James Madison Papers

Alexander Scott to James Madison, 8 March 1827

George Town DC March 8th 1827

Dear Sir

I duly received your favor containing the $35 you were so kind as to enclose me, for which I beg leave to return my grateful thanks, the relief not only being highly acceptable, but enhanced by the feeling manner in which it was afforded. I should have immediately replied to your letter, but intending to present a petition to Congress for a claim, in the success of which I was very sanguine, I hoped to be able to return you the money and my thanks at the same time. I however failed thro the opposition of Messrs Macon and Tazewell, tho I was strongly supported by Col Chambers and Mr Bell who were also on the committee. They expressed no opinion as to the merits, but considered the claim as appertaining to the Executive, and not to Congress.

For some time past my family have been overshadowed by the gloom of adversity, reduced from affluence to indigence, and after having enjoyed the comforts of life, are deprived of it’s necessaries; a reverse to them the more deplorable, from the contrast of their former more fortunate condition, and the recollection of happier days. This change I can affirm with truth, was not the consequence of extravagance, or the indulgence of vices or follies. I paid many years ago six thousand dollars as security, but that loss, tho inconvenient at the time, was not ruinous. Men are often imperceptibly impoverished by over-rating a precarious income, living beyond it, and selling property as long as it lasts to meet emergencies; a slow but certain process of destruction. No mortal is exempt from the casualties and vicissitudes of fortune, or the calamities incident to life, but our cup of misfortune appears to have been filled to the brim. In the midst of our pecuniary troubles, we were visited by the angel of death, who pointed his shafts at the two most promising members of the family, who bid fair by their talents and natural gifts, at a future day to have been it’s support. But to the decrees of infinite wisdom we are bound to submit. ’Tho comfort is desirable, happiness is not to be expected in this world. Such is a correct tho melancholy view of our situation, the more distressing as we cannot divest ourselves of the feelings connected with our former prosperity and flattering prospects. Nothing but her extraordinary fortitude has, under the pressure of such affliction, sustained Mrs Scott, who was an only child, and inherited an independent property—

I sometime ago communicated to Mr Monroe in substance what I have stated to you, and received from him the enclosed letter to the Vice President. He afterwards transmitted to me a letter which I presented to Mr Adams, who on its perusal observed that "I shou’d be taken into consideration whenever a vacancy occurred." I am not a new applicant for office, having held two collectorships, and in my agency to So America, having had the disbursement of a large sum of money for the purchase of the donation. These pecuniary trusts were faithfully discharged, my accounts regularly settled; and the records of the Treasury will show that I never was indebted a dollar to the Government. This consideration ought I think to confer some claim to future confidence. I enclose also a letter from Mr. Wirt to Mr. <Cuthoun>, and a copy of one from Judge Washington to the former. These gentlemen, who have known me from my youth, have taken a warm interest in my favor. In Mr Monroes letter to the President, he observed that having retired to private life he did not interfere in appointments, but that from the peculiarity of my case and the concern he felt for my situation, he was induced to address a few lines in my favor. After your great kindness, and the favors received from you, it is painful to add a request with which it may be disagreeable to you to comply, and unpleasant to refuse—But if you think that the peculiarity of my situation, and the sanction of the enclosed letters, emanating from such respectable sources authorize you in addressing a few lines to Mr Adams in my favor, I know that success woud be the certain consequence. It wou’d raise us from despair to hope, from despondency to comfort, and entitle you to the thanks of a grateful family, with their prayers addressed to that high being who delights in acts of beneficence and humanity. I am fully sensible of your benevolent feelings, and the pleasure you wou’d derive from rendering aid or administering relief to those in distress, and I can assure you that no occasion has ever been presented to you which affords a better opportunity for the exercise of those feelings.

Among my more recent misfortunes, the death of John Law deprived me of the amount I had recovered of him. Had he lived, I shou’d have obtained it; and had Mr. Crawford, whose friendship I enjoyed been President, I should long ago have been provided for.

I wou’d observe that I aspire at no high or lofty office, but shall be perfectly content with one yielding a competence.

I owe an apology for the long letter which I have obtruded on you, and which I hope you will excuse—As Messrs Monroe’s and Wirts letters are originals will you have the goodness to return them. I am Dear Sir with great esteem and respect yr obedt Servt

Alexander Scott

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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