James Madison Papers

James Madison to [John] Trumbull, 1 March 1835

Montpellier March lt. 1835—

Dear Sir

Your late letter in the New York Commercial Advertiser having referred to my recollection of what passed between us as to revolutionary subjects for the paintings provided for by Congress, it may be a satisfaction to yourself for me to say, that you justly inferred from it, that the omission of the battle of Bunkers Hill, in the final selection, did not proceed from the circumstance that it was not in the ordinary sense a victory.

The general impression I retain of what occurred in making the selection, is that in my first communication with those officially around me, the Battle of Bunker’s Hill first presented itself for consideration, being the first in order of time, and known to have given an inspiring pledge of what might be expected from the bravery & patriotism of the American people in the impending struggle for their liberties. But as the resolutions of Congress limited the number of paintings to four, and the Declaration of Independance, with the events of Saratoga & York, stood forth with irresistable claims, that at Bunkers Hill was yeilded to Washington’s resignation of his commission, as a spectacle peculiarly interesting whether as a contrast to the military usurpations so conspicuous in History, or as a lesson & example to leaders of victorious armies who aspire to true glory; and it was a circumstance agreable to us all, that the subjects finally adopted, had been the choice of the artist himself, whose pencil had been chosen for the execution of them.

I tender you Sir a return of the kind sentiments you express towards me, with a reassurance of my cordial esteem & regards.

James Madison

RC (CtY); draft (DLC).

Index Entries