James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Benjamin Rush, 23 October 1809

To Benjamin Rush

Washington Ocr. 23. 1809

Dear Sir

I duly recd. the two pamphlets which you were so obliging as to inclose me;1 and had hoped ere this to have had the pleasure of reading them. From a glance at a few pages of the one on the Judiciary subject, I perceive that is very handsomely written at least. The subject of the other I have no doubt is handled in the elegant and philosophical manner so familiar to the pen of the Author. It is a subject which I have never sufficiently examined to justify any opinion on its merits. My superficial reflections on it, have I confess led me to suppose that some indistinctness of terms has mixed itself with the question. A susceptibility of life under circumstances altogether natural, seems not to be essensially different from what might be called a vital principle.2 On this point I shall doubtless be a better judge after having received the instruction which awaits me, in your developement. Be assured always of my affecte. esteem

James Madison

RC (DLC: Benjamin Rush Papers). JM’s franked cover (docketed by Rush) became separated from the RC and in 1987 was in the undated Rush Papers.

2In “An Inquiry into the Cause of Animal Life,” Rush asserted, “Life is the effect of certain stimuli acting upon the sensibility and excitability which are extended, in different degrees, over every external and internal part of the body” (Rush, Medical Inquiries and Observations [1809 ed.], 1:10).

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