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To James Madison from Philip Mazzei, 5 April 1782

From Philip Mazzei

RC (LC: Madison Papers). The cover is only a fragment, reading, “Hble: James Madi … of the Virgi.” Letter unsigned.

2da. Copia

Firenze 5. Aprile 1782.

Carmo: Amico

A norma di quanto vi scrissi nella mia quarta lettera dei 28. del passato, vi mando l’incluse pregandovi di aggiungere a quella di Mr. Lomax il suo nome di battesimo, che non ò mai saputo. Da quella, e dall’altra che v’inclusi p[er] Mr. Man Page, voi vedete quel che penso degl’Inglesi, e del metodo che a mio giudizio noi dovremmo tenere con essi. Nelle 2. lettere a Mr. Blair avete una conferma della mia dura situazione. Se il Governo fosse renitente a rendermi giustizia, mi pare che il decoro almeno dello Stato dovrebbe indurre qualcheduno a proporre nell’Assemblea, che si esaminasse il mio carteggio, e si ordinasse poi quel che è di ragione, e non si permetesse che un Cittadino fosse costretto, p[er] salvare il proprio onore e per trovare da sostentarsi, a pubblicar l’indiscretezza della sua Patria.

Mi pare che il Congresso dovrebbe cominciare a pensare ad aver dei Ministri o Agenti ad alcune altre Corti Europee. Voi già sapete che a motivo del nostro Commercio questa è da considerarsi moltissimo. Qua si crede generalmente che io abbia le credenziali del Congresso. Il Principe lo gradirebbe, ma egli solo sa che io sono Agente del solo Stato di Virginia. Vi parlerò francamente. Se codesti Sigri: mi credono capace e degno di servirgli, credo che potrò più facilmente d’un’altro incanalare una corrispondenza utile e piacevole; ma bramerei che seguisse presto, p[er]chè mi par mill’anni di ritornare in Virginia. Intanto potrei appianar la strada p[er] chi dovesse venir dopo di me.

Addio.

Second copy

Florence, 5 April 1782

Dearest Friend

With regard to what I wrote to you in my fourth letter of the 28th of last month,1 I am sending you an enclosure asking that you add Mr. Lomax’s2 Christian name, which I have never learned. From the contents of that letter, and from another one which I sent to you through Mr. Man Page,3 you see what I think of the English and of the method which in my judgment we must employ regarding them. In the two letters to Mr. Blair4 you have a confirmation of my difficult situation. If the Governor is unwilling to act justly toward me, it seems to me that the honor of the state should at least induce someone in the Assembly to propose that my correspondence be examined, that orders then be given for that which is just, and that it not be permitted that a citizen may be forced to reveal the indiscretions of his country in order to sustain himself and save his own honor.

It seems to me that the Congress must begin to think of having Ministers and Agents in some other European Courts. You probably already know that this is a very important consideration with respect to our Commerce. It is generally believed here that I possess credentials from the Congress. The Prince5 would welcome this, but he alone knows that I am an Agent of the single state of Virginia.6 I shall be frank with you. If these Gentlemen believe that I am capable and worthy of serving them, I think that I will be able to supply an agreeable and useful correspondence more easily than anyone else. But I hope that it comes to pass soon because I yearn so much to come back to Virginia. In the meantime, the path could be smoothed for whoever might follow after me.

Farewell.

1Not found. By “fourth letter,” Mazzei meant the fourth of a series rather than the fourth letter written on 28 March. See Mazzei to JM, 13 March 1782.

2Thomas Lomax (1746–1811), a prominent planter of Port Tobago (Porto Bago) on the Rappahannock River in Caroline County, Va. From 1774 to 1776 he had served on the Committee of Safety of his county and from the latter year until after the Revolution as a member of the county court. He represented his district in the state Senate in 1776, and his county in the House of Delegates in 1778, 1779, and 1781–82 ([Edward Lloyd Lomax], Genealogy of the Virginia Family of Lomax [Chicago, 1913], p. 19; T[homas] E. Campbell, Colonial Caroline: A History of Caroline County, Virginia [Richmond, 1954], pp. 234, 266, 343–45; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 3, 5, 8, 13). Between 1 December 1781 and 22 December 1783 he was a member of the Council of State, although he occasionally was absent for many weeks (Journals of the Council of State description begins H. R. McIlwaine et al., eds., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (3 vols. to date; Richmond, 1931——). description ends , III, 1, 272, 314, 318). In JM’s papers in the Library of Congress a fragment of the cover of a letter of 5 April 1782 from Mazzei, reading, “[Mr. Lo]max, Esqre. in Caroline County, Virginia,” evidently connotes that JM put a new cover on the letter before forwarding it. For Mazzei’s letter to Lomax, see Richard C. Garlick, Jr., Philip Mazzei, pp. 81–82.

3Not found. Probably Mann Page, Jr. (ca. 1749–ca. 1810), a planter and lawyer of Mannsfield, Spotsylvania County, Va. (MS, Spotsylvania County Personal Property Tax Book, 1810; microfilm, Spotsylvania County Court Records, Minute Book, 1810–1812, p. 210, both in Virginia State Library). After serving in the Convention of 1776, he was a member of the House of Delegates in most of its sessions between 1776 and 1787, during one of which he acted as speaker pro tempore (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1783, p. 4), and again a member in 1795 and 1796 (Richard Channing Moore, Genealogy of the Page Family in Virginia [New York, 1893], p. 81; Swem and Williams, Register description begins Earl G. Swem and John W. Williams, eds., A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, and of the Constitutional Conventions (Richmond, 1918). description ends , pp. 2–25, passim, 45, 47). Having been elected on 4 December 1776 by the General Assembly as a delegate from Virginia to the Continental Congress, he sat in that body for about four months, beginning on 30 January 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , VII, 71–72, 369). In the following November he declined re-election (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used, unless otherwise noted, is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1777, p. 35). Writing in his memoirs about his travels in Virginia in 1784, Mazzei recorded: “I crossed the York River to see the good, too good, Mr. John Page. The following day, I went to call on his [half-]brother, Mann, on the Rappahannock River, where Mr Lomax, his brother-in-law, came to visit me and dine with us” (Howard R. Marraro, trans., Memoirs of Philip Mazzei, pp. 284–85).

4John Blair of Williamsburg, who at this time was a judge of the High Court of Chancery. Blair acted on Mazzei’s behalf in matters relating to his financial affairs in Virginia. Mazzei’s letters of 22 March and 5 April 1782 to Blair are in JM’s papers in the Library of Congress and may have been returned to JM after he forwarded them to the addressee. In the dispatch of 22 March, Mazzei complained of his “unmerited neglect” and added, “I can hardly undertake to write a letter, but it turns out a Lamentation.” He also remarked that no letter had reached him from any friend in Virginia “Except one from Col: Maddison, lately rec’d. by the way of Spain.”

5Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany.

6Mazzei, of course, did not know that he was no longer an overseas agent of Virginia (Mazzei to JM, 13 March 1782, n. 21). In a letter of 31 May 1783 Governor Harrison was to express surprise because of the Florentine’s professed hesitation “to act for Congress if they requested it,” since the termination of his commission from Virginia removed any possibility of a conflict of interest (Executive Letter Book, 1783–1786, p. 147, MS in Virginia State Library).

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