James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Edward Coles, 20 March 1817

From Edward Coles

London March 20. 1817

My dear Sir

Mr. Birkbeck,1 a very extensive, and one of the most scientific and best practical agriculturalists of England, not liking the present state of things here, and having a very exalted opinion of our Country, and being also a great admirer of its political institutions, has determined to remove to and settle in it with his Family. Knowing your partiality for agriculture, I take the liberty of introducing this great proficient in that art to you. You will find him a perfect Gentleman, of very prepossessing manners, of fine talents, and of general and extensive information. He holds a very large farm about 30 miles from this, on which I have had the pleasure of spending some days with him, and of seeing the first style of cultivation, and of examining a great number of his implements of husbandry, many of which have either been invented or improved by himself. In addition to his skill and improvements in agriculture, this Gentleman is known to the public as the author of a tour through France, and of several essays on agriculture, the management of sheep &c. The desire I feel as well from the respect I entertain for this Gentleman, as from my conviction of the value of such a man to our Country, induces me to pay him every attention and afford him every facility in my powe⟨r⟩ to his becoming well acquainted with and prepossessed i⟨n⟩ favor of it. This must be my excuse for the liberty I take in presenting him to you—of which occasion I gladly avail myself to renew to you and Mrs. M. the assuran⟨ce⟩ of my devoted and unchangeable regard

Edward Coles2

I have written Payne3 several long letters from whom I have not recd. a single line since I left America. I hope to have the pleasure of seeing my friends in August.

RC (ICHi). Docketed by JM.

1Morris Birkbeck (1764–1825), author of Notes on a Journey through France … (London, 1814), was an English agriculturalist who emigrated to the United States in 1817 and settled in Illinois. While there he wrote two books that were influential in encouraging the settlement of the Old Northwest, as well as a series of anti-slavery articles that helped preserve Illinois as a free state.

2Edward Coles (1786–1868) served as JM’s private secretary during his presidency from 1809 to 1815. A member of the Coles family of Albemarle County, Virginia, and a cousin of Dolley Payne Madison (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 , 1:49 n. 1), Coles is probably best known for freeing his slaves in 1819 and resettling them in Illinois, where he served as governor of the state, 1822–26. He later married and settled in Philadelphia, where he continued his correspondence with the Madisons.

3John Payne Todd (1792–1852) was Dolley Payne Madison’s son from her first marriage to Philadelphia lawyer John Todd (Mattern and Shulman, Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison, 414).

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