To Reverend Thomas Martin
Nassau-Hall. August 10th. 69
I am not a little affected at hearing of your misfortune, but cannot but hope the cure may be so far accomplished as to render your journey not inconvenient. Your kind Advice & friendly cautions are a favour that shall be always gratefully remembered, & I must beg leave to assure you that my happiness, which you and your brother so ardently wish for, will be greatly augmented by both your enjoyments of the like blessing.2
I have been as particular to my father as I thought necessary for this time, as I send him an account of the Institution &c &c of the College wrote by Mr. Blair3 the Gentleman formerly elected President of this place, you will likewise find two Pamphlets entitled Britannia’s intercession for John Wilks &c,4 which if you have not seen, perhaps may divert you.
I am perfectly pleased with my present situation; and the prospect before me of three years confinement, however terrible it may sound, has nothing in it, but what will be greatly alleviated by the advantages I hope to derive from it.
The Grammars, which Mr. Houston5 procured for you amount at 2/10 each to 17/. Your brothers account with Plumb.6 to 6/7. and Sawneys expences 4/2 the whole 1 . . 7 . . 9, Inclosed you have 15/. the overplus of which you may let Sawney7 have to satisfy those who may have been at any trouble on his account.
The near approach of examination occasions a surprising application to study on all sides, and I think it very fortunate that I entered College immediately after my arrival, tho’ I believe there will not be least danger of my getting an Irish hint as they call it, yet it will make my future studies somewhat easier,8 and I have by that means read over more than half Horace and made myself pretty well acquainted with Prosody, both which will be almost neglected the two succeeding years.
The very large Packet of Letters for Carolina I am afraid will be incommodious to your brother on so long a journey, to whom I desire my compliments may be presented & conclude with my earnest request for a continuance of both your friendships and sinsere wishes for your recovery, and an agreable journey to your whole Company.
I am, Sir, your obligd friend & Hl. Ser
P. S. Sawne tells me that your Mother and Brothers are determined to accompany you to Virginia; my friendship and regard for you entitle them to my esteem, and assure them that with the greatest sincerity I wish, after a pleasant journey, they may find Virginia capable of giving them great Happiness.9
1. Reverend Thomas Martin (ca. 1742–1770) graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1762. His brief career as a teacher and Episcopal clergyman in Virginia included the two years, 1767–1769, when he lived at Montpelier, tutoring JM and possibly the younger Madison children (Virginia Gazette [Williamsburg, Rind], 20 September 1770; Alexander, Princeton College description begins Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1872). description ends , p. 78).
2. This may suggest that Thomas Martin and his brother Alexander, who stopped in Orange during the summer of 1769 when on his way from North Carolina to New Jersey, helped JM’s father to decide that JM should enter the College of New Jersey rather than William and Mary. Alexander Martin (1740–1807) graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1756 and had a notable career in North Carolina politics, serving as governor, delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and United States senator.
3. Samuel Blair (1741–1818) was elected president of the College of New Jersey in 1767 after John Witherspoon declined the position. When Witherspoon finally accepted the presidency a year later, Blair voluntarily stepped aside. His pamphlet on the college, entitled An Account of the College of New-Jersey, in which are Described the Methods of Government, Modes of Instruction, Manner and Expences of Living in the Same, etc., with a Prospect of the College Neatly Engraved, was published at Woodbridge, N.J., by James Parker in 1764.
4. Britannia’s Intercession for the Deliverance of John Wilkes, Esq., from Persecution and Banishment. To which is Added a Political and Constitutional Sermon and a Dedication to L … B … (6th ed.; London: printed, Boston: reprinted and sold by Daniel Kneeland, at his printing office in Hanover Street, a little below Concert Hall, 1769). The English political reformer John Wilkes (1727–1797) had been expelled from Parliament in 1764 for seditious libel and was outlawed for failing to stand trial.
5. William Churchill Houston (ca. 1746–1788), tutor and professor at the College of New Jersey, 1769–1783, delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey, and member of the Annapolis and Constitutional conventions.
6. Probably Benjamin Plum, whose name appeared in the accounts of Princeton merchant Enos Kelsey in 1767–1768 (John Frelinghuysen Hageman, History of Princeton and Its Institutions [2 vols.; Philadelphia, 1879], I, 72). Plum took care of further business matters for the Madisons when JM’s brother William attended the preparatory school at Princeton in 1774–1775.
7. A Madison slave who accompanied JM on the trip to Princeton.
8. This remark, together with the general tone of the letter indicating that JM had just arrived at the college, makes it probable that he reached Princeton in the middle of the summer term (perhaps late in July) and immediately began his studies.
9. JM evidently sent this letter to Thomas Martin at an undetermined place in New Jersey, where Martin’s widowed mother and brothers lived. The intimacy between the Martins and Madisons is further suggested by the following sentences closing a letter from Sam Martin (one of the brothers) to James Madison, Sr., written from North Carolina on 5 September 1780: “My Brother Alexander is now at the Assembly. My mother & Sister Henderson joins me [in] compliments to Mrs. Madison & young Ladies” (original owned by Mr. Charles M. Storey, Boston, Mass.).
For additional comments about this letter, believed to be JM’s earliest now extant, see Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , I, 82–84.