James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Philip Mazzei, 19 June 1779

From Philip Mazzei

RC (LC: Madison Papers). Possibly this page, lacking a salutation, is the final sheet of a longer letter. It was not Mazzei’s custom to write so briefly. The address sheet is missing, but Madison was in Williamsburg as a member of the Privy Council.

June 19th. 1779.

After a Tour of about 400. miles by land & water, since I left you, I am at last safely arrived, at York.1 And as my next stage will be, in the opinion of every one, at New-York,2 I beg you will do me the favour to ride here to morrow-morning with Dr. Mc.Clurg3 to consult, or rather to advise me upon an Idea of mine, which I cannot communicate by letter.4 Pray, give yourself this trouble; the business is of consequence, & I may perhaps go to-morrow-night. The Dr. is to come to see old Mrs. Goosley.5 In the parcel to the Governor, which I had given yesterday to Jo: Warwick of Hob’s hole, & which now comes by Mr. Goosley’s6 boy, there are letters for you, Mr. Blair,7 Mr. Page,8 Mr. Fitzhugh9 &c. I wish you will go immediately for yours, & that you will tell the Govr:10 & Mr. Blair where I am. I wish to Know some news of Mrs: Bellini, & if Mr. Bellini11 is returned. I am with my respects to Mr. & Mrs. Maddison,

Dr. Sr. Yours &c. &.

Ph. Mazzei

York Town     Turn over.12

As I refer you all to Mr. Page abt. Woodford,13 & now I consider that Mr. Page will not receive my letter probably before monday, I acquaint you, that he was taken by 2. privateers in his passage from Leghorn, & carried to New-York abt. 7 weeks ago. You will see the copy of his letter to his brother, the General.14

1Mazzei had probably visited the Madisons at Montpelier, since it was not far from his own home (Colle) in Albemarle County. But where else he had been in order to stretch to four hundred miles the distance from there to Yorktown, near the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, is unknown (Richard C. Garlick, Jr., Philip Mazzei, p. 53).

2Mazzei means that the ship in which he is about to sail for France might be taken by an enemy vessel outside the capes and he would be carried to New York as a prisoner. This was exactly what happened.

3James McClurg (1746–1823), a European-trained physician who was professor of anatomy and medicine at the College of William and Mary and head surgeon of the Virginia military forces during much of the Revolution. After the war he served for ten years on the Privy Council, attended the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as a delegate from Virginia, and was mayor of Richmond frequently in the period from 1797 to 1804.

4What Mazzei’s “Idea” was and whether JM or Dr. McClurg went to Yorktown are unknown.

5Mrs. Martha Gooseley (d. 1780), the widow of a Yorktown metal worker and gunsmith, took in lodgers and nursed the sick in that town (Frances Norton Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons: Merchants of London and Virginia: Being the Papers from Their Counting House for the Years 1750 to 1795 [Richmond, 1937], pp. 75, 102, 319–21; William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., VII [1898–99], 136; XII [1903–4], 83; XIV [1905–6], 129).

6Mr. Gooseley was probably Martha Gooseley’s son William (1748–1809), a captain of York County minutemen. As a Yorktown merchant, he had met Mazzei in London in 1770. After the war, Gooseley held numerous political offices in his county, including the shrievalty for several years in the early 1790’s (Journals of the Council of State, I, 182, 250; Frances N. Mason, ed., John Norton & Sons, p. 128; Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, VII [1925–26], 113; IX [1927–28], 95–96; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XXVII [1919], 342; Calendar of Virginia State Papers, III, 360–61; VI, 138).

7Archibald Blair. The letter for JM was probably Mazzei’s of 18 June to him (q.v.).

8John Page.

9William Fitzhugh (1741–1809), a planter of King George County and later of Stafford County. Between 1775 and 1788 he held many political offices, including membership in both houses of the Virginia Assembly, and, for a few months in 1779, in the Continental Congress.

10Patrick Henry.

11Carlo (Charles) Bellini (d. 1804) came from Tuscany in 1774 to assist Mazzei with his viniculture at Colle. By the close of 1778, Bellini’s linguistic ability had earned him the post of “Clerk of Foreign Languages” for the state of Virginia and a professorship at the College of William and Mary. Bellini was a close friend of Jefferson. Mazzei’s inquiry about Mrs. Bellini may have been prompted by her ill health. She was a helpless cripple for at least three years before her death in 1787 (Howard R. Marraro, trans., Memoirs of the Life and Peregrinations of the Florentine, Philip Mazzei, 1730–1816 [New York, 1942], pp. 199–200; William and Mary Quarterly, 2d ser., V [1925], 1–29; 3d ser., IV [1947], 350–55; Journals of the Council of State, II, 109, 157).

12This injunction is appropriate to the manuscript but not to a copy of it.

13Thomas Woodford.

14William Woodford, Jr. (1734–1780), was appointed colonel of a Virginia regiment of the continental line and promoted to the rank of brigadier general on 21 February 1777. Captured when Charleston fell to the British in May 1780, he died a prisoner of war in New York City on 13 November of that year (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XXXIII [1925], 34).

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