From the Reverend James Madison
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Madison Js Revd. Oct. 3. 1782.” Cover missing.
Octr. 3d. 1782
I recd. your last, wherein you tell me of the Remembrance of some of my French Acquaintances.2 I really thought many of them Men of distinguished Merit, tho’ my Acquaintance with them, from our Trip to the Mountains3 was but short.
Does Peace really retire, or are we too sanguine in our Hopes. Is it not probable that this winter will bring about this Event, so much to be desired by every Friend to Ama.
We have Nothing here. Williamsburg is like a dead Calm in the Midst of the Ocean. It has had it’s Storms,4 it is now Time to enjoy a little Tranquillity.
Will you be so good as to inform me whether you have a sufft Acquaintance with Mr. Rittenhouse to desire him to furnish you with one of the new invented Cakes for Electrical Expts—on my Acct. He is himself probably too much engaged to attend to it himself, but he might have it made under his Eye. And also the other Parts of the Apparatus belonging to it. If you have, & could engage them for me, I shd. esteem it no small Favr. Mr. Page & myself have both attempted to make them but Without Effect.5 Any Expence attendant shd. be immy. remitted.
I had thought to have written to Mr. R. himself, but for want of an oppy. have taken this Method—tho’ if you think it better, will still adopt that Mode.
Shd. be much obliged to have the Advertisement on the other side inserted in the public Papers.6 I beg you’d let me know the Expence of it.
1. For JM’s commission as colonel of militia, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 163; 164, n. 1.
2. Although JM’s “last” letter has not been found, he evidently wrote it after meeting the French officers to whom the Reverend James Madison had given letters of introduction to JM shortly before Rochambeau’s army left Williamsburg. These officers had been in Philadelphia from 30 August until 3 September 1782 (Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 337–38; 338, nn. 7, 11; 339, n. 14; Reverend James Madison to JM, 2 August 1782, and n. 10; 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. 229–33).
3. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , IV, 82; 83, n. 3.
5. For David Rittenhouse, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 48, n. 14; II, 56, n. 11; 102; 103, n. 1. For John Page, see ibid., I, 225, n. 1; II, 22, n. 1; III, 269, n. 8; IV, 118, n. 2. As an amateur scientist and president of the Virginia Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge, Page occasionally had corresponded with Rittenhouse about astronomy and the possible identity of magnetism with electricity. In February 1781 Rittenhouse described to the American Philosophical Society how he had magnetized and demagnetized iron and steel rods and even caused the north and south poles of a magnetized rod to reverse their positions. Although about fifteen months later he wrote to Page about these experiments, neither Page nor the Reverend James Madison was able to reproduce them (Edward Ford, David Rittenhouse, Astronomer-Patriot, 1732–1796 [Philadelphia, 1946], pp. 113–14; Brooke Hindle, David Rittenhouse [Princeton, N.J., 1964], pp. 187–88, 219, 226–29, 254–55).
During his visit on 8 June 1784 with President Ezra Stiles of Yale College, Thomas Jefferson described “a new simple apparatus for Electricity left by a British Officer in Philada.” According to Stiles’s diary, “One person in Philada had the secret & sells the Cake or Amber-like plate at Eight Dollars” (Franklin B. Dexter, ed., Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, III, 125–26). See also Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (17 vols. to date; Princeton, N.J., 1950——). description ends , VII, 302–3.
6. Neither the manuscript nor a printed copy of the “Advertisement” has been found. It must have been written on a separate piece of paper, for no writing appears on the verso of either of the letter’s two pages.