James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tench Coxe, 2 February 1819

From Tench Coxe

Philadelphia Feb. 2. 1819

Dear Sir

I beg leave to place, on the table of your library, the inclosed addition to my original Memoir on cotton.1 Never did my anticipations of any subject in our affairs issue in a conformity of subsequent events so considerable as in this case. The price alone has proved more steady and undiminished than I expected. This is principally owing to the wonderful power of Machinery, the necessity of employing the British manufacturers, and the change from the use of linen, hempen silk, leathern and woollen goods to those made of cotton. Most extraordinary facts of that kind have occurred in various parts of the world & particularly in Germany. As I observe you are sweetening the evening of life with agricultural theory, experiment, and practice I beg leave through you to offer this paper for the use of your Society. I wish I had a copy of the first to prefix to it, and should be glad, if one remains in your hands, that they should be joined & preserved together among the Archives of Agriculture, to which the little work most vitally pertains. During the last summer I printed in a work of 2500 copies (the Philada. Edition of Chambers & Rees’s London Cyclopædia)2 all I could safely publish of the first Memoir, which will be found in the 77th. half vol. (or 39th. whole volume) of that work under the title “U States”—section agriculture. The whole Article of the “United States” was recently written by me, or compiled from former writings in the course of about 32 years carefully revis’d in 1818, except a little Geography & Topography, which I found that Doctor Rees had taken principally from Melish & partly from Morse.3 I knew these two geographers from the commencement of our subject, and I conferred, in July, with the former before I went to press. I have, as you will perceive, if you see Bradford, Murray & Co’s Rees cyclopædia, taken care to leave open our Louisiana claims, & our claims of discovery & settlement towards and upon the western coast. In other geographical matters I endeavoured to make out, with Mr. Melish, a correctness suitable to such a work. You will perceive in that work, if you should have it from any neighbouring subscriber a serious tho brief Notice of a great many subjects that, in the last years of the American provinces & in the whole independent course of our country have occupied the hearts & minds of yourself, your friend of Monticello, our Franklin and other like spirits. I wish my little labor may be read by Mr. Jefferson and by yourself, particularly the parts that relate to our national character—our derivations of men and things [illegible] from foreign—from old national & independent national sources—our institutions, as comparable with those of England—the history of our public force by land & sea & our innocence of the charge of “the ambitious republic.” The great all prevailing moral virtues of our religious & political institutions & &ca. Having no interest in the work of Rees, as published here or in Europe, except writing on my own terms, uncontrouled, four or five articles, on request made, I can say with confidence, that the work is well worthy of a place in the most accessible library of your vicinity—such as that of your county or district agricultural Society, & still more in the libraries of your gentlemen of fortune, who are breeding sons and wards. The English republication has cost, in boards, £200.000 St, and our American edition, which is materially improved & enlarged has cost 200.000 Dollars. There are 2100 copies sold and a few unsold, but going off regularly, especially in the interior & western country. Amidst the political & pecuniary agitations & explosions, which occur in our country, great steady attention is paid to the whole range of natural science. And altho the plume of knowledge oftener & more distinc[t]ly shines on the brow of the Philosopher of that department, and more solid lucre results from its discoveries & operations, yet there are a number of men of mind, of heart and the proper habits, who worship the source of all Philosophy in the solemn temple of his great moral school, and labor in the diffusion of knowledge in that precious grand division of Science. Philadelphia was never so active, in didactic operations of every kind. The light of science is held, with effect, to the fine, the liberal, the useful, and even to the vulgar arts: for the common are often the most useful & necessary.

I omitted to mention that a main object of my article of the “United States” was to make out a vindicatory exposition of our country in its origin & progress and particularly in the time of the french revolutions, and especially in those workings of things, which produced, and gave complexion to the conduct of our government, in the war of 1812. Mr. Jefferson & you will perceive, that I have, tho I trust innocently, insinuated much that concerns those things, of which you and he were “a great part.” The work, revised & improved by a few pages of recent matter would make a handsome Octavo of 500 pages, in a good type for an old man. 1000 copies in boards might be printed for 800 Drs. & would sell at $2.50, costing 80 cents, but I cannot spare the funds & it will probly be in the Cyclopædia shape. It is well recd here by all parties, as moderate men, & respectable federalists have openly assured me.

As Mrs. Madison is now settled down into the character of an American matron, and she knows my admiration of her sex & of herself, I trust she will accept my sincere & entire respects, and most cordial good wishes of all future happiness. I have the honor to be with the most perfect attachment & respect, dear Sir Your faithful humble servant,

Tench Coxe

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Tench Coxe, An Addition, of December 1818, to the Memoir, of February and August 1817, on the Subject of the Cotton Culture, the Cotton Commerce, and the Cotton Manufacture of the United States … (Philadelphia, 1818; 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 43761). The original memoir was entitled A Memoir, of February, 1817, upon the Subject of the Cotton Wool Cultivation, the Cotton Trade, and the Cotton Manufactories of the United States of America [Philadelphia, 1817]; 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 40584).

2Coxe referred to Abraham Rees, The Cyclopædia; or, Universal Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Literature (41 vols.; Philadelphia, 1805–25; 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 9234), which was the first American edition (“Revised, Corrected, Enlarged, and Adapted to this Country”) of Ephraim Chambers’s and Rees’s Cyclopædia, or, An Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, published in London in several editions between 1776 and 1795.

3John Melish, A Geographical Description of the United States (Philadelphia, 1816), and one of the many editions of Jedidiah Morse, The American Geography (Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, 1794).

4In his essay “United States” in Rees’s Cyclopædia, Coxe quoted from JM’s essay no. 14 from The Federalist: “it is the glory of the people of America, that, while they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to over-rule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience. To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favour of private rights and public happiness. Had no important step been taken by the leaders of the revolution, for which a precedent could not be discovered; no government established of which an exact model did not present itself, the people of the United States might at this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of misguided counsels, or must at best have been labouring under the weight of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest of mankind. Happily for America, happily, we trust, for the whole human race, they pursued a new and more noble course; they accomplished a revolution, which has no parallel in the annals of human society; they reared the fabrics of governments which have no model on the face of the globe; they formed the design of a great confederacy [emphases added by Coxe]—which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate” (Tench Coxe, “United States,” in Rees, Cyclopædia [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 9234], 39:n. p.; PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 10:288).

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

 But India Cotton has been sold in England at 6d to 10d Steg for the best, dam[as]k, and Low⟨er?⟩.

 On this subject I have borrowed a motto from one of your federalists.4

 as in chemistry, mechanism, hydraulics &ca.

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