James Madison Papers

Nicholas P. Trist to James Madison, 31 January 1827

Tufton January 31. ’27

Dear Sir

I send, with the request that they be returned when you shall have done with them, a couple of Harmony papers, containing some articles on the subject of gymnastics. The flattering reports brought up by Genl. Cocke on the prospects of further assistance from the legislature, and the consequent probability that it will be in the power of the Bd. to do something on the subject, has revived my anxiety to see it taken into serious consideration. I am myself fresh from the literary institutions of the country, & have just had experience of what they are deficient in; and so high is my sense of the importance of this branch, of the advantages of attention to it & of the evils of its neglect, that if I had to choose between a teacher of gymnastics and an additional professor or two, I should not hesitate a moment in prefering the former. I speak also from experience when I say that no mistake could be greater than to suppose military exercises a substitute for the former. To these I was subject a twelvemonth, without deriving any sensible benefit from them: indeed, they consist of but standing, walking, together with a few motions of the arms; and all this in very constrained & confined situations. Whereas the systematic culture of every muscle of the body is attended by benefits almost immediately sensible & universally attested. The effects, almost incredible, of the public gymnasium lately established in Boston were announced in the "medical intelligencer", almost coevally with its opening. As a confirmation of my opinion concerning the total inaequacy of military exercises, the late report of the Bd. of examiners at Westpoint recommends the establishment of a gymnasium there as an indispensable appendage to the institution.

We received today flattering accounts from Washington. The prospect of success in incorporating the lotteries is very good—Mr Hayne of So. Ca. was to move on the subject in the Senate, last monday.

Mr Johnson has just written, calling in a great hurry for a copy of the enactment, or more properly project, concerning the University Court. This, you will recollect, formed part of the proceedings in October last, of which both he & Mr Cabell were furnished with a copy which they took with. From Mr J’s letter, I am inclined to believe that he has forgotten that this paper is contained in the Oct proceedings, & that he has now in his desk the very thing he so is anxiously looking for from Charlottesville. Ever yours

N. P. Trist

It seems that Mr Giles has not emerged from the Wigwam for nothing! Considering our federal politics of far more pressing importance, at this moment, than those of the state, such services as he aspires to render would more than compensate in my mind for <any> effect his exertions may have had against the Convention bill.

RC (ViHi: Nicholas P. Trist Album Book).

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