Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 27 January 1813

From James Madison

Washington Jany 27. 1813

Dear Sir

I snatch a moment to intimate that Dr T. Ewell is under circumstances which induce him to surround himself with respectable names as far as he can. Yours has been already brought into print, and he is availing himself to the utmost of your alledged patronage of him. I think it probable that he will endeavor to draw from you by letter whatever may be yielded by your politeness or benevolence; and I cannot do less than put you on your guard.

Congs proceed with their usual slowness even on the most essential subjects; and the under-current agst us is as strong as ever. I have not time to explain the late changes in the Ex: Dept, if I were disposed to trouble you with them.1 Bonaparte, according to his own shewing is in serious danger; and if half the official accounts of the Russians be true, his own2 escape is barely possible, and that of his army impossible. The effect of such a catastrophe on his compulsory allies may once more turn the tables quite round in the case between France & Engld. You will have seen the Speech of the Regt. The debates on it have not reached us. Wellesley’s party attack the Ministry for not prosecuting the war more vigorously agst us. Nothing3 but the difficulty of their affairs will open their ears, & that without opening their hearts to peace. In the Peninsula, the French are driving Wellington back to Lisbon, and there now is no doubt that the late harvest is a very short one, and the quality for the most part bad. Their expenditures also are enormous, beyond former years; and their bank paper 35 per Ct below specie. I have for you a Copy of Cooper’s Justinian, which I will forward by next mail. Yrs always & affecy

[J M]

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); edge trimmed; on reused address cover to Madison; endorsed by TJ as received 29 Jan 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

Thomas ewell had recently been publicly accused of corrupt practices in his contract to supply gunpowder to the Navy Department (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 5:565–6, 598–9). On this day Ewell asked Edward Coles, Madison’s personal secretary, to give the president a copy of his recent letter to navy secretary William Jones and ask Madison to read it “in the name of Mr Jefferson.” In the letter to Jones, Ewell invoked TJ as one who “selected me for my station and befriended me to the last of his administration. That the conduct of the government should shew that he has even the shadow of reason to regret the generous patronage—the parental kindness extended to me—would give a sting to my soul” (Ewell to Coles, 27 Jan. 1813, and Ewell to Jones, [n.d.], both in DLC: Madison Papers). A missing letter from Ewell is recorded in SJL as received 22 Jan. 1813.

Extracts of the annual speech to Parliament by the British prince regent (later George IV), 30 Nov. 1812, appeared in the Washington National Intelligencer, 25 Jan. 1813.

1Preceding nine words interlined.

2Word interlined.

3Remainder of letter written perpendicularly in left margin.

Index Entries

  • Coles, Edward; as J. Madison’s secretary search
  • Cooper, Thomas; The Institutes of Justinian. With Notes search
  • Ewell, Thomas; and Navy Department contract search
  • Ewell, Thomas; letters from accounted for search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); addresses parliament search
  • Jones, William (1760–1831); as secretary of the navy search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on British government search
  • Madison, James; on Napoleon search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; J. Madison on search
  • The Institutes of Justinian. With Notes (T. Cooper) search
  • Wellesley, Richard Wellesley, Marquess; British foreign minister search
  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of (formerly Viscount); Peninsular campaigns of search