James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Right Reverend James Madison, 9 October 1800

From the Right Reverend James Madison

Williamsburg Oct. 9h. 1800

My dear Sir

The Preservation of wheat against the Ravages of the Fly being of such Consequence to you, & to your Neighbourhood, I thought every Hint that promised any Success would be agreable to you. I have therefore inclosed an Extract of a Letter, which I found in a late Paper, from Norfolk.1 The Paper I beleive does not circulate in your Part of the Country. The Character of the writer seemed to render what he has written worthy of the Attention of Farmers; otherwise, arguing a priori upon the Subject, I should be inclined to pronounce his Method incapable of effecting the End aimed at. However, Experience is always the best Guide; & as the Method is simple, perhaps you may think it worth while to try it upon a small Scale. One Benefit attends the Prescription—it can do no Harm.

After leaving you, I visited Mr. Waddel. He is anxious to sell, & would have no Objection to back Lands, provided he approved of them upon Examination. His Place is agreable, but appears poor, & much out of Order, especially the Buildings.2

I found Lands for Sale on the Green Spring Tract in the upper End of Louisa, which I prefer to any I have seen. A Tract was sold, only a few Days before my Arrival there, by Chapman Johnson,3 which I would certainly have purchased, had I known of the intended Sale in Time. At present I am in Treaty for a neighboring Tract, belonging to Richard Johnson.4 The Price is however very high, as there is not an habitable House upon it, 4 £ pr Acre being his lowest Sum. He says he has Refused £3.10.

I found Mr Waddel very decidedly in Favr. of our Friend Mr Jefferson, & scouted the Idea of objecting to him on Acct. of his religious opinions. It was not the Religionist, but the able & the honest Politician, one who knew the just Value of Republicanism, & the Constitution already adopted, that he should prefer. He considered Mr Jefferson the most proper Person on Account of his Talents & his Virtues. An old Presbyterian Minister had left him, that Morning, who coincided with himself in opinion—one Thompson;5 but he mentioned, with Severity, the contrary prevalent Temper of his Brethren. At a late Convention of their Body, perhaps in Prince Edward Cy., the most narrow, bigotted & illiberal Resolutions were adopted to be a Guide to the whole Corps. I am not sorry for it. They will not injure Jefferson; they have only taken an effectual Method to break the Spell which has so long given to them an improper Influence over their People.

I observe that our Envoys, if we may credit an Article in Brown’s Gaz.6 under the Paris Head, are all at a Stand—because they will neither renew the Treaty of 78, & thus gain Compensation for all Spoliations; nor make with France a Treaty similar to that made with G. B.!

What think you of Mr. A’s late public Declaration as to the Necessity of an hereditary cheif Magistrate?7 He has already forgot Mr J’s Story of the Prof. of Mathematics.8 How wonderfully his Candour always outruns his Prudence.

Give our best Regards to Mrs. Madison, the young Ladies, & your good Neighbours in the other House, & beleive me to be, my dear Sir Yrs. truly & Affly.

J Madison

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Bishop Madison probably referred to an extract of a letter from Levi Hollingsworth that was published in the Norfolk Herald, 2 Oct. 1800. The writer recommended soaking seed wheat for twelve hours before planting.

2James and James G. Waddel advertised for sale two “very valuable plantations” about eighteen miles from Milton, Albemarle County (Fredericksburg Va. Herald, 8 Aug. 1800).

3Chapman Johnson (1779–1849) was born in Louisa County, but after graduating from the College of William and Mary he set up a law practice in Staunton, Virginia. He served in the Virginia Senate from 1815 to 1831 (Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, 2:197).

4Possibly the Richard Johnson who served as a justice of the peace in 1788 and sheriff of Louisa County, 1799–1800 (Harris, History of Louisa County, pp. 385, 442).

5Amos Thompson (1731–1804) was a Connecticut-born Presbyterian minister. After graduation from Princeton in 1763, Thompson settled in Loudoun County, Virginia, where he ministered to several congregations. In 1776 Thompson joined the Continental army as a chaplain and served until 1782, when he took over the pulpit of a church in Canaan, Connecticut. In 1794 Thompson returned to Virginia (McLachlan, Princetonians, 1748–1768, pp. 329–32).

6Philadelphia Gazette, 30 Sept. 1800.

7A letter published in the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 26 Sept. 1800, from a Presbyterian minister to Tench Coxe described a conversation that purportedly took place in New Haven during which John Adams said: “We shall never have liberty or happiness in this country, until our first Magistrate is hereditary.”

8Bishop Madison probably referred to a story that Jefferson told “a few years ago” at a dinner party in New York at which John Adams was present. After Adams had made the comment that America would be better off with a hereditary ruler, Jefferson observed that while traveling in Germany he had visited a university where the chemical professorship was hereditary. “The then professor held the office in that way, and a precious chemist he was” (Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, 14 Oct. 1800).

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