James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 13 August 1820

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Aug. 13. 20.

Dear Sir

I recieved yesterday the inclosed Letter proposing to me an interposition which my situation renders impracticable.1 The gentlemen of my family have manifested at times some opposition to mr. Nelson’s elections: which has produced an intermission of intercourse between the families: and altho’ I never took the smallest part in it, and nothing but what is respectful has ever passed between mr. Nelson and myself, yet I cannot but feel the ground too suspicious to venture on the experiment proposed. And indeed the thing is so delicate that I know not whether any ground, however cordial, could render it safe, but of this you will be the best judge as to yourself, for which purpose I inclose you the letter. I suppose myself it is impossible that a Virginian can be elected and that mr. N’s competition would only defeat Genl. Smith’s election and ensure a Northern and unfriendly choice.

Our buildings at the University go on so rapidly, and will exhibit such a state and prospect by the meeting of the legislature that no one seems to think it possible they should fail to enable us to open the institution the ensuing year. I salute mrs. Madison & yourself with constant affection & respect.

Th: Jefferson

FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

1The enclosure was Samuel Smith to Jefferson, 2 Aug. 1820 (DLC: Jefferson Papers), in which Smith requested Jefferson’s and JM’s help in dissuading Virginia congressman Hugh Nelson from vying for the position of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in Smith’s favor. Smith believed that in a three-way contest between himself, Nelson, and John W. Taylor of New York, that he and Nelson would split the southern vote, ensuring a win for the antislavery Taylor. While Nelson did not run, William Lowndes of South Carolina did, and after twenty-two ballots, Taylor was elected Speaker (John S. Pancake, Samuel Smith and the Politics of Business: 1752–1839 [University, Ala., 1972], 155).

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