James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Eliza Parke Custis, 6 April 1816

Riversdale 6 April 1816

To the President of the United State

In this quiet place, where I came to attend the sickbed of a relation I address once more, my dear and honoured friend Mr. Madison. With almost ruined health, and a mind long harassed by deep affliction, few causes could induce me to intrude upon your time, but friendship’s sacred claims impel me to do so, and I trust to your oft experienced kindness for my excuse. You possess the enviable power to serve your friends, to promote the good of your Country, protect the unfortunate, and to do justice to the injured. I invoke you to hear me once more advocate the cause of one, who has ever been your faithful adherent and defender--an honest and zealous officer of our government and our Country. It is perhaps the last occasion when I make a request to you: as if I stood on the confines of eternity. I declare I am influenced by those pure motives which god approves, and which should make my petition respected. Mr. Warden is the man for whom I solicit your protection. He was appointed by you, Sir,--every means were used by his enemies to prevent his success: his excellent character defeated their efforts, and he was unanimously appointed by the Senate: his enemies rested not, and triumphed in causing his dismission.

From all who knew him in Paris I have heard the same account, that Warden was a man of such pure honour that people of all parties esteemed him. His scientific acquirements and correspondence gave him much information, and extended his influence, which was always devoted to promoting the interests of our Country. The known integrity of him, who had no object but to be faithful to you, or our Country, made the American Character esteemed where Warden was known. Frenchmen, and Americans gave me this information, and de Caraman, formerly secretary to the Minister Serrurier, now Count George de Caraman, chargé d’affaires at the Hague and consequently an officer of the present government of France wrote to me a short time since to express his astonishment at our government for the removal of so valuable a man, for which, he says, they are condemned by all who wished well to America. I conversed with many in Philadelphia on this subject: some said they heard he was dismissed because he was of foreign origin. I defended the government from that charge. You appointed him: the Senate unanimously confirmed him, and it was absurd to suppose this government could object to foreign birth, when neither Mr. Jefferson or you had ever, (but for a short period) appointed any Secretary of the Treasury except foreigners, one of whom had also gone to make peace with England, and was afterwards appointed minister to France--a much more important office than that of Consul. One said he heard that Mr. Monroe had become his enemy; because Warden said on some occasion that he must defend his character, which was all he possessed, in reply to some unjust charges. I said that Mr. Monroe could not act so inconsistently. He was a Native American with fortune and friends to support him; yet he wrote a book against Washington, the father of his Country, when he thought he was censured unjustly. One person uttered what I considered a malicious slander against you and Mr. Monroe, and I contradicted it accordingly. He said that he had been to Washington and heard that Warden was sacrificed, because on that ⟨on⟩ Mr. Barlow’s death he did not give all the government papers to Thomas Barlow and use all the means in his power to have him received as charge d’affaires of the United States. I was shocked at the political prejudice, which could make any man assent to so monstrous a charge, and replied, that "I saw Thomas Barlow when going to France. He seemed a lad not grown, whose education was to be finished in France: and that although he might have been capable of copying his Uncles’ letters, or attending him, when travelling, yet he was incompetent to a more important post, which required matured talents and established Character--that I could only attribute the assertion to downright enmity, and thought it insulting to my understanding when such a tale was told to me: he apologised respectfully, and assured me that he heard what he related. I intended to have told you all this on my arrival, but I was taken very ill, and have never been well since. I write now with an aching head, but as your dear wife told me Mr. Gallatin would soon go to France, I could no longer delay making this effort to plead the cause of him, who has not only zealously devoted all his powers to serve our Country, but who, I know has been your energetic defender in France, and in this Country. Warden thus destitute of fortune, stripped of the means of support in a distant country during a period of national calamity, has by his virtues and talents inspired esteem, wherever good and learned men reside. None will say otherwise, but those who wanted his place, or envied his good name.

I plead not the cause of relations: mine want nothing, nor of one whose advantages can promote mine in the most remote degree. I speak for a faithful officer of our Country. I appeal to the Chief of the Nation, and implore him, to exercise the god-like power to dispense justice, and bestow happiness upon the good.

Mr. Shipwith engaged in expensive Speculations abandoned his post: to him it can be no object: to Warden it is all-important as his long acquaintance among the French, and their esteem for his talents and integrity would enable him to render great service to our Country. You, my valued friend, when retired from your now toilsome station, would rejoice in having caused this benefit to our beloved Country, by restoring a virtuous man to office who never deserved to lose it. Having desired Warden to send me some of his correspondence, I received the enclosed some time ago: it surely exculpates him. He has always spoken of you in terms of sincere respect, and never hinted a complaint of you.

Mr. Crawford must have been misinformed respecting the real Character and conduct of Mr. Warden, or he must have obeyed the orders of the State Department. Mr. Monroe was no doubt influenced by some erroneous information.

I always hesitate to condemn a fellow-mortal however strong the injurious testimony. God is merciful, and we should recollect how many times we have suffered ourselves, or witnessed the injury done to others, by misconception, or malicious accusations.

To your justice and humanity I confide this cause; and may the almighty, ever bless you, and preserve you from the dire calamity of wanting a protector

ever your sincere friend

signed Eliza P. Custis.

P.S. I send Warden’s letter not knowing whether you have received the original


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