James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Mathew Carey, 9 April 1804 (Abstract)

§ From Mathew Carey

9 April 1804, Philadelphia. “Some time since I submitted to the legislature of the United States propositions for furnishing them with 4 or 500 copies of the Laws of the United States, at the rate of One dollar per volume in sheets, exclusive of the binding, which I engaged to have done for 31 cents per volume. An act, I find, has been passed on the subject, for receivi⟨ng⟩ 400 copies, & an appropriation of 2000 Dollars only made, which is not much more than half the stipulated price.1 This error has arisen from the spirit of procrastination too common in public bodies. In the beginning of the session there was a great deal of anxiety to provide for an edition of 10,000 copies; but afterwards the proposition for furnishing 4 or 500, ‘dragged it⟨s⟩ slow length along,’2 & was not decided upon till the very last day of the session.

“I shall regard it as a favour if you furnish me with your ideas upon this subject.”3 Adds in a postscript: “I have given the Books to be bound.”

RC (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters Received regarding Publishers of the Laws). 1 p.; docketed by Wagner as received 12 Apr.; torn.

1For “An act to provide for a more extensive distribution of the Laws of the United States,” 27 Mar. 1804, see U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:302–3.

2Carey quoted Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism: “A needless Alexandrine ends the Song, / That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along” (lines 356–57) (Alexander Pope, Pastoral Poetry and An Essay on Criticism, ed. E. Audra and Aubrey Williams [London and New Haven, 1961], 280).

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