James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edward P. Page, [ca. 24 September 1820]

From Edward P. Page

[ca. 2⟨4?⟩ September 1820]

[ … ] I am greatly encouraged to find that what I have been zealously contending for has recently been maintained by the Revd. Holland Weeks1 of Abingdon Massachusetts. A council of Presbyterian ministers have excommunicated him for entertaining similar dangerous heretical opinions to mine. Glory to God Babylon is on fire he declared before his judges “there is not a single truth remaining in the old church, but, what is falsified.” The editor of the “Boston recorder” a religious paper seems alarmed that men should be exercising their reason.2 Aye, & reason will shew them before long that Dr. Franklin was after Divine magic when he found the magic circle of circles (12 the central number) & square of squares.3 And sir, however you may smile as all the world at present does—divine magic or the power of immortality on earth & of working miracles will revive with men. It is man’s prerogative. The Arts & Sciences progress. Light develops light. ’Tis to recover what we have lost & that by the full reaction will effect it. By man came death. By man will come life. Mankind is Jesus Christ. The Universe is the Temple. Down with partition walls & contend for a free circulation of air. Universal free masonry is the life of the world. The sooner it comes the sooner your fathers will re-appear & you & yours become immortal on this globe. There is a final restoration of all things & death is not an eternally dead soul eternally tormented—no such nonsense. We are rewarded according to our de⟨e⟩ds & works. Creatures of time do not die everlastingly and yet be alive in hells hottest damnation’s fire for offences committed in time. No Devil God. God is Love, & Wisdom, Love, Justice. To create that he might everlastingly torment would but ill comport with his attributes—and I hesitate not to affirm that all Christendom (perhaps Quakers & one or two others excepted) make God a Devil in every hideous sense of the word by construction. He made all things, & blessed be him & all his handy works—for nothing was created in vain. I pray you lift the veil as much as possible from off the eyes of the Jew-Xians that they may be as good as Turks. Yours respectfully

Edward P. Page4

Partial RC (DLC). Undated; conjectural date assigned based on postmark “Marietta Sep 2⟨4?⟩” and JM’s docket. Addressed by Page to JM: “Late President of the United States Virginia,” with “Orange CH” added in an unidentified hand. First page extensively damaged.

1Holland Weeks (ca. 1768–1843), a graduate of Dartmouth College in 1795, was installed as the pastor of the First Church of Christ of Abington, Massachusetts, in 1815 and continued there until 1820, when he was tried before a council of ministers and dismissed for preaching and holding opinions “embracing the system of Emanuel Swedenborg.” Weeks was ordained in the New Jerusalem Church and moved to Henderson, New York, where he farmed and ministered to a small church (Benjamin Hobart, History of the Town of Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, From its First Settlement [Boston, 1866], 115–29; Franklin B. Hough, A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time [Albany, 1854], 170).

2The Boston Recorder was a weekly religious newspaper published under various editors from 1816 until after 1820. At the time of this letter, Nathaniel Willis was editor and sole proprietor (Brigham, American Newspapers description begins Clarence S. Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690–1820 (2 vols.; Worcester, Mass., 1947). description ends , 1:341). For the newspaper’s report of the council’s deliberations at Abington, see the Boston Recorder, 2 Sept. 1820.

3For Benjamin Franklin’s mathematical inventions, his “magic circle of circles … & the square of squares,” see Franklin’s two letters to Peter Collinson, [1752?], and editorial headnotes, Labaree et al., Papers of Benjamin Franklin, 4:392–400.

4Edward Postlethwayt Page (ca. 1782–1857), a native of Great Britain, emigrated to New York City about 1807, before moving to Marietta, Ohio, where he lived for nearly forty years. Known to himself and his friends as the “High Priest of Nature,” Page’s eccentricities extended to an attempt to create a new religion, the “Union Concentric Society of light,” and the publication of a monthly in 1831–32 entitled the Reminiscence of Nature, and Clew to Bible Astrology, by the Recess of the Equinoxes According to Fluxions. His claim to have squared the circle gained him a certain notoriety and even provoked a sketch in a piece on “Monomaniacs” in the Knickerbocker: “The latest example of inveterate monomania is furnished in the person of Mr. Edward Postlethwayt Page, who has been passing the winter and spring in Philadelphia and New-York. He seems to have gone mad on the subject of figures; for, on every topic not encumbered with numerals, he speaks with an ease and gentlemanly propriety, which would astonish any one. … But drop a word respecting time, or space, or numbers, and his intellect is off in a tangent, among squares, and cycles, plannets, billions, trillions, sextants, and terms, negative, positive, and mean. He has wasted a fortune in printing wild, incomprehensible handbills in support of his system, and is still journeying over the country, boring the people with his harmless theories” (Ironton Register, 4 June 1857, http://www.lawrencecountyohio.com/node/227; Notes and Queries: A Monthly of History, Folk-Lore, Mathematics, Literature, Art, Arcane Societies, Etc. 18 [1900]: 159; the Manchester Iris: A Literary and Scientific Miscellany, Published Weekly in the Years 1822 & 1823 [2 vols.; Manchester, England, 1822–23], 1:87; Edward Postlethwayt Page, “The Theory of Celestial Periods,” Niles’ Weekly Register 47 [22 Nov. 1834]: 182; “Monomaniacs,” the Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine 5 [1835]: 524–25).

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