James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Henry Lee, 13 December 1825

From Henry Lee

13th. Decr. 1825


I felt myself pleased and honoured by your letter, & shall avail myself of the earliest stage of maturity that my materials may present, to impose on your politeness and patience in the manner you seem to prefer. Genl. Armstrong has also been liberal & encouraging but I am fearful of his competition, knowing that I must be content with the second place. But I aim at truth & truth has charms independently of circumstances of task & skill, & though he will have the same object, we may view it under different lights.

His range will probably be wider; I shall cut out a brilliant section from our tract of History, & that I shall endeavour to detail with great fulness and perfect precision. A Sallust I shall not be, & a Tacitus must come after me. In all matters of design—of political motive, I shall place implicit reliance on your Authority—knowing that from personal character, from publick Success, from high station, & philosophical habits you are above those clouds of temperament which refract the views of too many men.

To shew you that a man of Acknowledged literary taste thinks well of my project, I inclose a copy of Genl. A’s letter.1 With great respect yr. humble Srt.

H Lee

RC and enclosure (DLC). RC docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure (1 p.) is a copy of John Armstrong to Henry Lee, 6 Dec. 1825, expressing his approval of Lee’s project: “A Sallust would indeed make something of it, and I see no reason why you should fail. At any rate, whether you rival the brilliant touches of the Roman or not, you may far surpass him in the fulness and frankness of your Story.” Armstrong ended by offering his aid in “proof of or illustration of facts,” and noted that although he might “soon be treading in the same path” himself, “it is abundantly wide for us both.”

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