James Madison Papers

Jared Sparks to James Madison, 8 March 1830

Boston, March 8th. 1830

Dear Sir,

Your favor of March 28th. reached me after my return from Europe. I am glad that the packet committed to Col. Storrow got to you safely. Should it be convenient to you to send this parcel to Washington, to the care of Mr. Everett, as soon as Apl. 10th. I shall be there, and can bring it home with me; if not, it may be sent at any time hereafter to Mr Brent, of the Department of State, with a request that he will keep it till called for by me.

As to the confidential correspondence between you & Gen. Washington, your judgment will decide what parts of it are proper to be submitted to my perusal. I have no wish to pry into secrets, but the task I have undertaken would seem to require, that I should spare no pains to obtain as much knowledge as possible of the acts, mind, & character of Washington. In the first draft of the Farewell Address, which he sent to Hamilton, he alludes to your having assisted him in preparing what he proposed to deliver, if he had retired at the end of his first term; and there are fragments of letters, which show that he consulted you freely on the subject of his speech at the commencement of the presidency, and of some of his papers on other occasions. But these are imperfect. I must leave the whole matter to your judgment, not doubting that you will be willing to impart everything of real interest & value.

I believe the entire correspondence with Hamilton, on the subject of the Farewell Address, has been preserved. The public has been but little enlightened by the discussions that have taken place. Mr Jay’s letter expressed his opinions, but proved nothing.

My voyage to Europe was eminently successfull. I met with many obstacles, both in France & England, growing out of the forms of office, by which all the papers are secluded from the eyes of every person but the officers of the Departments. But I found the ministers well disposed in both countries, and by due perseverance, and a sort of siege upon their good nature, I at last conquered the obstinacy of forms, & made my way by a regular process to the reality. There were some misgivings in the Downing Street offices about the Tories, a kind of lurking fear that something would come up, that would not tell much to the honor of these loyal subjects of the king. This was a just sense of delicacy, for as the tories had thrown themselves upon the British Government, and sacrifised everything in doing it, the Govt. is bound to protect their names from reproach, and save the feelings of their descendants. But in the end I was permitted to see all the papers relating to the American Revolution, both military and diplomatic, the whole correspondence of the Govt. with the officers in this country, and with the commissioners for making peace.

In France I saw, also, all the papers relating to American affairs during the same period, embracing the diplomatic correspondence with Franklin, Deane, Lee, Adams, & others; the whole correspondence of Vergennes with Gerard, Luzerne, and Marbois; and the military correspondence of Rochambeau, d’Estaing, Fernay, and others. These papers develope the entire policy of the French government in regard to the United States. They are invaluable as materials for the history of that period.

I was under great obligations in Paris to the Marquis de Marbois. He holds a high station, is greatly respected, and he used his influence freely, in assisting me. The United States have not a better friend in the world, nor have I seen any other European so well informed on the subject of our government, institutions, and resources. With sentiments of perfect respect, I am, Sir, Your most obt. Servt.

Jared Sparks

His Excellency.

James Madison.

RC (DLC); letterbook copy (MH). RC docketed by JM.

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