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James Madison to Edward Livingston, 8 May 1830

Montpellier May 8, 1830

Dear Sir

Your letter of April 29 with the copy of your speech was duly recd.; but not without a little delay occasioned by a misdirection of it to Charlottesville instead of Orange Court House.

You have succeeded better in your interpretation of the Virginia proceedings in 98-99 than those who have seen in them, a co-incidence with the Nullifying doctrine so called. This doctrine as new to me as it was to you, derives no support from the best co-temporary elucidations of those proceedings.– the debates on the Resolutions, the address of the Legislature to its Constituents, and the scope of the objections made by the Legislatures of other States, whose concurrence in the Resolutions was invited & refused.

The error in the late Comments on the Virga. proceedings has arisen from a failure to distinguish between what is declaratory of opinion, and what is ipso facto executory; between the right of the parties, and of a single party; and between resorts within the purview of the Constitution, and the ultima ratio which appeals from a Constitution cancelled by its abuses, to original rights paramount to all Constitutions.

I thank you, Sir, for a communication which I owe to your politeness, and your friendly recollections. It presents very able views of several very interesting subjects, and merits the attentive perusal which I doubt not it will generally receive.

Mrs. Madison, tho’ a stranger as I am to Mrs Livingston & your daughter joins in the offer to them & yourself, of the cordial respects & good wishes, which we pray may be accepted.

James Madison

RC (NjP: Edward Livingston Papers); draft (DLC); extract (DLC: Martin Van Buren Papers).

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