James Madison Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to James Madison, 24 February 1829

Richmond Feb. 24. 1829.

Dear Sir,

I fear my long silence in regard to your last letters of the 2d. and 15th inst. may have induced you to think me ungrateful & inattentive. It has arisen, I assure you, from the pressure of my public duties, and from ill health. I was in the Senate yesterday to vote upon the Tariff Resolutions, after a confinement to my bed for some days, and I am again confined to my chamber. For two or three weeks I was troubled by a distressing attack of the prevailing Influenza: & then from exposure to the bleak winds for some hours in the discharge of public duty, I was seized with a violent cold which brought on my confinement. An inflammation in the throat brought on a spasm in the trachea under the influence of which I was believed to be at one moment expiring. It passed off—but the violence of the attack of an affection which I have frequently experienced in a less dangerous form, warns me of the uncertainty of life, & enjoins greater caution in future agt. local inflammation.

In my answer to your favor of 5 Jan. I think I mentioned that my votes on the Convention Question would conform to the principles recommended in your letter. Subsequent reflection & the course pursued & the spirit manifested by the mountain delegation induced me to act finally on other principles. My remarks will be published in the Whig, and my views will there be fully explained. Perhaps I have done wrong. I do not feel entirely satisfied with the grounds I took, and yet were the matter to be discussed again, I do not see how I could do otherwise than I have done. My only motive for mentioning the subject is to avoid the appearance of levity or insincerity. The subject has long given me much trouble & concern.

The additional remarks on the subject of the Tariff in your favors of the 2d. & 15th inst. were very welcome & have been very useful. I truly regret, my dear Sir, that I should be the cause in any even the most remote degree of bringing you into an unpleasant situation. Licentious as the press avowedly is, in this country, I did not think it possible that such a course of publication has taken place here in regard to your letters was within the limits of probability. But what is not the heart of the author of these vile essays capable of conceiving, and what is not his foul tongue capable of expressing? Detected in the most unprincipled efforts to make an improper use of the letters of Mr. Jefferson, he seems to have thrown off all the restraints of decency, & now seems resolved to carry the people by the vilest slanders & misrepresentations. But, Sir, you need not regard him. Your letters are producing and will effectuate the object contemplated by your friends. The Resolutions have passed both houses of Assembly. But that is no index to the public opinion. The machinery of party has wrought this effect. I was right when I wrote you that a majority of the Senate were determined to lay the Resolutions on the table. There was a decided majority to that effect at that time. But the hue & cry was raised, and about one fourth of the whole body gave way, for fear of giving offense to their constituents. The worthy Editor of the Enquirer has put forth all the influence of his press agt. us, and they have gained a victory of which they boast, but of which they are not proud, for they must feel as the General did of old, "two or three such victories and we are undone". You may rest assured that the minority is rapidly growing into a majority in the community. A well conducted Press in this City, to divide the influence of the Enquirer, will set the people right—& keep them right. And I hope one will before long be established. It is called for very generally: & the demand will produce it. The Enquirer has an undue influence, & is enducted on no steady principle, except a subserviency to the dominant party. It is now denouncing one of the Cardinal principles of the Administrations of yourself & Mr. Jefferson: & lends its influence to destroy or throw into the shade those who will not follow the same crooked path of inconsistency.

I send you a copy of your letters in pamphlet form, with an appendix containing various documents which I thought it prudent to add to them. You will perceive that in making up the appendix, I profited of the references in your letter of 2d. inst. A friend of Mr. W. C. Rives sent him a copy of this pamphlet. He had previously declared himself a convert to the truth of your argument. In regard to the pamphlet, he expressed regret that he had not known of its publication, as he could furnish still stronger evidences of Mr. Jefferson’s opinions. I expect these will appear in the next edition. I have had no aid from that quarter heretofore—and as the victory over public prejudice which is likely to be achieved can be effected by the means I possess, I shall not go in pursuitt of these auxiliaries, but will not object to them, if they should voluntarily come forward.

Three thousand copies of the pamphlet are now going thro’ the press. I expect another edition will be immediately required. The printer is unable to keep up with the demand. Associations will be formed in various towns, to procure supplies and scatter them far & wide over the State. We aim to get them into the hands of the people—knowing well the effect they will produce. I shall send 1000 copies into my district. I have written to Judge Stuart, Genl. Breckenridge, Genl. Taylor, James Robertson of Petersburg, Hugh Mercer, &c. &c. to invite their cooperation, & I have no doubt of an extensive circulation. The members on our side, are buying them up by hundreds to carry into their counties. The letters have been published in all the papers in the U. States; and indications of their great effect must have reached you from every quarter. I have not the least doubt that they will decide the opinion of the country. If, therefore, you have been exposed to unpleasant circumstances, by the publication, you will be consoled by the reflection that you have done much good.

I requested Genl. Dade to ascertain from Mr. Ritchie upon what authority he made the statement referred to in your letter. He promised to do so, and I should probably have learned his reply, but for my late illness. I will write you on that subject, as soon as I can get the information desired. I have felt very much tempted to publish an extract from your letter relative to your disavowal of the authenticity of the statements of Yates & Martin of your opinions as expressed in the Grand Convention. But I hesitate to do this without your express permission. Genl. Smith’s statement in Congress may perhaps furnish a fit occasion for you to say something on this subject in a more formal manner than that of an extract from a private letter. I think it would be useful for you to say something on this head, but of this you are a better judge than myself.

Since I last wrote you, some gentlemen in the House of Delegates have undertaken to deny that Mr. Tazewell is the author of the pieces signed Hampden, & have ascribed them to some young man under 21 years of age. I still incline to think Mr. Tazewell is the real author. I send you the numbers in the Norfolk Herald, & will thank you for the return of the papers, when you have done with them.

I shall go from this to Wmsburg. in less than a week from this time—unless I should be detained here by sickness. I shall remain in Wmsburg. some weeks, then go over to the Northern Neck, & after that visit my farm in Nelson, & return to Wmsburg. Should you desire to write, your letters would best go to the latter place. Very respy. & truly yours

Jos: C: Cabell

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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