New York, Columbia College. May 26. 1829.
I write the following with mingled feelings of joy and fear: of joy, in the hope that you will deign to answer me, and of fear, lest I may be reproached with the charge of rashness and of folly. The important part you have acted in our national councils, and the veneration I have always attached to the reputation of our venerable Ex. Presidents, have induced me to intrude on the privacy of your retirement, with the humble request, that you would tell me your opinion, on the following question. Which has our Union the most to fear, the usurpation by the general government of the rights of the States, or the entire and independent sovereignty of the individual States. Being a member of the Senior Class of Columbia College I have thought of taking that question as the subject of my dissertation at the approaching Commencement in August next: Were you to give me any hint upon this question or put it in its clear and proper light, my respect for your character could not be increased, but it would remain more durable and lasting. Whether, Respected Sir, you answer me or no, please be assured that these lines are written in all humility and respect, while the plea of the rashness of youth may perhaps excuse me. I am, Respected Sir, Your Most Obdt. Servant,
Robt. J. Dillon
Columbia College N. Y.
RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.