James Madison Papers

From James Madison to George M. Dallas, 23 June 1821

To George M. Dallas

Montpellier June 23. 1821

Dear Sir

I recd. lately by the return of J. P. Todd, your letter of May 1, accompanying the correspondence of your father. I am sorry to be obliged to say that altho’ I have made a pretty thorough search among my papers, I cannot find such a letter as the one supposed to have been written by him after the British visit to Washington in 1814: nor do I recollect that such a one was recd. It is possible that the letter may have miscarried, or may have been mislaid & lost after reaching me, and its patriotic language was confounded with oral evidence of the same tenor, which I have heard from & of him. I send herewith all the letters from him of whatever description, not heretofore sent; and should I find any others, particularly that to which you have alluded, they will be added. Be so good as to return them at the proper season.

In glancing at the correspondence which has been in your hands, I observe that your marginal lines embrace passages in several letters; which if marked for publication, & not merely for your attention or preservation, may be displeasing to individuals, & deserve reconsideration. I refer to the letter of Aug. 1. 1815.1 in which “the character of the man” as applied to Genl. Jackson may admit a construction at least equivocal: to that of May 20. 1815,2 in which Mr. E. Livingston is brought into unfavorable view: to that of June 1816.3 which speaks of Mr Adams “Metaphysical” letter &c. & to that of Octr. 5. 1816.4 which in giving the character of Mr. Lowndes, distrusts his nerves &c. a term liable to an unjust tho’ susceptable of an innocent construction. Unless the remarks on Mr Lee be deemed sufficiently qualified by “it is said,” perhaps he also may be touched by them.5

I wish sincerely Sir that you may find time to do justi⟨ce⟩ both to yourself & to the memory of your father in pourtraying to the world his shining talents, his pub: services & his exemplary virtues.

Draft (DLC); Tr (ViU: Special Collections). Minor differences between the copies have not been noted.

1JM interlined a “(2)” above the date. In his letter to JM of 1 Aug. 1815, Alexander James Dallas wrote that he had drafted a letter to Andrew Jackson. “The nature of the subject, and the character of the man, have made it difficult to address him” (DLC). None of the letters mentioned by JM in this letter were included in George Mifflin Dallas, Life and Writings of Alexander James Dallas (Philadelphia, 1871).

2JM interlined a “(1)” above the date. “Genl. Jackson has placed his defence, upon the only tenable ground, an imperious, evident, provable, necessity; but I wish he had abstained from indulging Mr. Livingstone as a Lawyer, in technical objections,” Alexander J. Dallas to JM, 20 May 1815, DLC.

3“Mr. Adams’s metaphysical letter, to establish the prosperity of England, against every public fact, and morbid symptom, surprizes, but does not satisfy me,” Alexander J. Dallas to JM, 26 June 1816, ibid.

4“Your selection of Mr. Lowndes for the Treasury will give general satisfaction. He is intelligent; and his acquirements in politics and literature have been occasionally displayed. He certainly appears to possess the respect and confidence of the House of Representatives; and the tone of his mind is so placid, his dispositions so amiable, his manners so unassuming, that I question, whether any other public man is better qualified to please, and to be pleased, in a station calculated to try the temper, as well as the talents, of the Occupant. This view of Mr Lowndes’s character, however, has suggested some apprehension, that he may shrink from the task; doubtful whether his Constitution can bear incessant labors, and his nerves maintain the warfare for official independence, with Banks and Brokers &c.,” Alexander J. Dallas to JM, 5 Oct. 1816, DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers.

5“I feel some uneasiness, at the course pursued by Mr. [Richard Bland] Lee; and beg you to consider, when you arrive at Washington, whether the latitude which he gives to the powers of his office, will not lead to an expenditure, far exceeding the legislative intention. It is said, that he thinks himself authorised to pay for all the Houses and property destroyed upon the Niagara frontier! Without impugning the principle, the real principle, of the Act of Congress, I cannot conceive a more improvident measure, than that of laying the Treasury open to the awards of an individual, without checks, and without appeal. If some restraint be not imposed, our treasure will be absorbed almost imperceptibly,” ibid.

Index Entries