James Madison Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to James Madison, 5 August 1829

Warminster. 5 Aug. 1829.

Dear Sir,

May I take the liberty to ask that you will be so good as to read the enclosed pamphlet, and to inform me whether the argument in the speech respecting the rights of the parties to the Compact, be sound and in conformity to your own views of the subject, and if there be error, where & to what extent, it exists. The subject is very important, & the views here taken. of it, somewhat new, and possibly erroneous. You see here embodied & presented in one combined view, the principles advanced by me in the desultory discussion in the Senate last winter. I was anxious least the imperfect and hasty sketch of the debate which appeared in the papers at the time might be injurious to me, and make matters worse: & in the month of April, whilst recovering my health, before the excitement of my feelings had subsided I wrote out this Speech, with the accompanying notes, with the view of addressing them to my late constituents in a printed shape. Upon communicating my purpose to one or two friends, confidentially, they gave me so little encouragement, that I put away the pamphlet among my papers. I took it with me, however, to the University, where I expected to meet you, in order to satisfy myself by enquiry of you, whether I had correctly expounded the principle of the Report of 98-9; and upon this, as well as upon other accounts, I was truly sorry not to see you there. I then submitted the pamphlet to the perusal of Mr. Johnson, accompanied by the question; Are these principles right, and worthy of permanent adoption, or are they mixed up with errors, and if so, where do the errors lie? Mr. Johnson read the pamphlet attentively—& gave me his opinion. He said he thought the doctrine in the speech in substance & fairly construed perfectly sound: but upon some points, they were advanced in such a way, as to subject me to misconstruction, and to consequent injury. In the first place, the speech he thought did not sufficiently guard me from the imputation of falling into the doctrine of the old federal party, that the people of the U. States as one people, & not the people of the several states in their highest sovereign capacity were the real parties to the federal Compact. He admitted that a few explanatory words interlined would remove this objection. In the second place he thought my denial of the right of the States to construe the compact for themselves, as asserted by Georgia & South Carolina, would expose me to misconstruction and the charge of disparaging the rights of this State. This would assuredly place me in an attitude in which I would not wish to stand. It is upon this point especially that I wish to know your opinion, & if you will be good enough to express or to intimate it to me, you may rest assured that I will not bring you again into the newspapers. Mr. Johnson thought the passages in brackets in the latter part of the 7th note, had better be left out. I had a strong inclination to write you on this subject by Col: Monroe—but thought then I would not plague you with it—but since my return home, I have felt so anxious to know if you think my principles correct, that I now venture upon this letter. If the rumor of the day respecting the views of the Cabinet in regard to the Tariff be correct, we may expect the next 2 years to bring forth great events. I have a translation of Count Chaptals two chapters on the Tariff, presenting strong reasons why France should not consent to equalize duties with Great Britain. I will send them to the Whig or Intelligencer in a few weeks. In the interim I remain, dear Sir, very resy. & truly yours

Jos: C: Cabell

Mr. Geo. Tucker is the author of the pieces on the policy of encouraging domestic manufactures, which have appeared in the Virga. Lit: Museum.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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