James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Right Reverend James Madison, 29 October 1802

From the Right Reverend James Madison

Oct. 29h. 1802 Williamsburg

My dear Sir

I have desired my Son James Catesby,1 who is passing on to Phila., to attend the medical Lectures there, to pay his Respects to you, if Circumstances should permit him to spend a Day in Washington. His excessive Diffidence gives him a very awkward Demeanor; but he does not want an usual Portion of Understanding.

A Paragraph in Davis’s Paper of the 27h. Inst has just been shewn to me, in which it is asserted, that I had declared Mr. Jefferson had deceived me, with Re[s]pect to the Money sent to Callendar.2 The known Character of certain Papers might, perhaps, assure me that this assertion would be ranked among the thousand villainous Falsities, with which they abound. But, neither Respect for myself, nor the sincere Regard which I have for Mr Jefferson, will permit me to let the assertion pass uncontradicted. I will therefore, beg the Favour of you, whenever an opportunity offers, to mention to the President, that the whole Story is an abominable Falsity, that it has not even the Shadow of Foundation; & that his Letter to the Miscreant, instead of making upon me the Impression alledged, appeared perfectly coincident with the Information I recd. from him. It is true, I have mentioned, upon several Occasions, the Fact relative to the Money, as stated by Mr Jefferson; but always to prove, from the Fact, that the Money was extorted by the miserable Situation, in which Callendar described both himself & Family, to be involved.

How far is this intolerable Abuse of the first Magistrate of a Nation to be carried? Doth not the Dignity of the Nation require, that such unprincipled Licentiousness should be arrested? Hath the World ever produced an Instance of such indecent, such debasing Calumnies? The Pr. may find it difficult to decide between his Ideas of the Liberty of the Press, & what his own Feelings may require; but I would not suffer the Nation to be insulted, in my Person. There cannot be a real Friend to Republicanism, who is not indignant at the Situation to which he sees the cheif Magistrate reduced. Shall we leave public opinion to correct the Evil? Public opinion will become debauched by those base Calumnies, by the continued Insults which the Magistracy of our Country receives, & by the perpetual Contempt which is cast upon republican Principles. What then is to be done? Put the Law, which each State has already enacted to defend the dearest Right of every Individual, into Effect; & that, without Delay. This is my Idea; the Preservation of republican Principles, & of good Morals; Respect for legitimate Government; & above all, the Dignity, the Honour, & the Glory of the Nation, appear to me, at this Crisis, to demand such a Decision. I know the Superiority of your Judgment in these Matters; but I confess, I have seldom felt, tho’ it is not often that I see those Papers, more Indignation on Acct. of their base Scurrility, both as a Citizen of America, & as a Friend to the present Administration.

Present, if you please, my best Regards to Mrs. Madison & believe me to be, D Sir, Yr. Affe Friend

J Madison

It has been said, Genl Dearborn intends to send his Son3 to our College; if so, the sooner the better on Acct. of the Classes, which he wd. join. We are filling more rapidly than I expected.

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