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From James Madison to Richard Rush, 9 September 1815

To Richard Rush

Montpelier Sepr. 9. 1815.

Dear Sir

I return you the note of your conversation in the year  1 with Miranda. It presents him in a favorable and interesting point of view, and it can scarcely be doubted that he possessed a mind of more than an ordinary stature, improved by diversified acquirements: I suspect however that his greatest talent lay in giving them a bold relief by a colloquial eloquence. In the single conversation I had with him, he made something like the same impression on me as he did on you. His subsequent conduct in the U.S. and his career and degradation after he left them, mark a character of very little respectability.2 It is possible however that we have seen it through a disfiguring medium; & I must do him, the justice to admit that he did not pervert what was said to him by the Executive, in the full degree laid to his charge. I do not mean that any3 said to him, countenanced illegal proceedings in relation to Spanish America, but that he did not in every case at least, pretend that he had received this countenance. I found the remark particularly on the voluntary Statement, long since in print, by Col: now Genl. W. Smith from which it appears that Miranda did not give him to understand that the Executive would tolerate violations of the law.4 Although this view of the subject be unfavorable to Col: Smith, unless it be with respect to his candor, it does credit to Miranda. Whether he be entitled to a like credit, in all his communications with his partizans, may be questioned.

Sepr. 10. I find by a letter just recd from Mr. Dallas5 (in N. York) that his first impressions were not in favor of a Call of Congress; and I think it probable they will not change on further consideration of the subject. Perhaps indeed it would attach a magnified importance to the Commercial stipulations to take such a step with the sole view of giving them an earlier date of a very few, two or 3, weeks only. Accept my cordial regards

James Madison

RC (NjMoHP). Docketed by Rush, evidently at a later date: “President Madison. Sep: 9. 1813. unofficial. On some notes I enclosed him of what General Miranda had said to me in Conversation. Miranda was the Spanish American who so anxiously (though not successfully) sought the liberation of the Spanish Colonies.”

1Left blank by JM. See Rush to JM, 6 Sept. 1815, and n. 1.

2For the events to which JM referred, see PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:218 n. 1, 219 n. 2.

3JM evidently omitted a word here.

4JM referred to the “Voluntary Examination of Col. Smith” published in The Trials of William S. Smith, and Samuel G. Ogden, for Misdemeanours, Had in the Circuit Court of the United States for the New-York District, in July, 1806. … ([New York, 1807; 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 13743], xxi–xxiv). Smith stated there that according to Miranda, JM and Thomas Jefferson had refused to “give … any public aid or countenance” to Miranda’s scheme to free Venezuela from Spanish rule, “but that they had no objection that any individual citizens of the United States should engage in such an enterprise, provided they did not thereby infringe any of the laws of the United States” (ibid., xxii).

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