James Madison Papers

James Madison to Nicholas P. Trist, 16 February 1830

Montpellier Feby. 16. 1830

Dear Sir,

I return the paper enclosed in yours of the 6th I have found in it the proofs of ability for such discussions which I should have anticipated. As I understand your discriminating view, (and it seems to be clearly expressed) of the Virginia documents in -98-99, it rescues them from the hands which have misconstrued & misapplied them. The meaning collected from the general scope, & from a collation of the several parts, ought not be affected by a particular word or phrase, not irreconciliable with all the rest; and not made more precise, because no danger of their being misunderstood, was thought of.

You will pardon me for observing that you seem to suppose a greater ignorance at the commencement of our Contest with G. B. of the doctrines of Self Govt. than was the fact. The controversial papers of the epoch will shew it. The early date of the Virga. Declaration of Rights, is a witness. The merit of the Founders of our Republics lies in the more accurate views and practical application of the doctrines. The original and equal rights of man, as the foundation of free Govt. had long been understood, but the superstructures projected had been sadly defective. Hume himself was among the bungling Lawgivers.

Is not the silent transition to the case of the U. S. too abrupt? and may it not be worth consideration how far elaborated demonstrations, however just & valuable in themselves, may suit the taste or capacity of those most needing instruction.

I thank you for the kind offer of being a channel for correcting erroneous impressions that may have been made on a mind which I certainly could not wish to entertain them. But I am not disposed to take any formal step with that view, & the rather as I have been led to believe that the well known character of the author of the presumed impressions, is itself an antidote to poisonous emanations from that source.

We are duly sensible of your goodness in relation to the Figs, and as you make the enquiry, I will name of William Allen as my Mercht. in Fredg. But I hope you will not take the trouble of sending us the allotted Drum, as Mr. Allen himself deals in such articles and is remarkable for his attention to their quality. He advertizes Figs in the last Newspaper.

We learn with great pleasure that Mrs. Randolph enjoys such good health, as well as Mrs. Trist & the young ladies. We unite in offering them our affectionate regards & wishes. Accept the same for yourself

James Madison

RC (DLC: Nicholas P. Trist Papers); draft (DLC).

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