James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 26 November 1782

From Thomas Jefferson

Draft (LC: Jefferson Papers). Unsigned but in Jefferson’s hand. Addressed by him to “Hon. James Madison at Congress.”

Ampthill in Chesterfeild1 Nov. 26. 1782.

Dear Sir

Your favour by Colo Basset is not yet come to hand.2 the intimation through the Attorney3 I received the day before Colo. Bland’s arrival by whom I am honoured with your’s of the 14th. inst. it finds me at this place attending my family under inoculation. this will of course retard those arrangements of my domestic affairs which will of themselves take time and cannot be made but at home.4 I shall lose no time however in preparing for my departure; and from the calculation’s I am at present enabled to make I suppose I cannot be in Philadelphia before the 20th. of December, and that possibly it may be the last of that month.5 some days I must certainly pass there; as I could not propose to jump into the midst of a negotiation without a single article of previous information. from these data you will be enabled to judge of the chance of availing myself of his Excy. the Chev. de la Luzerne’s kind offer to whom I beg you to present my thanks for his friendly attention and to let him know I shall use my best endeavors to be in time for the departure of his frigate.6 no circumstance of a private nature could induce me to hasten over the several obstacles to my departure more unremittingly than the hope of having the Chevalr. de Chattlux as a companion in my voiage.7 a previous acquaintance with his worth & abilities had impressed me with an affection for him which under the then prospect of never seeing him again was perhaps imprudent.8

I am with very sincere esteem Dr. Sir Your affectionate friend & humble servt.

2Although the letter carried by Burwell Bassett from JM to Jefferson has not been found, see JM to Randolph, 10 November, headnote; 12 November 1782 (first letter), and n. 1.

4Monticello. JM’s letter of 14 November, carried by Theodorick Bland to Jefferson, has not been found. See JM to Randolph (first letter), 12 November, and n. 5; 12 November (second letter), and n. 6; 14 November 1782.

As a delegate from Albemarle County in the October 1777 session of the Virginia General Assembly, Jefferson was influential in the drafting and passage on 24 January 1778 of “An act to amend an act intituled an act to regulate the Inoculation of the Smallpox within this colony” (Journal of the House of Delegates description begins Journal of the House of Delegates of the Commonwealth of Virginia; Begun and Held at the Capitol, in the City of Williamsburg. Beginning in 1780, the portion after the semicolon reads, Begun and Held in the Town of Richmond. In the County of Henrico. The journal for each session has its own title page and is individually paginated. The edition used is the one in which the journals for 1777–1786 are brought together in two volumes, with each journal published in Richmond in 1827 or 1828, and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , October 1777, pp. 93, 136; Hening, Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed., The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619 (13 vols.; Richmond and Philadelphia, 1819–23). description ends , IX, 371–73; 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 , II, 124 n.). On 5 November 1776 the General Assembly named Jefferson chairman of a committee of revisers to fulfill the purpose of his motion for a thoroughgoing reform of the statutes of Virginia. Number 77 of the 126 bills, comprising the code which the committee submitted to the General Assembly on 18 June 1779, was “A Bill to Prevent the Spreading of the Small-Pox.” Although this measure never became law, its detailed provisions and those of the statute of 1778 for preventing an epidemic suggest why “attending my family under inoculation” might quarantine Jefferson at Ampthill for at least several weeks (ibid., II, 305–7, 313–14, 317, 522–23, 523 n.).

6See JM to Randolph, 19 November 1782, and n. 5. The “offer” of La Luzerne had probably been conveyed to Jefferson by Madison in his missing letter of 14 November, for otherwise Jefferson doubtless would have acknowledged La Luzerne’s courtesy directly.

7The information about the plans of the Chevalier de Chastellux had probably also been relayed by La Luzerne to Jefferson in the manner mentioned in n. 6. For Jefferson’s cordial expression of pleasure over the prospect, see his letter of 26 November 1782 to the chevalier in 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 , VI, 203–4.

8Chastellux had visited Monticello for four days in April 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, 338, n. 11; 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 , VI, 190–91; 191 n.; 193–94).

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