James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Rhea, 30 March 1816

Washington 30th. March 1816


The twentieth day ⟨of next⟩ month by a Joint Resolution of both Houses is a⟨ppointed⟩ for Congress to adjourn. Since the begining of this Session I have frequently enquired respecting You, and this Session approaching to its end I can not avoid troubling You with this letter, the only object of Which is to request You to write to me and let me know how You and Your lady are. ⟨The⟩ recollection of the times I have had the pleasure of being with You in this City comes to my mind with comforting pleasure--but they will not return. These great Subjects have been under consideration this Session of Congress--Internal improvements, Expatriation--and Subject of the Spanish patriots. The people of the United States are at last, in peace, except the petty Seminole war, and happier than any other people on Earth. Having outlived two Wars with Great ⟨Britain⟩, I cannot help believing that our best policy is to make the happiness and peace of the people of these United States the first and great object, ⟨& as the people⟩ even rose sooner from the effects of War ⟨than others⟩ have done, in the course of a few Years, all debt will be diminished. Having experienced the distress arising from a scarcity of money in time of the late war, I am very unwilling to engage in any thing that may in the most remote manner lead to War, until our debt is greatly diminished and not then if it can honorably be avoided. High feelings are entertained for the patriots of Spanish America. I hope and trust that the Spanish patriots ⟨will⟩ be successfull and that thier efforts will produce to them complete independence, but I have no hesitation in declaring that all my feelings are with my fellow citizens of these United States. The happiness, peace and prosperity of the people of the United States in the first instance--and secondly they of that nation which is most Worthy. Peace prosperity and happiness ⟨are⟩ now embracing our happy Country. To introduce an opposite State of things, without great and good cause, directly affecting ourselves, would in my humble opinion be unsafe, impolitic and unwise. So the arguments in support of internal improvements, that is of the Power of Congress to provide for them, I have attended, with a degree of Surprise. The tenth article of the Amendments to the Constitution appears to fix an insuperable bar to such attempts untill power be delegated by an amendment to the constitution The constitution of the United States provides for augmentation of population and enlargement of territory, but does not appear to sanction a diminution of Either. The Constitution hinders not, nor does it prohibit any citizen to voluntarily depart and abandon it. There appears but little if any reason to authorize a law of Expatriation even if the enacting of such law was expressly sanctioned--but I have entered on Subjects to which I had little intention to approach when I began this letter--and I will return to the first Subject and again request You to Write to me so that I may have the pleasure of knowing that You and Mrs. Madison are in possession of ⟨good⟩ health. You can not be happier than I wish You to be. I have the honor to be with the most Sincere esteem Your obt. Servt.

John Rhea

DLC: Papers of James Madison.

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