From the Reverend James Madison
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Letter has an appended note by Carlo (Charles) Bellini. Docketed by JM, “Madison Js. Revd. Mar. 1782.”
[ca. 2] March. 1782.
Wm. & Mary Coll.
After so long a Silence, my Friend, where shall I begin? Like Cain, I have been a Vagabond, since August last.1 But have at Length returned to this Place, for little else indeed, than to be a Spectator of Misery & Ruin. Our Friend Bellini, who has withstood all the Calamities which surrounded him with a Fortitude worthy of an old Roman Descent, affords me now an Asylum to write you a few Lines: otherwise I know not that I could here scarce find a Place,2 even to beg you to reassume a Correspondence, which I so highly esteem, but which my Situation has hitherto rendered almost impracticable. We have spent the Winter in Botetourt, with not such Scenes as Philada. affords—and have often regretted that one of the Inconveniences of so distant a Corner was, the Interruption of some Kind of friendly Intercourse between us. But soon hope to be resettled here. As it is probable the French Army will evacuate their Hospital in the Spring.3
I congratulate you with all my Heart upon the many glorious Events which America has lately experienced. But when, will this Devastation of every Thing necessary to human Felicity cease. When shall we once more enjoy the Blessings of Peace, & behold the cruel Sword beaten into the blessed Plowshare.4 If you can afford me any Consolation upon this Head, pray communicate it. For I am tired of war, & every Thing relative to it. I believe the most perfect Quietist, the most rational Being.5 You mentioned in one of your Letters formerly the name of Chastellux.6 I have now the Pleasure of knowing him. he has been presented with the most honourable Mark of Distinction wch. our University can confer, & promises to be very useful to it—And also to be active in having a Compensation given for our great Losses here.7 He seems indeed a distinguished Character.
I must leave Room for Mr. B. so that I shall only at present beg to be remembered by yourself, the Atty Mr R. & M[?]8
Yr. affe. Friend
Carmo. Sige. Giacomo: Nonostante ch’io abbia moltissimo sofferto relativamente a ciõ che i mici Amici, ed in particolare il Sigre. Presidente, e La povera Università, io non ni sono impiccato: S’io posso rivedere, a Lei e gli altri, e L’Università nel Loro Stato primiero, io Sarò immortale certamente; per ora io sono col piu dipinto ossequio, e La Stima piu perfetta.
Suo Divosmo, Obbtmo. Serve ed Amico
Dearest Mr. James: Notwithstanding the great deal which I may have suffered with regard to my friends, and in particular the President, and the poor University, I have not hanged myself: If I could see you, and the others again, and the University as it once was, I would be forever grateful; for now I am with the highest respect and esteem,
Your most devoted, obedient Servant and friend,
1. Genesis 4:12–14. Beginning in March 1781 the College of William and Mary was closed for about a year, because Williamsburg was successively occupied during much of that period by the British and the Franco-American armies.
2. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , III, 182, n. 18. Evidently Carlo (Charles) Bellini was again living in his own house, which he seems to have vacated in October 1781, at Washington’s request, for use as a military hospital (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIII, 234–35).
3. On 21 July 1781 the Reverend James Madison had written his brother William, then sheriff of Botetourt County, that, because the “College is entirely broke up” and “Nothing but a lucky Accident” had kept most of his few slaves from “joining the Enemy,” he had decided to move to Botetourt and hoped that “any kind of House of my own” could be found there (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York City). Although the location of the clergyman’s temporary home in the county is unknown to the editors, it probably was close to his brother in or near the present town of Cloverdale (Robert Douthat Stoner, A Seed-Bed of the Republic: A Study of the Pioneers in the Upper (Southern) Valley of Virginia [Roanoke, Va., 1962], pp. 112, 456). The French used the college buildings as a hospital (William and Mary Quarterly, 2d ser., VIII , 246). When the vanguard of the French army left Williamsburg on 1 July, followed the next day by Rochambeau and his staff, the French left behind the hospital corps and an artillery contingent numbering about four hundred men in all (Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , pp. 207–8). See also Randolph to JM, 5 July 1782, and n. 7.
4. Micah 4:3.
5. A Quietist is a mystic who, through prolonged contemplation, transcends all selfish desires and thus attains a state of perfect peace.
6. In the missing letter of February 1781 to his cousin, which Captain Thaddy Kelly carried to Williamsburg, JM may have mentioned that he had dined on 13 December 1780 with François Jean, Chevalier de Chastellux, in Philadelphia (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (4 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 226, n. 7; III, 11, n. 1).
7. Chastellux received the degree of doctor of civil law from the College of William and Mary on 2 March 1782. Shortly after the surrender of Cornwallis, when the leaders of the college sought to regain possession of their campus, Chastellux encouraged their efforts. Writing of the institution, Chastellux remarked: “The beauty of the edifice is surpassed by the richness of its library, and that, still farther by the distinguished merit of several of the Professors, such as the Doctors Maddison, Wythe, Bellini, &c. &c. who may be regarded as living books, at once affording precepts and examples” (Travels in North-America, in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782 [2 vols.; Dublin, 1787], II, 209). See also William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XV (1906–7), 264–65.
In a letter of 23 February 1782, Washington thanked Rochambeau “for your generous donation to our Hospital at Williamsburg” (Fitzpatrick, Writings of Washington description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Sources, 1745–1799 (39 vols.; Washington, 1931–44). description ends , XXIV, 19; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (16 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VI, 144). Indeed, most of the townspeople were sorry when the army left, because the French had spent much hard money in the community, destroyed little private property, and recompensed owners who had suffered losses during the occupation. For the generosity of the French toward the Reverend James Madison, see Edmund Randolph to JM, 18 July 1782; Acomb, Journal of Closen description begins Evelyn M. Acomb, trans. and ed., The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958). description ends , p. 166. Baron Hans Christoph Friedrich Ignatz Ludwig von Closen-Haydenburg (ca. 1754–1830) was an aide-de-camp of Rochambeau.
8. “Mr R.” was Edmund Randolph, and if this indistinct letter is “M,” it probably signifies “Mrs” or “Mistress” Randolph.