James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 11 December 1818

To James Monroe

Montpellier Decr. 11. 1818

Dear Sir

The inclosed is of little consequence, but you will see that it ought to have been addressed to you.1

Dr. Eustis & his lady having given us a call, it was agreed that he & myself shd. make a short visit to Mr. Jefferson of whose state of health, I had never been able to get any precise information. We found him substantially restored from his indisposition, with good appetite, and in the daily practice of taking exercise on horseback. All that remains of the effect produced by the mineral water,2 is a cutaneous affection of the most superficial kind, which will probably soon disappear.

I observe that the subject of religious Proclamations is brought before the Public.3 It reminds me of the first one by Genl. Washington, which I intended but omitted to notice more particularly before my final departure from W. It was if I mistake not a joint preparation by Mr. Randolph & Col: Hamilton, and contained something in the hand writing of the latter having rather a curious aspect on the policy of such measures.4 Will you obtain it from the Dept of State and ask the favor of your brother to take for me, something like a facsimile of its matter, shewing the parts respectively belonging to the two Compilers. Mr. Pleasanton can probably most readily point to the file containing the document. It was thro’ him I recollect I became acquainted with it. Health & success

James Madison

RC (DLC: Monroe Papers). Docketed by Monroe, with a note in an unidentified hand: “relating to a religious proclamation / requests to procure a copy of one of the kind by genl Washington from the Depart. of State / (a joint preparation of Messrs Randolph & Hamilton) / a curious document.”

1Document not identified.

2For Thomas Jefferson’s illness, see JM to Jefferson, ca. 10 Oct. 1818, and n. 1.

3A piece in the Daily National Intelligencer of 4 Dec. 1818 noted a controversy between writers in the Philadelphia newspapers, the Franklin Gazette and the Democratic Press, over the question of whether the issuance of a religious proclamation by an officer of the state gives “to the executive a dangerous and unconstitutional influence?” The editor remained noncommital on that question, while noting that “a President, or Governor, has the same right to recommend a fast day or a religious observance, as any other individual in the community,” but pointed out that “Mr. Madison would never have recommended a fast day, but at the solemn request of Congress.”

4JM referred here to George Washington’s second Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued on 1 Jan. 1795. The document was drafted by Alexander Hamilton and amended by Edmund Randolph and Hamilton (DNA: RG 11, Presidential Proclamations). In a marginal note on the second page of the draft, Randolph wrote, “… this proclamation ought to savour as much as possible of religion; and not too much of having a political object.” To which Hamilton, in an adjoined note, replied, “A proclamation by a government which is a national Act naturally embraces objects which are political. This is a mere benevolent sentiment in unison with public feeling which without in⟨si⟩sting wishes a state of things propitious to those who ⟨come?⟩.” For JM’s thoughts about Hamilton’s comments, see his expressed opposition to presidential religious proclamations in the Detatched Memoranda, ca. 31 January 1820.

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