James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 2 May 1812

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello May 2. 12

Dear Sir

It is a grievous thing to be pressed, as I am, into the service of those who want to get into service themselves. The great mass of those sollicitations I decline: but some come forward on such grounds as controul compliance. Mr. Archibald C. Randolph,1 an applicant for command in the new army, is my near relation, which in his own eye and that of our common friends gives him a claim to my good offices; while in mine, and that of the world it adds not an iota to his fitness for public service. I have given him a letter to the Secretary at War, in which I have taken care to say nothing but the truth.2 I have specifically stated the qualities he possesses favorable to his views. But no inference of qualities not specified must be drawn: and that this caveat, which I confide to yourself alone, may not operate further than would be just, I am bound to say that I know of but two points in his character adverse to his wishes; the one that he is a zealous federalist, and as such may be prone to feel and foster the grievances founded and fancied which keep an army always uneasy; the other that he is quarrelsome and may be troublesome to his companions. The army is indeed the school to correct this last propensity, but the correction may cost us the life of a good man. God bless you and give you a happy issue out of all your trials which I know to be severe.

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

1Archibald Cary Randolph was the son of Jane Cary and Thomas Isham Randolph and the husband of Lucy Burwell Randolph. He had been commissioned as a captain of infantry in 1799–1800 but was best known in Virginia as a horsebreeder of some distinction. Despite Jefferson’s carefully worded testimonials, Eustis and JM appointed Randolph to be a captain of infantry on 5 May 1812, and he served in the Twelfth Infantry Regiment until his death on 14 Nov. 1813 (Jonathan Daniels, The Randolphs of Virginia [Garden City, N.Y., 1972], pp. 130, 224–25; Heitman, Historical Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (2 vols.; Washington, 1903). description ends , 1:815; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 2:264).

2In his 2 May 1812 letter to Eustis, Jefferson reminded the secretary of war that Archibald Randolph had been commissioned in 1799 and pointedly referred Eustis to the testimonials he assumed had been written on his kinsman’s behalf on that occasion. Otherwise Jefferson limited his advocacy to stressing the respectability of Randolph’s family in Virginia and “the bravery and bodily powers” that the former president believed would make him a good soldier. If Randolph were to succeed in his application, Jefferson did not doubt that he would fully “justify the confidence of his friends” (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

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