James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Francis Preston, 5 July 1812

From Francis Preston

Abingdon July 5h. 1812

Dear Sir

I am well aware that the War department is the proper channell through which applications ought to be made for appointments in the Army, but a circumstance attends this Case which seems to forbid my applying through that department, and indeed it is one from its delicacy almost arrests my making any application. But from the Ardor of the Youth applying, the interest I take in his Wellfare and the Hope he will conduct himself usefully and meritoriously has induced me to adopt this mode, which act of troublesome familiarity I hope you will excuse. I enclose his letter written to me from Yale College. You’ll perceive he bears my name. You know too well my domestic situation to believe Mrs. Preston has a Son old enough to enter the Army. I am therefore with shame to confess this Young man to be the fruit of Youthfull folly. But to justify me to myself and to him I have given him as ample an opportunity for an Education as this Country affords and have the pleasure to say he has embraced it with avidity and success. He is of the most manly form and robust constitution and I do believe well calculated both in mind and body to serve his Country. He will accept of any Commission which may be now vacant that you will confer on him.1

I confess Sir I feel doubtfull of the propriety of this familiar correspondence, but calculating on my former standing with you and the Real friendship I have toward you I have ventured, and having ventured, I will hazard another observation of a delicate nature, which however I hope is unnecessary but it is predicated on the best motives towards you. Colo Alexander Smyth is unworthy of Confidence. He is not now the Enemy of the Administration because the contrary is his interest, but should his requests or Ambition be disappointed there is no hold on his Integrity for a correct course. I speak this from experience perhaps it may be from prejudice, we are at enmity and of a very long standing. At all events cautious prudence is the better course to be exercised towards him. Should any occasion make it necessary that this declaration be made public I hold myself responsible for it. With Sentiments of personal friendship and Esteem I am Dear Sir Your Mo Obt Srt

Frans Preston

PS. If the Commission for the Treaty at Piqua is not filled up and you believe me Competent to share in its duties I would with gratitude accept the appointment.2

RC (NN). Docketed by JM. Enclosure not found.

1It is likely that Preston was referring to Isaac Trimble Preston (1793–1852) of Abingdon, Virginia. Isaac Preston graduated from Yale in 1812, attended law school over the winter of 1812–13, and accepted a captain’s commission in the Thirty-fifth Infantry in March 1813 (Dexter, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College, 6:493–94).

2On 1 July, Eustis appointed Return Jonathan Meigs, Jr., Thomas Worthington, and Jeremiah Morrow commissioners “to meet the Chiefs & head Men of the several Indian Tribes from the Western frontier in Council at Piqua town in the State of Ohio” on 1 Aug. as a prelude to a possible treaty. In an effort to control Indian hostility on the frontier, Eustis ordered the trio to hear the complaints of these tribes and “learn from them the course they desire to pursue in the War with Great Britain.” The commissioners were instructed that if the Indians gave “satisfactory assurances that they will preserve peace with good faith, they may be assured that the president will take them by the hand—that He will protect them—that they shall have their Annuities according to Treaty—that their Lands shall be held sacred, and shall not be taken or purchased from them.” However, should a single murder occur on the frontier, “the murderer shall be forthwith delivered up, or the Tribe to which he shall belong shall be driven beyond the Mississippi—their Lands shall be forfeited, and their Annuities shall cease forever” (DNA: RG 107, LSIA).

Index Entries