James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Benjamin Waterhouse, [ca. 16] March 1817

To Benjamin Waterhouse

Washington. [ca. 16] Mar. 1817.

Dear Sir

On a long list of epistolary debts which I could not attend to, during the period of my public duties, is your favor containing explanations relating to “A Journal of a young man &c.”1 I beg leave now to thank you for that mark of your attention. The reception given by the public to the work is the best evidence of its interesting character; and a perusal of a part of it only, a sufficient one of the advantage, which the materials derived from the hand which employed them. The publication has certainly made an extensive impression. The view given by the Reporter of what passed as to the conduct of a public agent in England, has been complained of by him, and a different view presented. I have not sufficiently investigated the case to be a perfect judge; but as mistakes might well happen, and the conduct of the agent was well vouched, he has been continued in the public confidence.2

Being on the point of my final departure from this public theatre, I have wished that the lapse of time since your favor came to hand, might not be construed into an appearance of diminished esteem, and respect.

James Madison

RC (MBCo). Day of month not indicated; conjectural day assigned based on postmark: “Wash City Mar 16.” Addressed by JM to Waterhouse at “Cambridge near Boston,” and franked. Benjamin Waterhouse (1754–1846), an American-born physician trained in Great Britain, held the Hersey Professorship of the Theory and Practice of Physic at Harvard College from 1783 to 1812. He was an influential proponent of vaccination against smallpox (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 5:161 n. 1). In 1813 JM appointed Waterhouse medical superintendent of military posts in New England, a position he held until 1820.

1JM referred to Waterhouse’s letter to him of 18 June 1816 (DLC). Waterhouse had enclosed A Journal, of a Young Man of Massachusetts, Late a Surgeon on Board an American Privateer, Who was Captured at Sea by the British … and was Confined First, at Melville Island, Halifax, Then at Chatham, in England, and Last, at Dartmoor Prison (Boston, 1816; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 39719), which, as he noted in his letter, he wrote from the “raw material” furnished him by the young man. “The young surgeon brought me all the stones and the bricks,” wrote Waterhouse, “while I designed, and built up the structure, finding the mortar, or connecting material.”

2The American agent for prisoners in Great Britain, Reuben G. Beasley, was severely criticized in the book as demonstrating “an unfeeling neglect, and disregard [for the prisoners’] pressing wants.” JM appointed Beasley U.S. consul at Gibraltar on 2 Mar. 1815, and on 16 Dec. 1816, U.S. consul at Le Havre (Waterhouse, A Journal, of a Young Man of Massachusetts, [Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 39719], 61; 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 , 2:627, 628, 3:61, 62).

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