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To James Madison from Thomas Todd, 27 July 1817

From Thomas Todd

Lexington July 27th 1817.

My Dear Sir,

I regret very much that your request respecting the horses has not been sooner complied with, the delay is attributible to a variety of causes, which it would be tedious to both you & myself to detail. I now have the pleasure of sending you four bays—One four years old, two of them five and one six—they have been since my last1 under the management of a person in whose Judgement & integrity I have great confidence. He assures me they are now well trained to the harness, gentle, sound & safe. You will see that they are stout & strong and I hope that my dear sister2 will think them tolerably likely, which answers your description; but I am fearful that from the accidents & the length of time which they have been on expences, you will not think their price as reasonable as you probably calculated on getting them—the demand & high prices given in the Southern market, has raised the price of horses very much here—the prices paid for them, the expences of keeping and of sending them in, will make them cost $1000—they could be sold here without removing for $1200. As to the remittance, a deposit with Mr Cutts in the City subject to my order will answer my purpose, reserving for Walter & William3 each $100, which you will be so good as to furnish them with.

I lament that the recommended reform in the Judiciary was not carried into effect,4 and am apprehensive that the obnoxious & odious compensation bill, has had such effect, the members of the fifteenth Congress will be afraid of creating new Offices, or encreasing the salaries of old ones—the parsimony of the State governments to their public Officers is gradually & imperceptibly creeping into the measures of the general government, & will eventually destroy that liberality which has secured the best talents in the Union. The demagogues in Congress as well as in the State legislatures are clamorous for economy & the abolition of what they conceive to be useless & unnecessary offices, they will therefore oppose the creation of new ones in every department of the government. I therefore almost despond of any change in the Judiciary within any short period.

The people of our State are much agitated with a constitutional question on the subject of a new election to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of our late Governor5—in almost every county in the State there are candidates pro & con—in many there is no doubt those in favour of a new election will succeed, but the result throughout the whole State is very questionable.

We lament, that from Mrs. T’s particular situation6 we cannot comply with the demand of our sister & yourself in paying you a visit this summer, the disappointment is great to us; but hope to be compensated. Present me affectionately to our sisters7 and be assured my dear Sir of the great esteem & sincere regard of Yr friend

Thomas Todd8

RC (MiU-L). Docketed by JM.

1Letter not found.

2Todd referred to Dolley Payne Madison, sister of his wife, Lucy Payne Washington Todd.

3Samuel Walter Washington (ca. 1799–1831) and William Temple Washington (1800–1877) were sons of Lucy Payne Washington Todd by her first husband, George Steptoe Washington of Harewood, Virginia (now West Virginia) (Mattern and Shulman, Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison, 414).

4In JM’s eighth annual message to Congress, 3 Dec. 1816, he called for “a remodification of the judiciary establishment,” recommending that the practice of the Supreme Court justices riding circuit be ended and that Congress design “a more convenient organization of the subordinate tribunals” (Madison, Writings [Hunt ed.] description begins Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (9 vols.; New York, 1900–1910). description ends , 8:375, 381).

5The death of Kentucky governor George Madison precipitated a constitutional question in the state as to the proper method of deciding the next governor. Some Kentuckians called for a new gubernatorial election, but it was finally decided that the lieutenant governor should become governor for the remainder of the four-year term for which Madison had been elected (William B. Allen, A History of Kentucky … [Louisville, Ky., 1872], 82–83).

6Lucy Payne Washington Todd (1777?–1846) was pregnant with her third child by Thomas Todd. James Madison Todd was born in 1818 (Mattern and Shulman, Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison, 414).

7Todd referred to his sisters-in-law, Dolley Payne Madison and Anna Cutts. In July 1817, Anna and her children were making their annual summer visit to Montpelier (Eliza Collins Lee to Dolley Payne Madison, 29 June 1817, ibid., 226).

8Thomas Todd (1765–1826), a Virginia-born lawyer who moved to Kentucky in 1784 and served as a judge on the state Court of Appeals, 1801–7, was appointed U.S. Supreme Court associate justice by Thomas Jefferson in 1807, and served in that position until his death. He married Lucy Payne Washington in 1812 in the first wedding celebrated in the White House (Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, eds., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789–1969: Their Lives and Major Opinions [5 vols.; New York, 1969–78], 1:407–11).

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