James Madison Papers

James Madison to Ralph Randolph Gurley, 29 December 1831

Montpellier Decr. 29. 1831.

Dear Sir

I received in due time your letter of the 21st Ult. and with due sensibility to the subject of it. Such, however, has been the effect of a painful Rheumatism on my general condition, as well in disqualifying my fingers for the use of the pen that I could not do justice "to the principles and measures of the Colonization Society in all the great and various relations they sustain to our own Country, and to Africa" if my views of them could have the value which your partiality supposes I may observe in brief that the Society had always my good wishes tho’ with hopes of its success less sanguine than were entertained by others found to have been the better judges; and that I feel the greatest pleasure at the progress already made by the society and the encouragement to incounter remaining difficulties afforded by the earlier and greater ones already overcome. Many circumstances at the present moment seem to concur in brightening the prospects of the Society and cherishing the hope that the time will come when the dreadful calamity which has so long afflicted our Country and filled so many with despair will be gradually removed & by means consistent with justice, peace, and the general satisfaction: thus giving to our country the full enjoyment of the blessings of liberty and to the world the full benefit of its great example. I never considered the main difficulty of the great work as lying in the deficiency of emancipations, but in an inadequacy of asylums for such a growing mass of population and in the great expence of removing it to its new home. The Spirit of private manumission as the laws may permit and the exiles may consent, is increasing and will increase and there are sufficient indications that the public authorities in slave holding States are looking forward to interpositions in different forms that must have a powerful effect. With respect to the new abode for the emigrants all agree that the choice made by the Society is rendered peculiarly appropriate by considerations which need not be repeated & if other Situations should not be found elegible receptacles for a portion of them, the prospects in Africa seem to be expanding in a highly encouraging degree.

In contemplating the pecuniary resources needed for the removal of such a number to so great a distance, my thoughts and hopes have been long turned to the rich fund presented in the Western Lands of the Nation which will soon entirely cease to be under a pledge for another object. The great one in question is truly of a National Character and it is known that distinguished patriots not dwelling in slave holding states have viewed the object in that light and would be willing to let the National domain be a resource in effectuating it.

Should it be remarked that the States tho’ all may be interested in releiving our Country from the Colored population they are not equally so, it is but fair to recollect that the sections most to be benefitted are those whose sessions created the fund to be disposed of.

I am aware of the Constitutional obstacle which has presented itself; but if the general will be reconciled to an application of the territorial fund to the removal of the colored population, a grant to Congress of the necessary authority could be carried, with little delay through the forms of the Constitution. Sincerely wishing increasing success to the labors of the Society, I pray you to be assured of my esteem & to accept my friendly salutations

James Madison

RC (DLC: American Colonization Society Papers); draft (DLC). Draft dated 28 Dec.

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