Edwardsville June 12. 1831.
My dear Sir:
I send you enclosed two communications of the Governor, & a report of a Committee of the Legislature of Illinois, in relation to the right of the States to the public Lands situated within them. The great interest felt by many Citizens in this and other States in which the U. S. claim the soil, and the apprehension of the consequences which may result from a conflict between the States interested and the U. S. on a question involving so many millions, and so well calculated to excite the feelings and disturb the harmony of the Union, induce me to lay these papers before you, and to ask the favor of you to peruse them and give me your views at length on this interesting question. I feel great reluctance to give you this trouble, and should not have done so but for the superior knowledge you have of the subject, and the great weight your opinions have on all constitutional questions. A full and clear expose, such as you gave last year on the nullifying doctrines of S. Carolina, if it did not put this sordid and fretting question to rest, would at least make the parties understand it better, by removing much of the mist in which it has been involved by designing and interested partizans. Several of the facts assumed by those who contend the soil belongs to the States in which it is situated are certainly not correct, & some of the arguments advanced are obviously absurd, & might be exposed by others, but none are so capable of doing so, or whose opinion would have so much weight with the parties interested, as yourself. You would add another to the many obligations you have conferrd on your Country by giving some time and attention to this question, which, as it goes directly to the pockets of the Citizens of the new States, will I fear, unless it should be checked before it takes deep root in the public opinion, produce a very unpleasant state of things between the parties interested.
I have been very unexpectedly prevailed on to become a Candidate for Congress. The election takes place on the first Monday of August next. My frequent and long absence for the last two or three years from the State will operate against me, but my friends are nevertheless sanguine of my success.
I made frequent efforts, but without success, during the winter both in Philadelphia & Newyork to procure for you Duanes edition of Franklins Works—or rather the odd volumes you wrote me about.
I write in great haste, and have only time to add the tender of my affectionate greetings to you & Mrs. Madison
P. S. Many of us believe that the ordinance of 1787 is incorporated in and forms a part of our State Constitution.
I wish you would not so far honor Ninoan Edwards as to name him in your answer—You might speak of the Governor and Committee. The Report of the Com: was sanctioned by the House of Representatives, but I understand was not concured in by the Senate of the State.
The Legislatures of the States of Indiana & Mississippi have passed Resolutions claiming all the public Lands within their limits
RC (ICHi); FC (NjP: Edward Coles Papers). RC docketed by JM.