James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George W. Erving, 12 September 1804

From George W. Erving

Private No 23

London Septr 12th 1804

Dear Sir,

I have but this moment received the duplicate of your (private) letter July 22d,1 communicating the views of the President with respect to the Agency of our affairs at Tunis; & that he has been pleased to consider me as a fit person to be employed in that situation. I beg you to be assured that I feel extremely sensible to the honor which I derive from the good opinion of the President; & that I shall always cheerfully engage in any public service under his auspices, unless restrained by such motives as when Explained are likely to meet with his approbation: The objections which are usually made to the station referred to, & which have prevented your being able to find a suitable person to place in it, tho perhaps they may be generally thought to apply with as much force to my situation & circumstances as to those of most men, are not such as I woud urge on this occasion: I am persuaded too that very important services may be rendered to our country in that region, & having no views not connected with the most sincere & ardent desire of contributing as far as belongs to me to the success of the present system of our government & the honor of its administration, I shoud not object to the making sacrifices merely personal; but on this occasion I am compelled to give place to private considerations which I am confident the sensibility of your mind will fully appreciate & approve; My father who has no other child, & I may almost say no other relation than myself, since he is detached from all others; & whose studious & retired habits, as well as the unpopularity of his opinions,2 have to a considerable degree insulated him in this community, is now far advanced in life, & his increasing infirmities render my society very essential to his comfortable existence; they make it at least necessary for me to be where I can preserve a constant & regular intercourse with him or come to him on any Emergency, for he is possessed of a constant dread of dying surrounded only by strangers, & lest his papers & other personalties shoud fall into such hands: As he has no tye of friends or otherwise which attaches him to this country, he has concluded when I return to America to return also, & there is no situation in which I coud be placed in this part of the world except on the coast of Africa, where he woud not be disposed to take up his residence; But I coud not reconcile him to, nor indeed woud my own sentiments of duty & affection for him allow of a seperation such as woud necessarily be created by my acceptance of the station which you have had the goodness to propose for me. I beg that you will be pleased to make acceptable to the President my acknowledgements for the consideration with which he has honord me, & to Receive assurances of the perfect respect & esteem with which I am always Dear Sir Your very obliged & obt st

George W Erving

RC (MHi: Winthrop Family Papers). Marked “Duplicate.”

1Letter not found (calendared in PJM-SS description begins Robert J. Brugger et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Secretary of State Series (7 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1986–). description ends , 7:505).

2George Erving (ca. 1733–1806), who was “much disappointed” at not being nominated to the Massachusetts “Mandamus Council” under the Coercive Acts in August of 1774 with his father and brother, John Erving Sr. and John Erving Jr., was appointed to the council in October 1774. On Washington’s capture of Boston, Erving fled to Halifax with his second wife and his son, George William. He later moved to England but regretted leaving America and encouraged his son’s return (John W. Tyler, Smugglers & Patriots: Boston Merchants and the Advent of the American Revolution [Boston, 1986], 227, 262; J. L. M. Curry, Diplomatic Services of George William Erving [Cambridge, Mass., 1890], 9–10, 13; Clarence Edwin Carter, comp. and ed., The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage with the Secretaries of State, and with the War Office and the Treasury, 1763–1775 [2 vols.; New Haven, Conn., 1931–33], 2:175; Massachusetts Gazette: And the Boston Weekly News-Letter, 11 Aug. 1774).

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