James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Blair Smith, [ca. 10] December 1786

From John Blair Smith

Hampden Sydney [ca. 10] Decr. 1786.

Dear Sir;

I recd: your letter by Mr. Allen. & am much obliged to you for the communications it contained, though it occasioned a serious alarm for the situation of our Country. It will be a distressing circumstance in the history of man, should our hopes from the American Revolution be blasted. Will not human corruption forever defeat the beneficial influence of liberty upon human happiness? & will not our example be hereafter urged with unhappy success in favour of tyrannical usurpations upon the rights of man? I cannot but hope, however, that the great designs of providence, towards mankind, will not be checked at such an early period; & that some virtuous & enlightened statesmen, may still devise the means of extricating us from our embarassments.

I am happy to inform you that your Nephew1 applies himself with more attention than usual to his business. Dabney Carr, is a boy of very promi[sing] genius & very diligent application. He conducts himself w[ith] a good deal of prudence, & hope he will answer the expectations of his friends. I was afraid at first that he was dull or indolent, from his appearance; but I find myself agreeably disappointed. His principal study at present is the Latin language; but he is also obliged to pay some attention to his native tongue. I am, Dr Sir, yr. hble Servt.

John B: Smith.

RC (DLC). Addressed by Smith. Docketed by JM. On the verso of the cover, JM made notes for his letter of 15 Feb. 1787 to Jefferson. Brackets enclose letters missing owing to a tear in the Ms except for the date, which is supplied from conjecture by the editors.

1Smith had confused Jefferson’s nephew Dabney Carr, who at this time was a student at Hampden-Sydney, with JM’s nephew James Madison, who also had attended the school. JM was making inquiries for Jefferson about the academic progress of his two nephews, the sons of Martha Jefferson Carr (see JM to James Madison, Sr., 16 Nov. 1786 and n. 4; JM to Jefferson, 25 Nov. 1786 and 15 Feb. 1787).

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