James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Blair Smith, [ca. 16 May] 1785

From John Blair Smith

[ca. 16] May. 1785

Dr Sir:

I am sorry to interrupt your attention to more important objects by an appeal to you in a dispute between Carter H. Harrison Esqr. of Cumberland & myself, but as you were present at its origination, & as my character for veracity is interested in your decision, I have no doubt of your inclination to do me the justice which is in your power. All that I have to request of you at present is, to know whether you do not recollect to hear him say that “The greatest curse which heaven sent at any time into this Country, was sending Dissenters into it.”1 I am, Sir, yr. respectful hble sert.

Jno. B. Smith.

RC (DLC). Cover missing. Docketed by JM.

1The Reverend John Blair Smith was a Princeton classmate of JM and a pillar of Virginia Presbyterianism. Harrison, son of the former Governor Benjamin Harrison, was a leading conservative in the House of Delegates. In 1784 Harrison had introduced the bill to establish the Protestant Episcopal church in Virginia (JHDV 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 either 1827 or 1828 and often called the “Thomas W. White reprint.” description ends , Oct. 1784, p. 65). In 1785 he called for the repeal of the 1782 manumission law (ibid., Oct. 1785, p. 110). Smith and Harrison probably quarreled on more than one occasion. Brant claimed Harrison made the statement but later denied it (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , II, 349). Eckenrode said the remark “outraged” Smith (Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia, pp. 82–83). See JM’s answer, 27 May 1785.

Index Entries