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Bishop James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 31 May 1809

From Bishop James Madison

Williamsburg May 31. 1809.

My dear Sir,

Mr Wm Rives, the Son of Mr Rives of Nelson County, will present this to you. He has lately been obliged to1 leave College, on Acct of his yielding to that false notion of Honour, which is, unfortunately, so prevalent. The Sentence of the College was unavoidable, tho pass’d with sincere Regret; & I take a particular Pleasure in giving you the full assurances, that I believe him to be not only,2 a Youth of the best Disposition, & of Manners always polite & engaging; but also, that he has been richly gifted by nature with a fine Genius, & with that mental Energy, which merits the highest Cultivation. His Father, as well as himself, is anxious that the Expulsion should not operate against him, in your Decision with Respect to a Proposition, which will be submitted3 to you; &, therefore, it is; that I have made this Representation. I feel, also, a warm Interest in his future Welfare; & am persuaded, that under your Auspices, we may expect that he will become one of the Ornaments of his Country.

I congratulate you, most heartily, on the full, unanswerable Demonstration, which late Events have given of the Wisdom & sound Policy of the Measures of your Administration, with Respect to our foreign Relations. One Triumph only is wanting; & that, I think, is even now at our very Doors. The French Emperor, if consistent, must also abrogate his injurious decrees. We shall then4 hear what those will say, who are so emphatically styled—“their Friends”—by British Orators. But really, we appear to have intermingled with our social Connections such a mass of Corruption, that it may be doubted whether a sufficient Anteseptic can be found to counteract its putrid Tendency.

With the sincerest Sentiments of Respect & Esteem, I am, Dr Sir

Yr Friend & St

J Madison

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 28 June 1809 and so recorded in SJL.

James Madison (1749–1812), president of the College of William and Mary, 1777–1812, and first bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Virginia, 1790–1812, was a cousin of the United States president of that name. In 1772 Madison received one of the first A.B. degrees awarded by William and Mary, and the following year he joined its faculty, where he taught natural philosophy and mathematics and took an active interest in the welfare of his students. He corresponded regularly with TJ on scientific topics and geography and did the survey work for A Map of Virginia Formed from Actual Surveys (Richmond, 1807) (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Richard W. Stephenson and Marianne M. McKee, eds., Virginia in Maps: Four Centuries of Settlement, Growth, and Development [2000], 120–1, 139–45).

1Madison here canceled “quit.”

2Preceding two words interlined, with editorial correction of caret misplaced one word to the right.

3Word interlined in place of “made.”

4Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Madison, James, Bishop; and College of William and Mary search
  • Madison, James, Bishop; identified search
  • Madison, James, Bishop; letters from search
  • maps; of Virginia search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; intentions unclear search
  • Rives, Robert; family of search
  • Rives, William Cabell; expelled from College of William and Mary search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • William and Mary, College of; expulsion and readmission search
  • William and Mary, College of; faculty of search