James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Adams, 21 May 1812

From John Adams

Quincy May 21st. 1812

Dear Sir

Mr Malcom was three years in my family at Philadelphia as my private Secretary: and during that time his conduct was ingenuous faithful and industrious, attentive and entirely to my satisfaction. His Connections in New York were respectable and his education to letters, and the bar regular. Altho since the dissolution of that connection between him and me there has been no intercourse, and very little correspondence between us, I have ever held him in Esteem, and affection.

Though without his permission I shall venture to enclose his letter to me,1 asking the favour to have it returned to me by the post, there will be, no doubt many applications from Persons whose merits are wholly unknown to me. In your decision I shall perfectly acquiesce, beleiving it to be founded in pure integrity, mature deliberation and sound judgment.

And now since I have ventured to write to you, I cannot restrain myself from saying one word on another subject.

Mr Gerry is one of the oldest patriots of the revolution, and like most others of that character has sacraficed himself, his fortune and his family, to the cause of his Country. He is one of the firmest pillars of that system which alone can save this Country from disgrace and ruin; and if he is not in some way or other supported, but suffered to sink, his principles and measures will feel a dangerous, if not fatal discouragement in all this section of the union. As I am well aware of the delicacy of your situation, as well as of the importance of it, I neither expect or desire any answer to this letter, or any other that I may have occasion hereafter to write. With the highest respect and great esteem, I have the honour to be Sir, your most obedient Servant

John Adams

Letterbook copy (MHi: Adams Papers). For enclosure (ibid.; 4 pp.), see n. 1.

1Adams enclosed to JM a 9 May 1812 letter he had received from Malcom, in which, after admitting that he had not been in contact with the former president for many years, Malcom provided some details of his life, namely that he had moved to Utica after the death of his father-in-law in order to manage the estate inherited by his wife. In consequence Malcom had neglected his career at the bar, only to find that the income from the estate was “almost nothing” and that he had difficulty in reconciling himself to the life of a farmer. He had also lost three of his four children to croup. With some hesitation, Malcom then broached the subject of soliciting Adams’s assistance in obtaining the newly created district judgeship in New York, and he conceded in advance that Adams was not likely to approve of anyone actively seeking office. “All delicacy on these points,” Malcom continued, “like that of Chivalry, having departed, I am compelled to become a reluctant follower in the beggarly practice of supplication.”

Malcom, furthermore, asked Adams to enlist Jefferson’s support on his behalf, declaring that the latter had said to him on the occasion of their last meeting: “Rely upon my regards; all that is proper for you to ask, & me to grant you may calculate upon.” Doubting that John Jay could be expected to assist him in this matter, Malcom decided that he would be guided by Adams’s advice, and he concluded his letter by hinting that the appointment should be made soon.

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