James Madison Papers

From James Madison to James Monroe, 15 March 1820

To James Monroe

Montpr. Mar. 15. 1820

Dear Sir

Whilst I was in the Government at Washington, Henry Sidney Coxe, a son of Mr. Tench Coxe, was appointed a Midshipman. On the return of peace, ill health, brought on by the severities of the service, and the advice of his father prevailed on him to retire. His father states that his health is now re-established, and that his attachment to the navy having never ceased, it is the wish of both, that he could resume his former Station, or be gratified with a new appointment; for which his latter situation in an extensive shipping House is supposed to have rather cultivated than impaired his qualifications. I am equally aware that difficulties may attend the case, and that your personal dispositions may be as favorable as public considerations will allow; and that I ought on these as well as other accounts to make an apology for troubling you with a word on the subject. But having been long acquainted with Mr. Coxe, and with his indefatigable labors, I believe I may truly say, with his important services, on occasions deeply interesting to his Country, I could not decline this expression of good will to him, and to his son, who if my impressions be correct, was found by his character & conduct, to have well justified the appointment he formerly received.

As I know not that I shall have a better occasion, I will take another liberty for which another, & perhaps a greater apology is due. Burwell Randolph a son of Mrs. D. M. Randolph,1 has been some time at Washington in the hope of finding employment in some of the public offices. You are apprized of all the circumstances which naturally excite within a certain sphere, an interest in behalf of both the Mother & the son who is represented as adding to a fitness for employment, a laudable anxiety to discharge his filial debts, by contributing to the support of the family of which he is a member. In saying that a peculiar apology might be due for this obtrusion, I had in view the circumstance that appointments such as that in question, are extraneous to your functions. But as opportunities sometimes occur, in which a knowlege that a candidate was thought favorably of by the President, might properly turn the scale in the hand of the appointing functionary, I have ventured on what it was wished that I should intimate. I do it however in this as in all cases with the reserves dictated by my knowlege of the delicacy of your situation, and my ignorance of the rival pretensions before you.

The public prints announce that your youngest daughter has just made her choice of a son in law for you.2 So many circumstances concur in assuring Mrs. Madison & myself of her success in pleasing her parents as well as in providing for her own happiness, that we offer without stint, our congratulations on the event to all to whom they are due. Health & prosperity

James Madison

RC (UkLoBM); draft (DLC). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1JM had appointed Burwell Starke Randolph (1800–1854) a midshipman in the U.S. Navy in 1815, but a fall left him crippled and he was forced to resign in 1817. He was the son of Mary (Molly) Randolph Randolph (1762–1828), the sister of Thomas Mann Randolph and wife of David Meade Randolph. After her husband’s bankruptcy in 1808, Mary Randolph opened a boardinghouse in Richmond. In 1820 she moved to Washington to live with her son, William Beverley Randolph, who was employed as a clerk in the Treasury Department. She published The Virginia House-Wife, one of the first American cookbooks, in 1824 (“Randolph Family,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 1st ser., 9 [1901]: 250; Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy description begins Edward W. Callahan, List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 (New York, 1901). description ends , 452; Jonathan Daniels, The Randolphs of Virginia [Garden City, N.Y., 1972], 247–48; Mattern and Shulman, Selected Letters of Dolley Payne Madison, 411).

2Maria Hester Monroe married her cousin, Samuel L. Gouverneur of New York, President Monroe’s private secretary, in a private ceremony at the President’s House on 9 Mar. 1820 (Ammon, James Monroe description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York, 1971). description ends , 405, 407; Daily National Intelligencer, 11 Mar. 1820).

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