whole body of the militia," as the relative population of the State will authorise.

It has been your good fortune Sir, under the special interposition of a kind Providence, to preside over & direct the energies of a free people triumphantly through a tremendous conflict. I can conceive of no measure so well calculated to consumate your glory, as to put them in possession of the means that will always prove adequate to the defence of their rights.

The wishes of the Legislature of South Carolina can never fail to receive from you all the consideration they are entitled to; nor from Congress, should you find it necessary to submit them to that body: yet allow me to hope you can, in part gratify them without that appeal. I subjoin assurances of the great personal regard with which I am Your’s respectfully

(signed) David R. Williams

ScL: David Rogerson Williams Papers.

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