James Madison Papers

From James Madison to George Washington, 4 January 1790

To George Washington

George Town Jany. 4 1790

Dear Sir

After being detained 8 or 10 days beyond the intended commencement of my Journey, by the critical illness of my mother, I am now subjected to a further delay by an attack on my own health. A slight complaint in my bowels which I first felt on the day of my arrival here (friday last) very suddenly took the form of a pretty severe dysentery. With the aid of Docr. Stuart who has been good eno’ to see me every day, I have I hope nearly subdued the malignity of the disease, and got into a course of recovery. I find myself however much weakened by the joint operation of the malady & the medicine, and shall be under the necessity not only of remaining here a few days longer, but of travelling afterwards with some circumspection.

You will probably have seen by the papers that the contest in the Assembly on the subject of the amendments ended in the loss of them. The House of Delegates got over the objections to the 11 & 12, but the Senate revived them with an addition of the 3 & 8 articles, and by a vote of adherence prevented a ratification. On some accounts this event is no doubt to be regretted. But it will do no injury to the Genl. Government. On the contrary it will have the effect with many of turning their distrust towards their own Legislature. The miscarriage of the 3d. art:1 particularly, will have this effect.

A few days before I was allowed to set out for N. York, I took a ride to Monticello. The Answer of Mr. Jefferson to the notification of his appointment will no doubt have explained the state of his mind on that subject.2 I was sorry to find him so little biased in favor of the domestic service allotted to him, but was glad that his difficulties seemed to result cheifly from what I take to be an erroneous view of the kind and quantity of business annexed to that which constituted the foreign department. He apprehends that it will far exceed the latter which has of itself no terrors to him. On the other hand It was supposed, & I beleive truly that the domestic part will be very trifling, and for that reason improper to be made a distinct department. After all if the whole business can be executed by any one man, Mr. Jefferson must be equal to it; if not he will be relieved by a necessary division of it. All whom I have heard speak on the subject are remarkably solicitous for his acceptance, and I flatter myself that they will not in the final event be disappointed.

In case I should be detained here much longer than I calculate, and any thing should occur, I may trouble you with a few lines further. With every sentiment of respect and attachment I am Dear Sir, Your’s truly

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC: Washington Papers); Tr (DLC). RC addressed and marked “private” by JM; docketed by Washington.

1This was the first amendment in the Bill of Rights as finally ratified in 1791.

2In his letter to Washington of 15 Dec., Jefferson left it up to Washington whether he should continue as minister to France or accept an appointment as secretary of state. After consulting with JM, Washington wrote to Jefferson on 21 Jan., leaving the choice of offices to him. Jefferson notified the president of his acceptance of the secretaryship of state on 14 Feb. (Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, 1950—). description ends , XVI, 34–35, 116–18, 184).

Index Entries