James Madison Papers

James Madison to Jared Sparks, 30 May 1827

Montpellier May 30. 1827

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 22d. has been duly received. I concur, without hesitation, in your remarks on the Speech of 73 pages, and in the expediency of not including it among the papers selected for the press. Nothing but an extreme delicacy towards the author of the Draft, who no doubt, was Col: Humphreys, can account for the respect shewn to so strange a production. I have not yet found either the letter of Jany. 1789. or any answer to it. Should this continue to be the case, a view of the former may be desirable as an aid to my recollections which are at present very imperfect.

I thank you, Sir, for the dates of the Recorded Letters from Genl Washington to me. Of these I do not find on my files, those noted in the annexed list; some of which I should be particularly glad to see; unless the answers to them should be among the letters you are forwarding, and should prove sufficient for my purpose. My files contain, besides a number of short notes asking interviews &c. twenty odd letters from the General, which it appears from your communication, are not in his Letter Book. Some of these are of an importance and delicacy, which have hitherto kept them from every eye but my own; no occasion before the present, having even raised the question, how far the seal might be properly removed from them. It is not easy, considering the exactness of Genl. Washington in preserving copies of his letters, to account for such a deficiency in his Register. Was it his intention that the letters should not be preserved? or were they separately preserved, without being entered in the Book? and in this case, may they not yet be found? Perhaps a clew may be furnished by a circumstance noted in a letter I received from Judge Washington some years ago. Wishing to supply the chasm in the retained copies of my letters to his Uncle, I requested the favor of having copies from the source in his possession. In his answer, he was led to remark that--"the papers sent to the Chief Justice, and which are still in Richmond, have been very extensively mutilated by Rats, and otherwise much injured by damps, as he not long since informed me." It seems in every view not amiss that the condition of these papers should be adverted to before the prolix trouble of copies from my files be incurred.

My letters from the files of Genl. W. when received, and compared with those of which I have preserved copies, may shew whether the former are short of the number written to him, and thence perhaps throw some light on his views with respect to some parts of our correspondence, with the uncertainty nevertheless arising from the casualties at Richmond.

I need not repeat the general disposition, expressed when I had the pleasure of your call at Montpellier, to favour by all the proper means in my power, not only your object of doing full justice to the very interesting trust you have assumed regarding the papers of Genl. W., but your other object also, of composing an authentic history, of our Revolution, the most pregnant, probably of all political events, with beneficent influences on the Social order of the world, and having therefore the highest of claims on the historical Pen. I offer you Sir the expression of my esteem & my cordial respect

James Madison

Dates of letters from Genl. W. to J. M. on the files of the former, and not of the latter.

Ocr. 1785

Novr. 30. 1785

Novr. 5. 1786

Novr. 18. 1786

March 31. 1787

Ocr. 10– 1787

Jany.– 1789

May 12– 1789

RC and enclosure (MH); FC (DLC). Enclosure is a list of letters from Washington to JM.

Index Entries