James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to James Monroe, 9 December 1817

To James Monroe

Montpellier Decr. 9. 1817

Dear Sir

The mail of saturday brought me the Copy of your message.1 It is a fine landscape of our situation, and can not fail to give pleasure at home, and command respect abroad. The recommendation of the repeal of taxes is happily shaped; so also the introduction of the subject of amending the Constitution. The only questions which occur, relate to the proposed suppression of the establishment at Amelia Island, if to be effected by a military force employed out of our territorial claims; and to the latitude of the principle on which the right of a civilized people is asserted over the lands of a savage one. I take for granted that the first point was well considered; and the last may be susceptible of qualifying explanations. You say nothing, I observe, of remodelling the Judiciary. Perhaps you may have in reserve a special message; or may think it best to let the subject originate in Congress; or it may not appear to you in the light it does to me. I have long thought a systematic change in that department proper, and should have pressed it more when in office, but for the circumstance of its involving a personal accommodation, where I might be supposed to feel an interest biassing my judgment and diminishing the attention to my opinions.2 The extension given to the Judiciary sphere by new States & territories, will require at least some further provisions of law. Health & happiness.

James Madison

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers); partial draft (DLC). RC docketed by Monroe. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1For Monroe’s first annual message to Congress, see Hamilton, Writings of James Monroe description begins Stanislaus Murray Hamilton, ed., The Writings of James Monroe.… (7 vols.; 1898–1903; reprint, New York, 1969). description ends (1969 reprint), 6:33–44.

2Partial draft ends here. The “personal accommodation” to which JM referred concerned Supreme Court associate justice Thomas Todd who was his brother-in-law. For this and JM’s thoughts on “remodelling” the Supreme Court, see Todd to JM, 27 July 1817, and nn. 4 and 8.

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