James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Reverend James Madison, 12 May 1790

From the Reverend James Madison

May 12. 1790 Williamsburg.

My dear Friend

I recd. your Favr.1 by Mr Randolph and shd. sooner have written to you, but that I waited for his Departure. I wished to congratulate you on a Motion made by yourself some Time past, which tho’ unsuccessful, in my opinion, does equal Credit to the Head & to the Heart: and I beleive, there are very few indeed, unconnected with the Business of Certificates, who think otherwise. The Disappointments of the best Politicians are not perhaps less frequent than those of other Men; but they must console themselves with having erected Lights, which tho’ the unwary Mariner may not avail himself of at present, will, most probably be of future Utility.

I have taken the Liberty to inclose two Letters. Some of the Members in Congress will probably forward that to Dr. Seabury. A late Convention of our Church thought proper to elect me to the Episcopal Office, & I have consented, whether wisely or not, I cannot say, to undertake it; so that it is most likely, I shall have the Pleasure of seeing you in New york, this Summer.2

You will see, I think, in Stuart’s Pol. Œconomy3 the very same Idea, wch. Mr Blair supported, respecting an ideal & immutable Standard of Value—tho’ he had not seen the Book, untill he had written his Paper, when I put it into his Hands.4

Mr R. is very uneasy at his long Delay here, the Situation of Mrs. R. however is such, that he cannot resolve to leave her, tho’ he sometimes talks of setting out very soon.

I beg to be remembered by our ⟨valuable?⟩ Friend Mr Jefferson & that You will beleive me to be Yr. sincerely affe.

J Madison

RC (DLC). Mistakenly docketed by JM “Mar. 12 1790.”

1Letter not found.

2The Episcopal Convention of Virginia elected Madison the bishop of Virginia on 7 May. Madison evidently expected to be consecrated at New York by Bishops Seabury, White, and Provoost. Provoost, however, refused to participate in a consecration unless three bishops of the English line were present (he and White had been consecrated at Lambeth Palace, London, while Seabury was elevated in Scotland). Madison accordingly sailed to England in the summer of 1790 and was consecrated on 19 Sept. (Journals of the Conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church … of Virginia, in Francis L. Hawks, Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of the United States of America [2 vols.; New York, 1836–39], I, appendix, p. 30; Brydon, Virginia’s Mother Church, II, 461–62, 472 n., 474; Bruce E. Steiner, Samuel Seabury, 1729–1796: A Study in the High Church Tradition [Athens, Ohio, 1971], pp. 306–7).

3James Steuart Denham, An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Œconomy … (2 vols.; London, 1767).

4The paper of John Blair, who had recently assumed his duties as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, may be that by “A Gentleman of Virginia,” published in the Gazette of the U.S., 21 and 24 Oct. 1789. The author of this essay, like Steuart, analyzed the defects of establishing a money of account based on gold and silver and advocated some universal measure not subject to fluctuations (James Steuart, ed., The Works … of Sir James Steuart [6 vols.; London, 1805; New York, 1967 reprint], II, 282–96).

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