James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Elizabeth House Trist, [ca. 5 September] 1810

To Elizabeth House Trist

[ca. 5 September 1810]

Dr Madam

Your letter of the 27th august has just come to hand that inclosing the papers from Mrs Jones having been previously recd.

It appears by Mr Pinkneys communication that W Brown, being compleatly in his power had given up between 30 and 40 thousand Dollars and there was some prospect of getting from him a further sum, which however was not likely to be very considerable. I sincerely wish not only on public account, but for the sake of those innocently Affected by his misfortune that the intire recoveries may satisfy the claims of the U. S. But this is the less to be hoped, as it is not easy to explain the elopement without supposing that pecuniary trespasses had been before committed, which could not long be conceald, and which will be brought to light by an examination of his accounts with the public.1

Tr (PPAmP). In the hand of Elizabeth House Trist; copied in her letter to Catharine Wistar Bache, 15 Sept. 1810.

1Evidently dissatisfied with this reply, Elizabeth House Trist decided to call on JM in person as she returned to Virginia from a visit to friends in Philadelphia. She met with JM in Washington on or shortly after 18 Oct. 1810, and the following week she recorded the meeting: “While I was out, the President and his Lady call’d to return my visit which it seems is a great mark of respect on his part, as he returns no visits. The morning after we returnd the visit and had the honor of an interview with the President. He took me by the hand but his manner appeard rather stiff. I got no information from him respecting William Brown. He had not seen him, nor had had any communication with either Mr Gallatin or Mr Duval on the subject but that he fancy’d that ⟨he?⟩ knew more than he had discoverd. When I spoke about Mary and the difficulties she had to encounter and read a part of her last letter he did not seem to feel much on the subject[,] excused Grimes or endeavour’d to do it, on the plea of his attention to the public interest. I observd that his conduct had been universally reprobated and that I presumed from the State of inebriety that he was prone to, he was led to do more than his duty exacted. He said Mr Grimes had lived in his Neighbourhoud and that he had never heard of his doing any thing improper except being a little wild. I told him that in Albemarle his character was considerd very exceptionable and that on my arrival I was asked how Mr Jefferson came to appoint such a man to that Office that he was both a Gamestar and a Drunkard, he seem’d, or effected surprise. However I found that I was not likely to get information from that quarter and I took my leave. Mrs Madison had left the room. He went to call her from the adjoining apartment but she was not there. Left compliments and retired as dignified as I cou’d. My Sister said he offerd me his hand but I did not observe the intended honor till I had pass’d him” (Elizabeth House Trist to Catharine Wistar Bache, 24 Oct. 1810 [PPAmP]; some periods supplied by the editors). The date of the meeting with JM has been assigned on the basis of Elizabeth House Trist’s mentioning in the letter that William Brown (who was reported by the National Intelligencer as being in Washington under arrest on Wednesday, 10 Oct.) had left the city on “wednesday morning [17 Oct.] for Baltimore to take his Passage in the first Vessel for N Orleans.”

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