James Madison Papers

James Madison to Chapman Johnson, 1 May 1828

Montpellier May 1st. 1828

Dear Sir

On the rect. of your letter of the 21st. Ult: concurred in by Genl. Cocke, I wrote to Mr Laurence requesting him to ascertain and let us know as soon as possible, whether Mr Ritchie would accept the vacant Chair of Nat: Philo: if offered to him, and how soon he could enter on its duties. The letter probably leaves Phila. in a vessel sailing for London this day; and will be followed by a Duplicate in a Vessel to sail in a few days after. With the same view to certainty and dispatch, I have directed Mr Laurence to forward his answer by Duplicate also.

I made no allusion to the question whether Mr. Ritchie be or be not a Clergyman. It seems pretty certain that he is not; and if otherwise, and he should not adopt a course obviating objections, my view of the subject may be more singular than I had supposed. I cannot but think nevertheless, that desireable as it may be that the Professors should be exemplary in a proper respect for Religion as in every thing else, it will be better to have that benifit separated from than united with the Ecclesiastical profession, in an Institution, essentially un-sectarian. If Clergymen be received at all into the Professorships, they must be recd. indiscriminately, and considering the probabilities of qualification, not infrequently; should they happen to be all of the same denomination, a jealousy and discontent could not fail to be excited among the Sects not having the same advantage in an Institution equally theirs: should they be of different denominations; to say nothing of like feelings among the Sects less fortunate, it would be against all experience, if controversial scenes and religious parties did not arise, detrimental to the Establishment, and disturbing that harmony in the Faculty, so much to be desired, yet allways but too much exposed to danger, without the addition of so pregnant a cause.

There is not I believe a single University or College in the U. States, admitting Clergymen into the Professorships, in which they are not all of the same faith and attached to the same forms. If there be an exception I suspect, the experiment has disappointed the expectation.

Notwithstanding the difficulties which the subject has presented, I have never dispaired that they would be overcome by the arrangements already provided for, with such as would spontaneously take place. I have indulged more particularly the hope, that provision for religious instruction and observances among the Students, would be made by themselves or their Parents & Guardians, each contributing to a fund to be applied, in remunerating the services of Clergymen, of denominations, corresponding with the preference of the contributors. Small contributions would suffice, and the arrangement would become more & more efficient & adequate, as the Students become more numerous; whilst being alltogether voluntary, it would interfere neither with the characteristic peculiarity of the University, the consecrated principle of the law, nor the spirit of the Country.

I have recd. no answer yet from Mr. Brougham, and begin to apprehend that he may consider a late one from the London council to Mr Long as sufficient. I learn from Mr. Long that the Council, after the rect. of his letter stating our wish for his prolonged continuance here, to which letter mine to Mr. B. referred, renewed their call for his attend there in the Autumn of the present year. I fear the Board nothwithstanding the number of Candidates be much at a loss for an acceptable Successor.

FC (ViU); draft (DLC). FC marked "Johnston."

Index Entries