James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 19 February 1812

From Thomas Jefferson

Monticello Feb. 19. 12.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 12th. has been duly recieved.1 I have much doubted whether, in case of a war, Congress would find it practicable to do their part of the business. That a body containing 100. lawyers in it, should direct the measures of a war is, I fear, impossible; and that thus that member of our constitution, which is it’s bulwark, will prove to be an impracticable one from it’s cacoethes loquendi.2 It may be doubted how far it has the power, but I am sure it has not the resolution, to reduce the right of talking to practicable limits.

I inclose you a letter from Foronda.3 You may be willing to see what part he takes in the proceedings in Spain. If you have time & inclination to read his folletos, papelles & papelitos, I will send them to you. I have not yet looked into them.

Altho’ I reject many applications to communicate petitions for office, yet ⟨som⟩e lay hold of the heart, or from other circumstances cannot be decline⟨d⟩ but in the crowd of military appointments perhaps there may be less objection to communicate them. The inclosed letter from old Doctr. Gantt is one of these cases.4 You knew him personally & his merit; his letter will inform you of his misfortunes and his virtuous anxieties for his family. As I can add nothing to your knolege of his case & the information of the letter, I shall leave his application on those grounds and conclude with the tribute of my constant affection & respect

Th: Jefferson

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers); FC (DLC: Jefferson Papers). Parts of words missing owing to a tear in the RC are supplied within angle brackets from the FC. RC docketed by JM.

1Jefferson’s Epistolary Record notes a 12 Feb. 1812 letter from JM received on 15 Feb., but Jefferson probably meant to refer to JM’s letter of 7 Feb. (DLC: Jefferson Papers).

2Cacoëthes loquendi: a passion for speaking.

3Jefferson enclosed a 30 Nov. 1811 letter he had received from Valentín de Foronda in Coruña on 15 Feb. 1812 (DLC: Jefferson Papers; 3 pp.; in Spanish). The letter discussed the recent progress made in the cortes toward the drafting of a Spanish constitution and also included copies of letters and pamphlets Foronda had written and received on various aspects of current events in Spain. Foronda added that he was not sending copies of this material to “the wise Madison” for fear that his making contact with an enemy of Spain would be misunderstood (editors’ translation).

4Edward Gantt’s 21 Jan. 1812 letter to Jefferson, written from Louisville, was received by the ex-president on 15 Feb. 1812 (DLC: Jefferson Papers, Epistolary Record). The letter has not been found, but its contents evidently requested an office for Gantt’s son. JM forwarded the letter to the secretary of war (see JM to Jefferson, 6 Mar. 1812).

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