James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Ebenezer Potter, 9 May 1801

From Ebenezer Potter

Hazlefield Jefferson County May 9th 1801.

Dear Sir,

May I hope you will pardon my presumption in addressing you upon your arrival at the seat of government, and uniting with the firm band of Republicans in sincere exultation at the happy event, that has again brought your skillful hand to conduct the important concerns of our country. That the wisdom and virtue which shone so conspicuously in the framing and establishing our Constitution, our own and “the world’s best hope” should again be brought forth to direct its operations, is a security for our prosperity and happiness, which leaves the deepest impressions of gratitude to that being from whom all our blessings flow.

The cause of Republicanism seems to triumph. I hope the present Administration may lay a foundation upon which it will rest secure for ages. Moderation and conciliatory measures in non essentials, will be necessary to prepare the mind to acquiesce in alterations of more importance, and perhaps in removing the rubbish which, has been heaped on the foundation, caution should be used, not to make large breaches at once lest the proprietors, not taking into view the end and designs of the Architect, and exposed to the misrepresentations of the old bungling builders, should become dissatisfied and think they suffer loss. I observed, after the decision in favor of Mr. Jefferson, that the federalists, fearing his talents, and the rectitude of the Administration which would ensue, were making room to come about, by discovering many valuable things in his character which they could not see previous to that event. They now begin to alter their tone and to complain of a system of proscription, and make a merit of the acquiescent disposition they served as a thing characteristic of themselves. They say Mr. Jefferson must have been hurried into these measures by violent partizans, and namely Senator Mason,1 and hence infer a proof of their old objection, want of self decision. I do not know what new appointments have been made, nor if I did, could I form an opinion of their propriety, but perhaps hastily removing, such as custom-house officers, where their official conduct has been upright, and particularly in places where there is a majority of federalists, or meerly to remove any officer to make room for another, might have no beneficial effect, and tend to awaken an opposition that might ruin our cause; but I have probably taken up too much of your attention, shall only beg you will not consider me so arrogant as to offer advice in these matters, only as children are said to be judges of the likeness of a picture, so perhaps I may have some knowledge of the aspect of things in the small circle in which I move.

I should be glad to know what arra[n]gements respecting the Natc[h]es, will take place, as I still hope to revisit that place. The Governor will doubtless be removed,2 I have been conjecturing that either Bruin3 or Dunbar4 will be appointed, Bruin has talents sufficient for the office, Dunbar has talents sufficient for any office, Bruin has the good will of the people from a patriotic disposition, and delights to conduct their operations to the public good, without any view to himself, but honor. The other carefully cultivates the good will of those he is conversant with, that he may direct them to his own advantage, as being enrolled among the litterati of this country. Mr Jefferson has some knowledge of him, and altho. I think this is his real character in private life, perhaps in an elevated situation the public good would preponderate. I hope you have recovered [from] your indisposition. I have not heard from Major Hite’s family for some time. Mrs. Potter unites in sincere respect to Mrs Madison and yourself. I am Sir, Your very humble servt.

Ebenr. Potter5

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