Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Bishop James Madison, 15 April 1798

From Bishop James Madison

Apl. 15th. 1798 Wmsburg

Dear Sir

I have endeavoured to understand the Directions of the Gentleman, & would have been happy to have made such Experiments as he wished; but, before this can be done, he must express himself more clearly. At present, I am entirely at a Loss for his Meaning. Indeed, from some Expressions, I suspect he confounds the Compass with the Dipping Needle. Has he a clear Idea of the latter Instrument?—I can only add, that he may be assured, in every well constructed Dipping Needle, the Inclination, that is the Angle which the North End makes with the Horizon, will be the same, in all Cases, provided the Plane of the Instrument be in the Magnetic Meridian, except when the North End is turned South, & elevated nearly or exactly to the Magnetic Line.

I have inclosed a few Experiments in a particular Phœnomenon in Magnetism. I beg you to exercise the most rigorous Judgment upon them, & to throw them aside, should you think them unworthy of Notice,—

I am Dr Sir, very respectfully & sincerely—Yr Friend & Sert

J Madison

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Apr. 1798 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: MS, not found, of “Experiments upon Magnetism,” a report taking the form of a letter from Bishop Madison to TJ dated April 1798, describing three experiments in which Madison covered magnets with water and observed the movements of iron filings on the water’s surface in an effort to understand better the means by which magnets exert their force; presented to the American Philosophical Society at a meeting of 4 May and referred to Thomas C. James, one of the society’s secretaries; reported worthy of publication on 1 June and printed the following year (APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Transactions, 4 [1799], 323–8; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 270,272).

Directions of the gentleman: see TJ to Bishop Madison, 1 Apr. 1798.

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