James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Richard Peters, 22 February 1819

To Richard Peters

Montpellier Feby. 22. 1819

Dear Sir

I perceive that I am indebted to you for the copy of an Agricultural Almanack & Memorial,1 brought me by a late mail, for which I offer my thanks. Accept them also for the Copy of Mr Rawle’s Address2 which you have been so kind as to send me.

I am particularly pleased with your scheme of a “Pattern Farm.”3 There is no form in which Agricultural instruction can be so successfully conveyed: nor is there any situation more favorable for the establishment than the neighbourhood of a large commercial city. The vessels going thence to every part of the globe can obtain from our Consuls, or from mercantile correspondents, specimens of every article, vegetable & animal, which may deserve experiment; and from such a position, the fruits of successful experiments can be conveniently diffused by water as well as by land. The only objection likely to be started is the expence. But I do not see that even this extends much if at all beyond the Outfit. A small proportion only of the experiments would be a dead loss: whilst many would yield lucrative samples for a distributive sale.

The subject of Mr. Rawle’s Address is an important one; and he has handled it with the ability of which he enjoys the reputation. My own ideas run much in the same channel with his. Our kind reception of emigrants is very proper; but it is dictated more by benevolent than by interested considerations, tho’ some of them seem to be very far from regarding the obligations as lying on their side. I think he has justly graduated also the several classes of emigrants. The Cultivators of the soil are of a character, and in so minute a proportion to our agricultural population, that they give no foreign tint to its complexion. When they come among us too, it is with such a deep feeling of its being for good & all, that their adopted Country soon takes the place of a native home. These remarks belong in a considerable degree to the Mechanical class. The mercantile class has different features. Their proportional number, their capital or their credit, and their intelligence, often give them pretensions and even an influence among the native class, which you can better appreciate perhaps than I can. They are less tied also to their new Country by the nature of their property & pursuits than either of the other classes, a translation of them to another being more easy. And even after naturalization, the rights involved in their native allegiance facilitate violations of the duties of their assumed one. According to the general laws of Europe no emigrant ceases to be a subject. With this double aspect, I believe it cannot be doubted that naturalized citizens among us have found it more easy than native ones to practise certain frauds. I have been led to think it worthy of consideration, whether our law of naturalization might not be so varied as to communicate the rights of Citizenship by degrees, and in that way preclude or abridge the abuses committed by naturalized Merchants, particularly shipowners. The restrictions would be felt, it is true by meritorious individuals, of whom I could name some, & you doubtless more; but this always happens in precautionary regulations for the general good. But I forget that I am only saying what Mr. Rawle has better told you, or what, if just, will not have escaped your own reflections. I wish you health & every other happiness

James Madison

RC (PHi: Richard Peters Papers); draft (DLC). RC cover addressed by JM to Peters at Philadelphia and franked. Docketed by Peters. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1The Agricultural Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1819. Patronized by the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (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 43026).

2William Rawle, An Address Delivered before the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture: At Its Anniversary Meeting, January 19, 1819 (Philadelphia, 1819; 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 49239). Rawle (1759–1836) was a Quaker lawyer who served as U.S. district attorney for Pennsylvania, 1791–1800. A member of many civic groups, he was the first president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Crane et al., Diary of Elizabeth Drinker, 3:2201).

3The almanac (see n. 1 above) included notes on agricultural topics, including a section devoted to the Philadelphia society’s attempt to create an experimental model farm. For a full description of its efforts, see Simon Baatz, “Venerate the Plough”: A History of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, 1785–1985 (Philadelphia, 1985), 35–38.

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