James Madison Papers

James Madison to John Hartwell Cocke, 4 April 1828

Montpellier April 4. 1828.

Dear Sir

I recd. yesterday yours of the 29th. ult: inclosing your correspondence with Docr. Jones. It is quite probable, not withstanding his dissatisfaction at what has passed, that he may still look forward to the chance of having the way opened for him to the vacant Chair in the University, by some intermediate proceeding of the Visitors. Should this not be done, he seems to have shut himself out altogether by saying that he could not come on at a notice of six weeks, that is from the July meeting of the Visitors.

The more I have heard of Dr. Jones the more I am convinced of his suitable qualifications to a certain extent, and of the moderateness of that extent. For the present he might do very well. In the more advanced Studies of that School, a Professor of a higher order would certainly be desireable and be looked for in such an Institution. Should one of this description not be attainable, it may be found expedient not to abandon the idea of overcoming the difficulty in the way of Jones. From the last letter I recd. from Mr. Johnston, it appeared that his correspondence on the subject of Mr. Renwick was not entirely closed.

Since I forwarded to you the letter from Mr. Lawrence, I have two others from him inclosing recommendations of a Mr. Ritchie, given in the strongest terms, and from the highest sources, including Leslie, Sr. Humphrey Davis, Herschell, Biôt & &c. A letter from Mr Key also expresses as the result of his enquiries, a full persuasion of the merits ascribed to Mr. Ritchie. Considering the central position of Mr. Johnston as most favorable for the purpose, I have sent the whole packet to him hoping that he might soon be able to consult on the subject with some of the Visitors, particularly yourself & Mr Cabell who are occasionally in Richmond, and intimating that if there be no lien on the vacancy, and three of my Colleagues should concur in the appointment of Mr. Ritchie, I should be willing to authorize Mr. Lawrence to engage him at once. When I wrote to Mr. Johnston I was not aware that the late re-appointment of Visitors did not embrace all the former ones, and am still uninformed of the individual who declined it, but who I take for granted is either Mr. Loyall or Genl. Breckenridge, most probably the former. From Mr. Rives who lately called on me, finding that he was the successor, I gave him the information above sketched, and was authorized to consider him as concurring in the choice of Mr. Ritchie if approved by others.

You may have learnt at the University that letters lately recd by Mr. Long, repeat the call on him to be in London in the coming Autumn. I have not yet recd. from Mr. Brougham a reply to my answer to his letter, but have little hope that it will differ the communication to Mr. Long. On the supposition that we can not find among Candidates for his chair, a successor, to our mind, it may deserve consideration whether Ritchie ought not to be sounded on the occasion. He is represented as an excellent Classical Scholar, as well as a profound Mathematician and Nat: Philosopher: And in the contingency of a demand for him in either of the latter characters, he would be on the spot ready to be translated.

It is a great consolation amid the unpleasant circumstances at the University that the studious habits of the youth continue to improve. This is the vital point.

In a letter from Mr. Trist just recd. he asks our attention to the case of Lewis Randolph. He represents him as doing well in his Studies, and of very good promise generally, if enabled to compleat them; but that unless in some way aided, he will of necessity be hurried into some gainful occupation. Having understood that Mr. Wirtembaker will ere long enter on the practice of the Law, the place of Librarian occurs to Mr. Trist as a birth particularly eligible, and he pledges himself that its duties would be properly discharged. I mention the subject to you as well that you may enquire and consider, as that you may mention it to our Colleagues as opportunities offer. If such an appointment be a proper one, it will I presume find the proper disposition in all of us. With great esteem & regard

James Madison

RC (ViU); draft (DLC).

Index Entries