James Madison Papers

James Madison to Charles Caldwell, 20 September 1826

Montpr. Sepr 20. 1826

Dear Sir

I have been long in debt to your politeness for the copy of your "Elements of phrenology" put into the hands of Mr Slaughter, from whom I have but just learned that he was the channel thro’ which it came. My acknowledgements wd. not have been thus delayed, but from my ignorance, till very lately that your movements had terminated in your return to Lexington.

Phrenology is a subject which had engaged little of my attention. Your pamphlet has certainly obviated some of the most popular prejudices against the Science, and enabled the uninformed, like myself to take an instructive view of it.

It being conceded on all sides, that mind & matter constitute the human being, and that the brain is the part of matter thro’ which in the State of Union the mind exerts itself, the question to be decided is, whether exertion takes place thro’ the entire brain, or any particular portion of it, as a simple origin, or thro’ specific compartments of the brain, corresponding with specific functions of the mind.

There can be nothing repulsive in this las[t] supposition; if it be not in itself the more probable one: But turning as it does, on facts & comparisons, these must be sufficiently verified & multiplied, before the doctrine can claim a decided assent. From the talents & industry which appear to be employed in the investigation, and the progress already made in it, a solution of the problem may not be very distant and your little volume is a proof of your adequacy to a liberal participation in the task. I thank you Sir for the information it has afforded me, with a tender of my esteem, & my friendly wishes

J. M.

Draft (DLC).

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