James Madison Papers

James Leander Cathcart to James Madison, 17 January 1827

Washington Jany 17th 1827

Venerable & Esteemed Sir

The much lamented death of the venerable & worthy Mr Jefferson, in which event I most sincerely sympathize with you, his family & the nation, has deprived me of his influence, and if denied the honor which I now most humbly solicit, in any shape that you may be pleased to grant it, I may then conclude that I have not a friend of influence in the World; the inclosed is a copy of a letter from my late venerable friend to Mr James Barbour who in consequence thereof procured for me the situation I now fill, but for the reasons therein set forth I despair of bettering my situation: I could bear this mortification & unmerited neglect with patience myself, because my conscience tells me, I do not deserve it, but when I view my five youngest children growing up without education, my heart bleeds for their future fate, most gracious God, what would be their situation was it to please God to take me away from them, which may be soon expected as I am now in the sixtyeth year of my age; these considerations, the sufferings of my family, & my long services & sacrifices in the public service without reproach, I humbly offer as an excuse for my intruding on your retirement, & hope they will be accepted. For many years I have translated documents from the French, Spanish, Portugueze & Italian languages, which have went through the Departments of State and Navy, & in my accounts have never charged the public one cent for their execution, at the present Session of Congress it is supposed that an appropriation will be made to defray the expense of salary to a translator of foreign languages, to be attached to the Department of State, I have applied to Mr Clay for that appointment, but there are so many applications from those who have influential friends that I despair of success, unless I should be honored with your recommendation & the opinion you entertain of my capacity to perform the duties of that office with honor, & to the advantage of the public, my long & faithful services without friends are of no avail at present; Will you then my good Sir so far befriend me as to write a few lines to Mr Clay in my favor, or if any impediment, or point of etiquette exists, to render that measure inexpedient, will you have the goodness to express to me your opinion of my capacity to fill that office and the claims which I have on the government for employment in my advanced age, after having spent the most active years of life in the service of my country, in difficult, important, & unprofitable situations, which although it would not have so much weight as a letter to the Secretary of State, would nevertheless be of great service to me—

That your valuable life may be long preserved in the enjoyment of every blessing which this world afford is the most sincere prayer, of your much attached grateful Obnt & distressed Servt

James Leander Cathcart

RC and enclosures (DLC). Docketed by JM. Enclosures are a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Barbour, and other recommendations.

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