James Madison Papers

Joseph C. Cabell to James Madison, 26 May 1830

Wms.burg. May 26. 1830.

My dear Sir,

I returned to this place last evening from the northern neck, after an absence of three weeks. I received your favor of 10th Apl. with Mr. Grimke’s pamphlet just before I set out on my journey, and should have written you sooner, but for the mass of business which has engrossed my attention in the interval, & my frequent & rapid journies. On my arrival here I took up the Conl. Whig of the 21st. instant and was struck by a reference to your letters on the subject of the Carolina doctrines. The reference will doubtless do much good at this time; but as I presume it relates to your private letters to me, I hasten to make you an explanation & apology, for this unauthorized use of your name. I thought it important to counteract the doctrines of the new school in the Enquirer by enlisting the Constitutional Whig on the other side. With this view I authorized Mr. Pleasants as I came thro’ Richmond in April, to call on my brother on his return to town about the 1st. May, for my pamphlet & your private letters to me, & requested him to read them, & to preserve them as a confidential trust till I should be coming up about the last of May. At the latter period, I was to confer with him & some other friends as to the most expedient means of protesting agt. the reading given to the Report of 99 at the Jefferson dinner in Washington. In the interim I urged Mr. Pleasants to study the documents & to exert his talents in opposition to the dangerous doctrines to the South. I owe it to Mr. P. to acknowledge that I averred it to be my impression that it was all important to the Union that your real opinions shd. be known. But so far was I from giving him any authority to use your name, I expressly informed him of my promise to you and requested that no further step in regard to my papers should be taken till my return. Indeed, he himself acknowledges that he has acted without authority. My object was to do good. If I have erred or given offense, I hope to be excused. Indeed, I must plead the same apology for Mr. Pleasants. The most alarming doctrines are abroad. The adverse party are using your name to prepare the people of the South for the most– the most horrible measures– We know your real opinions to be the reverse, and think they may again save our country from the most dire calamities. Still I solemnly aver, that the remarks in the Whig are unauthorized by me. I was only deliberating as to what ought to be done. Perhaps, my dear Sir, Pleasants, after all is right. The fact, as stated by him, is true. It will have an immense influence in the community. In this State & to the north, the public mind is in a state to make such a declaration most acceptable. The Nullifiers have few friends in this State. The fact that you disapprove their policy, will disarm them of their chief weapon to the South. I will write this evening to Pleasants to urge him to go not an inch further & to pause till I come up next week. Should it be necessary I will come out with a full disclosure of all the circumstances which have led to the unauthorized use of your name. I will be in Richmond in a week, & remain there till the 10th June, & then go to Warminster. If no one ventures to contradict Mr. Pleasants, I doubt whether the simple declaration made by him, is not the best thing that could be done.– I know of but one application for the Law Chair– and that as yet, is confidential, it is from Genl. Cocke in behalf of Mr. Maxwell. I have heard one other person spoken of, but no application is preferred. I will write you more fully on this subject in future. My time will be more my own for some time to come, than it has been of late. Most respy. & truly yours

Jos: C: Cabell

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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