James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tench Coxe, 27 September 1787

From Tench Coxe

Philada. 27th. Sept. 1787.

Dear Sir

My anxiety in favor of the new federal Constitution has induced me to attempt some comments on it, that might render it more clear and agreeable to the people at large, than the concise manner, in which it was necessarily drawn up, would admit of. A friend, with whom I ventured to converse on the Subject, has pressed me to pass them thro the papers of Virginia and New York. This will apologize to you for the trouble I give you in enclosing to you copies of the first & second Numbers. I beg the favor of your perusing them with Col. Hamilton, to whom make my apology also for the liberty, and, if you and he think they will be of any Service be pleased to have them reprinted in the papers of those States. I would beg leave to suggest, that if they appear worthy of this, it would be most useful to have them inserted in such Virginia paper, as circulates most in your western Counties. By the next post I will forward the third Number, which treats of the house of Representatives. The good Effects of the government I have not spoken of, my Object has been to remove apprehensions & to obviate popular reasonings drawn from the public feelings. In doing this in a public Newspaper more attention to those feelings, in the language I have used, was necessary, than if I had addressed a philosophic mind.1

I will not give you pain by expressing the high sense I entertain of your partiality in your letter to Mr. J. but I trust it will appear excusable when I assure you that the Sentiments you there express will ever operate as an incentive to aim at the Qualities you have enumerated. With my respectful compliments to Col. Hamilton, and with sentiments of the highest Esteem, I am, Sir, yr. mo. obedt. hum. Servt.

Tench Coxe

RC (DLC). Addressed by Coxe. Docketed by JM. Enclosures not found.

1The first three numbers of Coxe’s letters of “An American Citizen” were printed in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer on 26, 28, and 29 Sept. 1787. Coxe sent the fourth and last number to JM on 21 Oct., and it appeared in the Gazetteer on 24 Oct. The Pa. Gazette for 24 Oct. 1787 printed all four letters, which were subsequently published as a pamphlet, An Examination of the Constitution for the United States of America … (Philadelphia, 1788), reprinted in Paul L. Ford, ed., Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, Published during its Discussion by the People, 1787–1788 (Brooklyn, 1888), pp. 133–54. JM arranged to have the letters printed in Virginia through the agency of Joseph Jones (Jones to JM, 29 Oct. and 22 Nov. 1787). The first three numbers appeared in the Va. Independent Chronicle description begins Virginia Independent Chronicle (Richmond: Augustine Davis, 1786–90). Beginning on 13 May 1789 entitled, Virginia Independent Chronicle, and General Advertiser. description ends on 7 Nov. 1787 and the fourth on 21 Nov. 1787.

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