James Madison Papers

Margaret H. Smith to James Madison, 20 August 1830

Sidney. August 20. 1830.

Shall I dear Sir, appologise for intruding uninvited on your notice? I know I need not.

The long experience I have had of your kindness and indulgence inspire an affectionate confidence which might have been overpowered by sentiments of high respect & veneration, had I known you only as one of our greatest Statesmen & most devoted patriots.

The recollections, of the personal acquaintance & social intercourse with Mr Jefferson & yourself, which it has been my high privilege to enjoy, are among the brightest & most cherished of my life. I am not willing that they should die with me, but am anxious to bequeath to my children the memory of circumstances so precious to myself. For this purpose I shall collect in a book suited to the design, every memorial I shall be so happy as to obtain; & this manuscript volume I shall leave to my son, not only as a monument of the happiness & honor enjoyed by his mother, but as the most powerful incentive to virtue.

I know when you read this, you will smile, & perhaps say, "Mrs Smith is as romantic as ever". If enthusiastic affection & admiration for virtue & genius, be romance,– I plead guilty to the charge, & frankly acknowledge that in this little legacy I am preparing for my son, that my fancy delights in adorning, what is consecrated by affection & enobled by reason.

Mrs Randolph has given me the best likeness of her father that I have yet seen, lately engraved at Boston. This is to be placed first, then one of the valued letters I received from him, containing among many other kind expressions, that epithet of his dear friend, a title I prize more than any, rank or ancestry could bestow. Following this will be a short sketch of his private life & character, drawn from original materials; & last a painting of Monticello, taken from a drawing of Dr Thornton’s.

It is my desire to form a similar memorial of his dearest friend & successor in office– but this I cannot do without your kind assistance. A good likeness, of the size suitable for a quarto book, I have as yet in vain sought for. When I last saw Mrs. M. she told me some artist was then engaged in engraving likenesses of you & herself, & kindly promised me a copy, which I should be delighted to receive & devote to this favorite object. She lent me a little picture of Montpelier, from whence I have had a copy taken, which I shall transfer to my book– But I have none of your writing, & the favour I would my dear Sir, solicit from you, is some little reminiscence of your own & Mr Jeffersons life, or rather of some incident in which you were both actors; such for instance, as an event, to which I have often heard him allude with an animation & sensibility, which has impressed it on my memory, with peculiar interest.

I mean the journey he & you, in an early period of your life took to Canada. He once showed me a little journal, kept in a little– book of birch-bark, which he wrote during this excursion.

The birth & origin of the generous & faithful friendship which united you to this great & good man, is another incident of deep & characteristic interest, as presenting a moral= picture, unique in the political world.

Never shall I forget the last happy day, Mr Smith & I passed in your company.

The affectionate hospitality with which you and dear Mrs Madison received us, was most grateful to our hearts; while your conversation, which was living history, has left an indelible impression on our minds. A single one of those numerous & delightful anecdotes, you then related, if written by your hand, would answer my design; for I dare not form a wish that would occupy more than an hour of your precious time.

It was a charming visit!— And mrs M. must not be angry with me if I venture once more to present her to the public– not as I have hitherto done, the ornament of the drawing-room, but as the charm & blessing of domestic life.

I trust my dear Sir, you will recieve with indulgence this application, knowing as you must know, that it proceeds from the affectionate esteem & deep felt veneration, with which I am most sincerely yours

Margt. H Smith.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers).

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