James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Augustus Woodward, 14 March 1807

Detroit, march 14. 1807.

The late mails have apprized the Governor, whether truly or not I am ⟨n⟩ot able to say, that his character, and ⟨pe⟩rhaps that of other members of this ⟨g⟩overnment, had been traduced at the ⟨s⟩eat of government, by the Secretary; ⟨a⟩nd by the mail of Wednesday two ⟨p⟩ublications in the Aurora, entitled "On ⟨the⟩ evils which have proved fatal to ⟨re⟩publics”, have reached us.

As far as the measures there⟨i⟩n spoken of have a public tendency ⟨th⟩eir propriety or impropriety must ⟨be⟩ tested by the result. They have ⟨ho⟩wever an additional purpose to ef⟨f⟩ect, which is as well as I can understand it, a charge upon the Gover⟨n⟩or and myself, by name, and perhaps ⟨on⟩ other members of the government by implication of being concerned in a ⟨spe⟩culation in the new town of Detroit, ⟨of⟩ great magnitude, as to its extent, and ⟨of⟩ great turpitude in its design. Any ⟨acts⟩ of this description would be a viola⟨tion⟩ of the honorable trust and confidenc⟨e⟩ reposed in us by the law we have bee⟨n⟩ called on to carry into execution; and ⟨must⟩ justly incur the displeasure of the g⟨ene⟩ral government.

An over officiousness in rep⟨elling⟩ calumnies betrays a want of self-resp⟨ect.⟩ An extreme tardiness in doing it, on ⟨the⟩ other hand, betrays guilt. An expl⟨anation⟩ however to the officers of the general g⟨overn⟩ment can never be attended with ⟨harm⟩ and may possibly be attended with g⟨ood.⟩

I have no personal interes⟨t, di⟩rect or indirect, in the new town; or ⟨in⟩ any of the questions which are agita⟨ted⟩ in the adjustment of titles, and distri⟨bution⟩ of donations.

The Governor is in a dif⟨ferent⟩ situation. He has purchased a piece of ⟨ground, a⟩nd built himself a house. It is not ⟨ce⟩rtain whether the title will be adjus⟨t⟩ed under the law relating to the town, ⟨or⟩ that which may be now passed, or may hereafter pass, relative to farms. It ⟨is⟩ on the line of the town; but not yet ⟨in⟩cluded in it.

I firmly beleive the Governor’s ⟨co⟩nduct in this purchase upright and ⟨ju⟩st. It is at the same time both patriotic ⟨a⟩nd necessary. His situation requires him ⟨to⟩ have accommodation and shelter, and ⟨be⟩ing possessed of wealth, it is an advantage ⟨to⟩ the country of which he is an officer, ⟨th⟩at a portion of his private resources ⟨s⟩hould be applied to the erection of a house ⟨fo⟩r his own accommodation. That in which he ⟨d⟩wells is mean and comfortless beyond des⟨c⟩ription. If he has any other concern rela⟨t⟩ive to property in this country I am igno⟨r⟩ant of it.

Judge Bates is also interested. He ⟨is⟩ entitled to a donation of five thousand ⟨fe⟩et of ground under the act of Congress. But it is barely justice to him to say that in this, as in every other instance⟨, his⟩ conduct has been perfectly disinteres⟨ted⟩ and honorable. He has appeared willing ⟨to⟩ receive it any where, and under any g⟨eneral⟩ arrangement, in common with others.

Judge Griffin is not interes⟨ted⟩ in any respect, directly or indirectly, th⟨at I⟩ am acquainted with.

It is true his Britannic Majes⟨ty’s⟩ surveyor was employed, there being none ⟨to⟩ be procured on the American side. It ⟨is⟩ true I assisted him in taking a merid⟨ian⟩ line, and in adjusting his survey, both ⟨on⟩ paper, and on the ground. It is not true ⟨that⟩ thirty days and thirty nights were employe⟨d in⟩ taking observations. A meridian line, fr⟨om⟩ which all the others were run, was tak⟨en from⟩ one solar observation, and one sidereal obser⟨vation⟩ on the night of the same day, within four⟨teen⟩ or fifteen hours from the first. The wit is unquestionably handsome, and appropriate; but ⟨it is⟩ not true that any delays were occasioned ⟨by the⟩ precision. The sole delays have taken place, ⟨in⟩ the first instance, from the want of any ⟨sur⟩veyor; and in the second, from the difficul⟨ties of⟩ reconciling the jarring pretensions of individu⟨als.⟩ Before the departure of the Governor every per⟨son who⟩ applied, was accommodated either for ⟨old⟩ ground, or on a credit for five years, if ⟨in the⟩ latter instance he was desirous of buil⟨ding⟩ the same fall. All other cases were de⟨ferre⟩d until the case was laid before Congress. ⟨These⟩ restrictions were reasonable and proper, ⟨and⟩ our final report which would have alrea⟨dy⟩ been before Congress, if our proceedings had ⟨not⟩ been interrupted by violence on the ⟨subj⟩ect of the donations, will justify to our ⟨coun⟩try and to the world the firm equitable ⟨and⟩ impartial manner in which the law has ⟨been⟩ carried into effect. It will at the same ⟨time⟩ test whether any complaints exist; ⟨and⟩ if any whether they are well founded. ⟨Suc⟩h as have reached me come from persons ⟨who⟩ are not interested in the subject; and ⟨are a⟩ttributable rather to envy and malignity ⟨towa⟩rds those intrusted with the power, than ⟨to a⟩ generous competition of talents and ⟨patri⟩otism. I have the honor to be, Sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. B. Woodward.

DNA: RG 59—Territorial Papers—TP, Michigan.

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