James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Auguste Rigaud, 11 June 1813

From Auguste Rigaud

Montpellier Le 11e. Juin 1813.

Monsieur Le Président,

Sans doute vous Serez étonné qu’un particulier ose adresser un ouvrage au premier Magistrat d’un des premiers peuples de la terre. Mon amour pour le bien public en général, & votre haute réputation Seront mon excuse.

Puissiez vous lire avec quelque intérêt un ouvrage que j’ai composé avec peu de talent mais avec beaucoup d’enthousiasme!1

L’approbation que lui ont accordé en france quelques personnages illustrer m’ont fait espérer que mes intentions pourraient ne pas vous déplaire. Je Suis, avec Le plus profond respect, Monsieur le Président Votre très humble, Et très obéissant Serviteur

Auguste Rigaud nègociant2

P.S. Monsieur Le Président pourra faire de ce petit poëme l’usage qu’il croira convenable, ou le brules ou le produire.

Je le prie Seulement de m’en accuser la réception.

Condensed Translation

JM will doubtless be astonished that a private individual dares to address a work to the first magistrate of one of the first peoples of the world. Rigaud’s excuses for doing so will be his love for the public good and JM’s high reputation. Wishes that JM will read with some interest a work that Rigaud has composed with little talent, but much enthusiasm. The approval it received from some illustrious persons in France gives Rigaud hope that his intentions will not displease JM. Adds in a postscript that JM may make what use he wants of the poem, whether that be to burn it or exhibit it. Asks only that he be informed of its receipt.

RC and enclosure (DLC). Docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Rigaud enclosed a manuscript poem (7 pp.; in French) entitled “Discours en Vers, aux Américains, Sur la guerre de l’independence.” It accused the British of having committed atrocities during the Revolutionary War, praised the Americans, and celebrated France’s support for the United States. A final section condemned the renewal of British hostilities against the United States and promised further aid from France. The poem was annotated with extracts (in Italian) from Carlo Botta’s Storia della guerra dell’Independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America.

2Pierre-Augustin Rigaud (1760–1835), better known as Auguste Rigaud, was born in Montpellier and became involved in revolutionary politics there. He served as a founder and first secretary of that city’s Society of the Friends of the Constitution and Equality and participated in the taking of the Montpellier citadel on the night of 1–2 May 1790. A wholesaler of Indian cotton and muslin, Rigaud was forced to abandon his home and business in 1815 to avoid persecution for his political beliefs. He moved to Paris and found employment there as an arbiter in the commerce court. From 1820 to 1825 he published one volume of poetry and two collections of stories and fables, all of which were reprinted as Fables, contes, et poésies diverses (2 vols. in 1; Paris, 1833). This work contained a version of the “Discours en Vers” from which the references to later British aggressions that concluded the manuscript sent to JM had been removed. After the revolution of 1830, Rigaud lived in Brives, where he organized the local public library (Dictionnaire de biographie héraultaise des origines à nos jours [2 vols.; Montpellier, 2002], 2:1288–89).

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