Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Bishop James Madison, 15 April 1802

From Bishop James Madison

Wmsburg Apr. 15. 1802

Dear Sir,

I am greatly obliged to you for your Favour, by the last Post. From the Examination, which I have been able, as yet, to give the Work, it appears to contain much valuable Information; & to1 do real Honour to the mathematical Talents of it’s Author. But for your Goodness, it is probable, I should have remained a Stranger to so interesting a Work; especially as the Americans have not been, hitherto, distinguished for such abstruse Researches.

In the Evening Post of New York, of the 3d of this Month, there is a most infamous Acct. of our College; & what might be esteemed most strange in other Times, you are made the Author of all the Mischeif—& of all the Evils which the College has so widely disseminated. The Paragraph betrays a Malignity of Heart, which must excite the Detestation of every one, who is enabled to judge of the abominable Falsehoods, which it contains. I have addressed to him a short Letter, which, if he does not publish, shall appear in all our Papers.

I rejoice in the good Work of the present Session of Congress. Nothing was so essential as to clear away the Rubbish of the preceeding Administration; & I do hope it will be done effectually.—Beleive me to be, with the greatest Respect & Esteem, Dr Sir—Yr Friend & Sert.

J Madison

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 19 Apr. and so recorded in SJL.

YOUR FAVOUR: not found or recorded in SJL, but TJ probably enclosed with it a copy of Jared Mansfield’s mathematical essays, which TJ had offered to help distribute; see Abraham Baldwin to TJ, 29 Mch. 1802.

A MOST INFAMOUS ACCT. OF OUR COLLEGE: a duel between two students at the College of William and Mary that resulted in their expulsion. The Federalist press recounted an ensuing protest by members of the student body, vandalism to the local church and St. George Tucker’s house, and Tucker’s alleged resignation as professor. The cause of the MISCHEIF was given as “the blessed effects of the modern, or Jeffersonian system of religion” and the university’s pursuit of “party-politics, instead of science.” A later account extracted from the Commercial Advertiser reported that one of the expelled students, a native Virginian, had been a proponent of the “modern right of insurrection” against legitimate authority at Princeton and was expelled from that institution prior to leading the insurrection at William and Mary (New-York Evening Post, 3, 16 Apr. 1802; see also Steven J. Novak, The Rights of Youth: American Colleges and Student Revolt, 1798–1815 [Cambridge, Mass., 1977], 21).

ABOMINABLE FALSEHOODS: William Duane charged that the New-York Evening Post’s account of the episode was a “false fabrication” and that the duel had occurred three years earlier but the Post’s publisher Michael Burnham defended the source of the original story’s veracity (New-York Evening Post, 3 and 13 Apr. 1802).

A SHORT LETTER to the editor of the New-York Evening Post, by “An inhabitant of Williamsburg,” reported errors in the paper’s earlier account. The author claimed that the college maintained its regular schedule of lectures, that only five or six students were involved and only a few panes of glass were broken, and that Tucker did not resign his professorship. The college “boasts of Mr. Jefferson, as one of her brightest ornaments; and will continue to boast, so long as virtue, and science, and pure republicanism, and the best interests of America, shall be cherished within her walls” (same, 24 Apr. 1802).

1MS: “to to.”

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