James Madison Papers

James Madison to Edward Everett, 17 April 1830

Montpellier Apl. 17. 1830

Dear Sir

Your favour of the 11th. was duly recd. I had noticed the stress laid in a late debate, on the proceedings of the Virga. Legislature in. 1798-9. as supporting the nullifying doctrine so called; and the frequent references also to my participation in those proceedings. But altho’ regretting the erroneous views taken of them, and making no secret of my opinions, I was unwilling to obtrude any public explanations, for reasons which may occur; for two more particularly. 1. that other errors, were occasionally observed, in other cases in which I was referred to as a party, or a witness, and an interposition in one case, might be thought to require it equally in others. 2. I could not be unaware that my voluntary appearance before the public, on such occasions, would produce adversary comments, obliging me either to surrender a good cause, or entangle myself in controversies against which my age was a warning. Before I recd. your letter I had been drawn by a request from a distinguished advocate of the nullifying doctrine and some others associated with it, into a sketch of my views of them; and feeling a like obligation to respect your wishes, I take the liberty of fulfilling it, in the way most convenient to myself, by inclosing a copy by a borrowed pen, of as much of that communication as will answer the purpose. I am sensible at the same time that there may be some awkwardness in this course, especially as I know not, as yet, the reception given to the communication, nor the degree in which the correspondence may be regarded as confidential. I will ask the favour of you therefore to let the present be so understood

I thank you Sir for the copy of Mr. Clayton’s Speech. It certainly places him au même ligne with others who have justly attracted the flattering notice of the Public. With great esteem & cordial salutations

James Madison

P.S. No notice has been taken in the inclosed paper of the fact, that the present charge of usurpations & abuses of power, is not that they are measures of the Govt. violating the will of its Constituents, as was the case with the Alien & Sedition Acts, but that they are measures of a Majority of the Constituents themselves, oppressing the Minority thro’ the forms of the Govt. This distinction would lead to very different views of the topics under discussion. It is connected with the fundamental principles of Rep: Govt: and with the question of comparative danger of oppressive Majorities from the Sphere and Structure of the General Govt. and from those of the particular Govts.

RC and enclosure (MHi: Everett Collection). The enclosure is a copy of JM to Robert Young Hayne, April, 1830.

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