Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Madison, 30 September 1783

From James Madison

Philada. Sepr. 30. 1783.

Dear Sir

My last was written on the supposition that Mr. Jones and myself would be on our way to Virga. by the middle of Ocr. and that my best chance of an interview with you might be at Alexandria at the time of the races. On further thought I fear that you may be led by that suggestion to suspend your setting out longer than you proposed, and that I may not find it practicable to leave this place finally before it will be practicable for you to reach it by pursuing your own plan. One circumstance which increases the uncertainty of my movements is a melancholy event in Mr. Jones family which may [a]ffect his plans, to which I shall as far as necessary make mine su[bservi]ent. It will rather therefore be my wish that you should ha[sten] than retard your journey, if it be a matter of indifference to y[o]u tho’ not that you should do either if it be not so.

I have laid a train at Princeton which I hope will provide as commodious quarters as could be expected. If these should become necessary in Philada. Mrs. House’s disposition towards you will be a sure resource. Mrs. Trist concurs in your idea of a boarding school; that it may be expedient for Miss Patsey for hours of instruction but no farther. She will enquire and think for you on the subject as far as her preparations for a voyage to the Mississippi will admit. She and Mrs. House make a tender of their respectful regards for yourself and Miss Patsey. I have nothing to add to my last on public subjects, nor to the above any thing but that I am Dr. Sir Yr. sincere friend & obt. Servt.,

J. Madison Jr.

As the latest papers are very barren I inclose a former one containing No. 1. of N. American, leaving the Author to your conjectures.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed by TJ: “Madison James of Orange.” There is a small tear in MS affecting the text. Enclosure missing.

No. 1 of N. American: Two papers signed “North American” appeared in the Pa. Journal, and Weekly Advertiser for 17 Sep. and 8 Oct. 1783. On the basis of Madison’s remark in the present letter to TJ, both Burnett (tentatively) and Brant (positively) ascribe the authorship to Madison himself (Burnett, Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress description ends , vii, No. 374, note 3; Brant, Madison, ii, 302305). The two articles were reprinted in WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly description ends , 3rd ser., iii (1946), p. 569587. In general the views coincide with the national sentiments entertained by both Madison and TJ, but the style at times borders on hyperbole and is, as Mr. Brant acknowledges, both declamatory and akin to the “poetic fervor of his early days in the American Whig Society” (Madison, ii, 302). The editors think an equally good argument could be made for attributing these essays to someone from one of the eastern commercial states (a Philadelphian or a New Yorker) or to someone from one of the small states having no western land claims (Maryland or New Jersey). They feel that the reference in the present letter cannot be accepted unqualifiedly as sufficient basis for establishing Madison’s claim to authorship. If Madison was the author, one wonders why he did not enclose North American No. 1 in his letter of 20 Sep. or why he made no reference in the present letter to a forthcoming North American No. 2. The purpose of the author, whoever he was, was “deliberately to investigate and to expose with freedom, the real situation of these States, and in anticipating evil and misfortune, to suggest their remedy.”

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