James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmund Randolph, [27 February?] 1791

From Edmund Randolph

Sunday evening. [27 February 1791?]

E. R. To J. M.

What I now write, is not designed to impose any task on your friendship; because public duty forbids private favor. But I wish you to say to me, what I ought to do.

The ardor of some men for the bank renders the hope of the land-law abortive: and this hope, which has for sometime past presented to me a prospect of emolument to myself, has alone restrained me from doing something on the subject of my salary.1

With every frugality, almost bordering on meanness, I cannot live upon it, as it now stands. Why I cannot make much advantage from practising the law, you have heard from me at the beginning of the session. This is not all: I am a sort of mongrel between the states and the U. S; called an officer of some rank under the latter, and yet thrust out to get a livelihood in the former, perhaps in a petty mayor’s or county-court. I cannot say much on this head without a pain, which, could I have foreseen it, would have kept me at home to encounter my pecuniary difficulties there, rather than to add to them here.

I meditate a letter to the president; and yet I know not what he can do; but lay my letter, which will be interpreted into supplication, before congress. I am ready to be confined to the fœderal service, how extensive soever; tho’ by the way I do more in that way, with my own hands than one of the departments with its clerks.

RC (DLC). Listed under date of 1790 in Index to the James Madison Papers. The editors’ conjectural date is based on Randolph’s mention of the land office bill (see n. 1).

1The bill “to establish offices for the purpose of granting lands within the territories of the United States” designated the attorney general of the U.S. as the superintendent of the general land office. This bill passed the House on 16 Feb. 1791 and was postponed by the Senate on 1 Mar. Randolph must have written on one of the two intervening Sundays—more likely on the twenty-seventh (DHFC description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds., Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America (3 vols. to date; Baltimore, 1972—). description ends , I, 610–14, 667).

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