Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 7 January 1821

From James Madison

Montpellier Jany 7. 1821

Dear Sir

In the inclosed you will see the ground on which I forward it for your perusal.

In the late views taken by us, of the Act of Congress, vacating periodically the Executive offices, it was not recollected, in justice to the President, that the measure was not without precedents. I suspect however that these are confined to the Territorial Establishments, where they were introduced by the old Congs in whom all powers of Govt were confounded; and continued by the new Congress, who have exercised a like confusion of powers within the same limits. Whether the Congressional code contains any precedent of a like sort, more particularly misleading the President I have not fully examined. If it does, it must have blindly followed the territorial examples.

We have had for several months a typhus fever in the family, which does not yield in the least, to the progress of the season. Out of twenty odd cases, there have been six deaths, and there are several depending cases threatning a like issue. The fever has not yet reached any part of our White family; but in the Overseers, there have been five cases of it including himself. None of them however have been mortal.

Health & every other blessing

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed by TJ as received 11 Jan. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Tench Coxe to Madison, Philadelphia, 28 Dec. 1820, stating that he is still looking for the copies of Congressional debates desired by Madison; reporting on his researches into matters relevant to the Missouri question, noting that “My materials have been historical, constitutional & statutory; and I have satisfied myself, that as the black & colored people were not, in 1774. 1776. 1781. (the Confederation) 1787 the date of the constitution, parties to our social compacts (provincial or state) so that cannot have entered or be admitted without grave and customary form,” enclosing one of his “mild and calm addresses” to Quakers on the subject, and requesting Madison to forward it to TJ; remarking that in Pennsylvania, “Our electors are all citizens paying taxes. We have native blacks and yellows, not taxed lest they should apply to vote, excluded by the Commissioners from all juries and from arbitrations; by law from the Militia; by the courts from all retail sales of wine & distilled spirits; from the benefit of tuition ordained, without notice of color, for ‘the poor, gratis’ but tho arranged under a law not excluding blacks & yellows, so dispensed by eminent quakers, members of the abolition society, that no black or mulattoe has ever been admitted!”; complaining that “some are for an abolition, without compensation, of all Pennsa slaves and servants of 28 years, of slave parents, increasing the free suddenly, at a moment of Haytian civil war, extensive black & red armaments in Spanish & Portuguese America, and of great embarrassment from our own 200.000 free colored people”; and concluding that, inasmuch as free blacks are clearly “a messy, increasing unmanagable evil” in Philadelphia, and even more so in New York City, “from whose workhouses, common Gaols and penitentiaries we have detailed accounts,” it remains to be determined how African Americans can best be “disposed of with justice and policy” (RC in DLC: Madison Papers; docketed by Madison; printed in Madison, Papers, Retirement Ser., 2:193–5).

The enclosure to Coxe’s letter to Madison, which was probably also conveyed to TJ at this time, was the proof sheet of Coxe’s essay no. XII written as “A Democratic Federalist” and addressed “To the Friends of Truth,” which appeared in the Philadelphia Democratic Press, 4 Jan. 1821 (Madison’s copy in DLC: Madison Papers, ser. 7, newspaper file).

Madison was probably recalling the provision in the “Ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States North West of the river Ohio,” passed by the Continental Congress (old congs) on 13 July 1787, which allowed Congress to appoint territorial governors and secretaries with limited terms (Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 [1904–37], 32:335–6).

Index Entries

  • African Americans; in New York City search
  • African Americans; in Pa. search
  • An Act to limit the term of office of certain officers therein named, and for other purposes (1820) search
  • Confederation Congress; and territorial appointments search
  • Congress, U.S.; and appointments search
  • Congress, U.S.; debates in search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and slavery search
  • Coxe, Tench; and J. Madison search
  • Coxe, Tench; essays by in PhiladelphiaDemocratic Press search
  • Coxe, Tench; on Missouri question search
  • Democratic Press (Philadelphia newspaper) search
  • Haiti; and African Americans search
  • health; typhus search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and appointments search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Missouri question search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and T. Coxe search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); family of search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); letters from search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); slaves of search
  • Missouri question; T. Coxe on search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); overseers at search
  • Montpellier (Montpelier; J. Madison’s Orange Co. estate); slaves at search
  • newspapers; PhiladelphiaDemocratic Press search
  • New York (city); African Americans in search
  • Northwest Ordinance (1787) search
  • Pennsylvania; African Americans in search
  • Pennsylvania; and Missouri question search
  • Quakers; and antislavery search
  • slavery; and emancipation proposals search
  • slaves; health of search
  • South America; and African Americans search
  • typhus search