James Madison Papers

James Madison to Joseph C. Cabell, 19 March 1829

Montpellier Mar. 19. 1829

Dear Sir

I recd. by the last mail your favour of the 13th. with a copy of the Pamphlet containing the two supplemental letters of Mr. Jefferson. They are as much in point as words could make them. But his authority is made to weigh nothing or outweigh every thing, according to the scale in which it is put. It would be well, if the two letters at least could find their way into the newspapers, that circulate most, the poison for which they are an antidote.

I have been prevented from sooner thanking you for your communications at the close of the Session; and particularly for the Norfolk Heralds, by a constant employment, occasioned by successive occurrences. Two of the Nos. of Hampden were in Enquirers which came to hand. The other was in a No. of the Enquirer which never reached the neighbourhood. They have the merit of ingenuity; but it smacks rather of the Bar, than smells of the lamp. I have never been able to look over the No. last sent; till within a few days; nor the others with more than a slight attention. I will return them as you request unless you have no occasion for the No. in the last Enquirer, and that also, if you have. I have been almost tempted by the gross mistatements, the strange misconstructions, and the sophistical comments applied to my letters to you, to sketch a few explanatory remarks on topics which were left for your own developments, and on passages the brevity of which has been seized for such an ample abuse of criticism, and such malign inferences. But I foresaw that whatever the explanations might be, they would produce fresh torrents of deceptive & declamatory matter; which if not answered would be trumpeted as unanswerable, and if answered, might lead to a polemic series, as interminable as the fund of words & the disposition to abuse them is inexhaustible. A silent appeal to the cool & candid judgment of the Public may perhaps best serve the cause of truth.

I hope you will not think it necessary to say anything relative to the course you pursued on the Convention question. I have no doubt of the purity of your views; which your speech shews were very ably supported.

I have not heard for some days from the malady at the University which has thrown such a cloud on its prospects. I hope the worst is over there. But it is difficult to say what may be the duration of the effect on public opinion produced by the indiscretion of friends & the workings of foes. The Faculty wish an examination & report on the whole case by proper persons selected for the purpose. I have given my sanction to the measure; but I fear there may be some difficulty in bringing it about. I wrote a month ago to Genl. Cocke on the subject, who I suspect was then & may yet be in the lower Country.

I have just recd. from our Minister in London, & from Professor Long letters on the subject of a successor to the latter. Barbour is doing all he can, but without any encouraging prospect. Mr. Long is pretty decided that we ought not to rely on any success in England, & is equally so that Docr. Harrison will answer our purpose better than any one attainable abroad. He appears to be quite sanguine on this point. He intimates (confidentially perhaps) what I did not know before, that the Docr. is himself desirous of having his temporary appointment made permanent. I have recd. a letter from Mr. Quincy, now President of Harvard University, expressing a wish to procure a full account of the origin progress & arrangements of ours, including particularly what may have any reference to Theological instruction; and requesting that he may be referred to the sources of all the printed Documents, that he may know where to apply for them. Can a sett of them be had in Richmond, & of whom? Mr. Q. is so anxious on the subject that he was on his way to the University, when the report of the fever stopped him.

The answer given to your inquiry concerning the publication of Judge Pendleton signed "The danger not over" was very imperfect. The authority of Mr. Pollard shd. have been disclosed. I still think the statement of a "partnership," destitute of foundation. My files are perfectly silent, and I learn that Mr. Jefferson’s, contain no correspondence with Mr. Penderson, glancing at the subject. It is possible that something may have passed thro’ Col. Taylor bearing on the case; but if so, it was probably not of a nature to make Mr. Jefferson a party in any sense to the particular contents of the paper

I cannot conclude without expressing my regret at the trouble brought on you by our mutual attempt to vindicate the Constitution of the U. S. agst. misinterpretation: and my concern at the unfavorable account you give of your health. Accept my best wishes that this may be soon, and permanently restored, and the re-assurance I offer of my affectionate esteem.

James Madison

RC (ViU).

Index Entries