James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Robert Walsh Jr., 11 January 1820

To Robert Walsh Jr.

Montpr. Jany 11. 1820.

Dear Sir

I have recd. your favr. of the 2d. with the pamphlet on the Missouri question, and return my thanks for your politeness in the communication.

Those who can not assent to your conclusions as to the Powers of Congress, and the preference of a confined to a dispersed situation of the slaves among us, must still be sensible of the lustre which ingenuity & eloquence have bestowed on some of your premises. And there can not be many whose feelings will not accord with your pictures of the evils inherent in slavery itself.

It is far from my purpose to resume a subject on which I have perhaps already exceeded the proper limits. But having spoken with so confident a recollection of the meaning attached by the Convention to the term “migration” which seems to be an important hinge in the argument, I may be permitted merely to remark that Mr. Wilson,1 with the proceedings of that assembly fresh on his mind, distinctly applies the term to persons coming to the U. S. from abroad, (see his printed speech p. 59:2 and that a consistency of the passage cited from the Federalist with my recollections, is preserved by the discriminating term “beneficial” added to “voluntary emigrations from Europe to America.”3

I am glad to learn that your “Appeal &c” has so quickly got before the British public. It will satisfy the candid, and ought to silence the prudent part of the Nation. From the press there, it will spread the more easily over the Continent where its good effects will be not less certain. I congratulate you Sir very sincerely on the prospect of ample success to your patriotic and very able performance; and beg leave to renew the assurances of my esteem and good wishes.

Draft (DLC).

1JM placed an asterisk here and at the conclusion of the paragraph wrote: “*See letter of J. M. to Mr. Walsh of Novr. 27. 1819.”

2JM referred here to a speech by James Wilson as reported in Thomas Lloyd, Debates of the Convention, of the State of Pennsylvania, on the Constitution, Proposed for the Government of the United States (Philadelphia, 1788; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … from … 1639 … to … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). description ends 21365), in which Wilson defended the Constitutional clause that stated that “the migration or importation of such persons, &c. shall not be prohibited by congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation” (59) (Merrill Jensen et al., eds., The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution [22 vols. to date; Madison, Wisc., 1976—], 2:463).

3In Federalist No. 42, JM noted that arguments had been made to “pervert” the clause in the U.S. Constitution giving Congress the power to prohibit the international slave trade in 1808 by asserting that it was “calculated to prevent voluntary and beneficial emigrations from Europe to America” but that these arguments were entirely without merit (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 , 10:405).

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