James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Alexander Scott, 7 April 1819

From Alexander Scott

George Town D.C. Apl 7th 1819

Dear Sir,

Having brought my long-protracted suit against John Law to a termination, I take the liberty to enclose you a copy of an extract from the record, shewing the decision of the court.1

Thro’ this troublesome controversy, I have had to contend with an adversary not less active and crafty than he had been malignant and vindictive; who spared neither pains nor expence, and called to his aid a host of the ablest counsel in Maryland.

The case had been so much discussed, and had produced such excitement in the County, where it was depending, that all the most respectable, and liberal-minded citizens, who were for high damages, had formed opinions; and nearly the whole regular pannell were challenged by the defendant—and by having recourse to tales-men, the jury consequently consisted of farmers in the humbler walks of society, who ’tho honest well judging men, were contracted in their ideas as to money. They intended their verdict to be a most liberal remuneration for an injury which excited universal indignation.

It is gratifying to me, that I can appeal to such conclusive evidence, as the verdict of an honest, dispassionate Jury, for the vindication of my character; and it affords me real pleasure to give you this additional proof, that your patronage was conferred on a person not altogether unworthy of your confidence.2

I avail myself of this occasion to express to you those feelings of gratitude, which I shall ever entertain, for the friendly disposition you evinced towards me; feelings which I shall probably never have an opportunity of testifying otherwise than by words.

Mrs Scott unites with me in best respects; and in sincere wishes for the health and happiness of yourself and Mrs Madison. With sentiments of the highest Esteem I have the honor to be dear Sir Yr Mo: Obedt Servt

Alexander Scott

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

1The enclosure (1 p.) is a copy of the verdict rendered in the case of Alexander Scott v. John Law in Charles County, Maryland, court in the March term of 1819. The verdict was for the plaintiff in the amount of $5,000 for damages plus the costs of the suit. Scott had brought the suit against Law for slander because Law had accused Scott of selling “negroes entitled to their freedom” and of being “addicted to intemperate habits,” and his charges had influenced the U.S. Senate to deny Scott an appointment (see n. 2 below) (Alexander Scott to JM, 20 Aug. 1816, and enclosure [DLC]).

2In the spring of 1812, Alexander Scott (ca. 1771–1838) was chosen special agent to oversee U.S. relief efforts in Venezuela after a severe earthquake there (PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (6 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 5:506 n. 2). On 29 Apr. 1816 JM nominated Scott commissioner “under the act providing for the payment for property lost, captured, or destroyed by the enemy, and for other purposes,” but the Senate did not consent to the appointment (Daily National Intelligencer, 12 Nov. 1838; Senate Exec. Proceedings description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (3 vols.; Washington, 1828). description ends , 3:52, 53).

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