James Madison Papers

To James Madison from George Hay, 18 September 1820

From George Hay

Loudoun Oak:hill Sept: 18. 1820.

Dear Sir,

When I left Montpelier, I did not imagine that we should bring away more than we had carried. I find however, that three books belonging to the library, and a fourth belonging to Mr. T’s1 room, were transferred from the apartment to which Mrs. Scott2 was conducted, to Mrs. Hay’s chamber, and stowed away by her maid among her baggage. This petty larceny was not discovered until several days after our arrival here. The three books are Allens theology,3 Sheridans rhetorical grammar,4 and the quarterly review No 43.5 The fourth book is an unbound duodo. Vol: of Footes farces:6 the “taking and carrying away” of which, I shall contend, if Mr. T. shall commence a prosecution against us, is not only not a larceny, but no offence whatever: the farces contained in the same, being utterly without value. It is true that I have read but very little of this volume: but that little has convinced me, of what I had not suspected, that Foote is a wretched plagiarist. He borrows without Ceremony from Le Sage, and Boccacio,7 and is manifestly incompetent to manage what he has thus unfairly acquired.

I regret now, as we had this additional burthen, that I did not avail myself of your polite offer as to “les ordonnances:”8 the safe location of which in the bag, would have necessarily excluded the volumes which found their way there. I shall return them by the mail in a short time.

Fearing that the review may be missed, I have thought it proper to apprise you of its Situation. I am, with very great respect Yr. mo: ob: Srt.

Geo: Hay

P.S. Tuesday Oct: 9th. 1820.

Perhaps it is not quite polite to Send a letter of So old a date; & I should not Send it, if I had time to write a new one. We are all at this moment in the hurry of preparation for an early journey tomorrow. A letter from N.Y. received by this days mail, hardly leaves us any hope of Mr. Gouverneur’s9 recovery. He has had a fever without intermission for 25 days. A few days ago he was better: he has since relapsed.

The books (Mr. Benton) the manager here will Send in two or three detachments.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1John Payne Todd.

2Maria Mayo Scott (1789–1862), daughter of John and Abigail De Hart Mayo, was the wife of Gen. Winfield Scott. Her son, John (1819–20), died during their visit to Montpelier and was buried in the Madison family plot (Allan Peskin, Winfield Scott and the Profession of Arms [Kent, Ohio, 2003], 64–66, 70, 264).

3This was probably Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, or A Compenduous System of Natural Religion. … (Bennington, Vt., 1784; Evans 18322), generally known as Allen’s Theology, or Allen’s Bible.

4Thomas Sheridan, A Rhetorical Grammar of the English Language … (Philadelphia, 1783; Evans 18184).

5JM subscribed to the London Quarterly Review until February 1823 (JM to Edward Everett, 18 Feb. 1823).

6This could have been any volume of the many multivolume editions of The Dramatic Works of Samuel Foote (London, 1754–78).

7Alain-René Lesage (1668–1747) was a French novelist and playwright. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–75) was an Italian writer and author of the Decameron (1353).

8René-Josué Valin, Nouveau commentaire sur l’ordonnance de la marine, du mois d’août 1681 …, new ed. (2 vols.; La Rochelle, France, 1776).

9Samuel L. Gouverneur (1799–1865), of New York, was president James Monroe’s private secretary and Mrs. Monroe’s nephew. He married the Monroes’ younger daughter, Maria Hester Monroe, in 1820. Gouverneur served in the New York state assembly in 1825, and was postmaster of New York City, 1828–36 (Baltimore Sun, 12 Oct. 1865; Ammon, James Monroe description begins Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity (New York, 1971). description ends , 405, 407, 547; Marian Gouverneur, As I Remember: Recollections of American Society during the Nineteenth Century [New York, 1911], 256–57; Catalogue of Officers and Graduates of Columbia University from the Foundation of King’s College in 1754 [New York, 1916], 96).

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