James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Mason Locke Weems, 17 June 1812

From Mason Locke Weems

June 17. 1812

I send your Excellency this little pamphlet because of the very great pleasure it gives me to let you see that tho I cannot fight the British into their better senses I am at least endeavoring to do something with those Deluded ones of our own People, the Gamblers.1

I was talking with Your Excellency last night on a subject which lies uncommonly near to my Heart—i.e, to convince the Great Mass of our People how preeminently they are favord of Heaven.

My People are destroyd for lack of knowledge,”2 says God by the Prophet. And very sorry am I to tell Your Excellency that this applies too truly to the Citizens of the U. States. Too many of them are ignorant, most lamentably ignorant of their Great National mercies. I long above all things to give them the 8th. Chap. of I. Sam. with comments most faithfully stated,3 by all the host of Kings from Nimrod to Napoleon. Surely if this coud be done in a conscise & popular manner, the People of this Heaven-founded Republic wd rise up as one Man from Dan to Beersheba and with Life & fortune support your Excellency & all future Presidents in your Just measures to defend and immortalize a Government fraught with so many Blessings.

If your Excellency cou’d at any time tell me of a book that wd give me some lights on this Great Subject; or cou’d engage some Gentleman of turn & talents this way to assist me by sketching out a Skeleton at least for me,4 You wd confer a Singularly acceptable favor on, very Honord & Dr. Sir Yours, with utmost esteem & respect.

M. L. Weems5

RC (DLC). Dated 17 Jan. 1812 in the Index to the James Madison Papers.

1Weems probably enclosed a copy of the second edition of his pamphlet God’s Revenge against Gambling (Philadelphia, 1812; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 27507).

2Hos. 4:6.

3The theme of 1 Samuel 8 is the Israelites’ rejection of the rule of Samuel and his sons and their request for “a king to judge us like all the nations.”

4No reply from JM to this letter has been found, but on 10 Sept. 1812 Weems wrote to his publisher, Mathew Carey, requesting that he be sent copies of as many republican or anti-monarchical tracts as the printer had in his inventory. “Mr. Madison & thousands say,” Weems added, “that such a thing in a popular manner wd do infinite service” (Weems to Carey, 10 Sept. 1812, printed in Emily Ellsworth Ford Skeels, ed., Mason Locke Weems: His Works and Ways [3 vols.; New York, 1929], 3:81).

5The Maryland-born clergyman and bookseller Mason Locke Weems (1759–1825), best known for his Life of Washington, was also the author of several moralizing tracts preaching against the dangers of self-indulgence and advocating the virtues of self-control (see Skeels, Mason Locke Weems, 3:365–439).

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