James Madison Papers

[James Madison] to William Taylor, April 1835

Montpellier April  1835.

Dear Sir.

I received some time ago your letter of December 24th. informing me that the negroes under the charge of Mr. Nicholls had arrived in safety and that they were all well at your arrival on the 26th. of November. I have since received your letter of January 16th. in which you represent the condition of the girl Betty as annulling her sale, and decline on that account the payment of any part of your note for eight hundred dollars the balance due on the general purchase. This information was not less unexpected than regretted under every aspect, particularly as it disappointed me altogether of a resource which was needed and confidently relied on. I certainly should have readily concurred in any arrangement that might be eventually due to the peculiarity of the case, and am so still. I cannot but hope however that the complaint inferred from the manner of your alluding to it, may according to medical information be found neither permanent nor incurable. It appears that no want of health was known to the overseer or to any other white person here, nor was it indicated by presumed enquiries at the time of her being selected; according to the report of Mr. Nicholls she continued to be well during the journey, & for some time afterwards as noticed in your letter. I repeat however my readiness to terminate a matter which may possibly involve considerations of humanity, as well as a pecuniary one; and suggest that the case, in all its circumstances be submitted to the decision of two of our common friends, each of us appointing one & a third to be named by them in the event of disagreement.

(omitted in letter sent)

[I was sorry to learn that the horse substituted for the one you had provided for your wagon was so weakened by a complaint on the road that he could not proceed. The complaint is ascribed to his having been overfed on small grain, but it might be accounted for by the known effect of limestone water on horses unused to it as on human constitutions. The horse received in exchange for him before your departure has not answered expectation. The overseer says he had observed a slight lameness in him on the morning of his arrival, but it was supposed to be the transitory effect of a visible rub near the knee. The lameness however continued and increased until a thorough examination disclosed a wound at the termination of one foot covered with the hair, evidently made by the Hoof of the other, a circumstance readily accounted for by his struggles when he broke from the wagon, or when entangled by the bush which arrested him in the wood where he was caught. It is of late only that he has been cured of his lameness. During its continuance no sale of him could be made, and since his recovery his known freaks have attached such a character to him that he could not be sold for $100, at which price he was offered, without a special guaranty, not only of his soundness, but of his being tractable and safe in harness. As a saddle horse he has none of the attractions beyond his mere figure. The consequence of the whole is that I have not only lost the services of a superior plough horse during the crisis of seeding my wheat, but have been at the expense of keeping him in pampered idleness for an half year without your recg. benifit from it.]

I should be glad to hear from you as soon as convenient—In the mean time accept for yourself & Mrs. Taylor our respects & good wishes.


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