James Madison Papers

“Philo-Classic” to James Madison, 14 April 1826

April 14th, 1826

Respected Sir,

A momentous subject influencing the writer of this article causes him to transcend the ordinary etiquette of established rules in addressing you. He is a stranger to yourself, and wishes to remain so as far as this matter goes. He desires that what is herein contained may be properly construed, and that nothing of it may pass farther; than your inspection. He feels himself uninfluenced by every other consideration, but that which extorts from him this modest suggestion. It is well known that one of our Professors has the intention of leaving here after the close of this session, and if he have permission, will certainly do so. The question is, who is to be his successor? Now, the first qualification is undoubted ability. It is to this point I allude. Let us have one, no matter of what Country, being able to teach any higher author, and skilled in communicating his knowledge. Ready to lecture to young men, who wish and probably may be prepared to graduate in one session more One who can inspire confidence from his known acquirements, and thereby retain young men, who after staying some sessions with the expectation of graduating in due time, have the mortification of going to some other institution before they can do so I am partriot enough to wish that my country could furnish an individual sufficient, but my experience and belief induce me notwithstanding to say that it can not. I really think that none of our country can presume to be thus qualified. Times are altered We have some right good classics, but none what they would be if the present incumbent, would stay even one session. I would forego some considerations for the main one--preeminence in this department. Let him be of what persuasion &c I only look to his thorough Abilities. Such a one can command fair esteem I want to see one of that grade that his acquirements may not be in the least suspected. I would prefer to wait some few months longer, than see inability. That private interest has any thing to do with this, inconsistently with the general welfare of this institution is as little reasonable as that one individual must not exceed a certain literary point merely because his Mentor may not be able to carry him any farther I do not seek to veil myself in mystery, only urged by my feelings to trouble you at all. Feeling as I do for the University I cannot but regret even the vacancy at present existing As you are qualified every way to judge, I will merely add that we should have by the first of next session a gentleman preeminently qualified, for the chair of Ancient Languages. My doubts do not arise in regard to yourself; I have every confidence in the wishes of the Visitors, but a simple Verbum sat sap. may sometimes come at a proper time, and proceeding as it does from conscientious feelings, I do hope that no disappointment will accrue. I have just heard that an able Professor of N. Philosophy is expected from England; I again repeat it may it be so with the other one. This much is addressed as I have said only to your own person–wishing it there to rest–doing no good, let no other deduction be made, as I only am concerned for merit.



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