George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Madison, 12 February 1796

From James Madison

Philada Feby 12. 1796

Mr Madison presents his respectful compliments to the President of the United States, with a letter from Arthur Cambell Esqr. which an accompanying letter to Mr M. requests him to deliver to the President.1 Mr Cambell makes a further request of Mr M. to make any explanations that may be necessary. Mr M. is not sensible that he possesses any local or other knowledge that can elucidate the proposition, as it is intimated in the letter to him. But if the President should think it proper for Mr M. to wait on him, he will with pleasure do so, at any time the President may please to signify.


1Madison enclosed Arthur Campbell’s letter to GW of 23 January. Campbell wrote from Washington County, Va.: “The present Crisis seems to be one of the most important that has yet taken place in the Western Country. Since the year 1774 our frontier Settlements have less or more been the Scene of Indian depredations. At present the foundation seems to be laid for a durable peace if judicious Measures are made use of by the subordinate Agents of government and a friendly temper cultivated by the adjacent Inhabitants of White people. Murders and Robberies are not the interest of either White or Red-Men. Justice and Humanity will promote civilization and of course the real prosperity of all. Animated with the contemplation of such prosperous events: I feel a strong desire to be an active Agent in some of the Scenes.

“In the latter part of the year 1760, I was an Eye-Witness to the Flag of a then enemy Nation, being struck within the Walls of Fort-Detroit: To enjoy a like sight 36 years afterwards, would be a most pleasing gratification. But something more than curiosity may be connected with the business.

“I have reason to believe few Officers within the United States have the same knowlege of the political connections of the Indians, one Tribe with another, and with the White people in Upper Canada, than I have.

“The amount, Sir, of my request is that if it can be done with propriety, that I may be honored with the command of the Detachment of the American force that may be ordered to take possession of Fort-Detroit next June. My pretensions to this honor is that I am the senior Field-Officer of the Militia of Virginia.

“When Detroit was taken possession of by order of General Amherst, the Detachment was commanded by a Militia or Voluntier Officer from New-England, Who returned as soon as he had placed a Company of Regulars in the Fort, and formally received the submission of the Inhabitants in the adjacent Settleme⟨nt.⟩ I wish only a similar measure now, that is a temporary command: part of the Troops, no doubt, must be regular Soldiers to Garrison the Fort. In order to appear respectable both in the Eyes of the Indians and White people, a considerable force may be necessary, the most of this force to be Militia Rifle-Men from the Country of the Big-Knife, will add not a little to their respectability. My project may favour the recruiting service. And it will not fail to give consideration and some experience to several promising young Militia Officers whom a Patriot Chief will delight to encourage.

“Whether you approve or not this offer of service, You will please to accept of the homage and profound veneration I have long entertained for you, Sir, in private life, in your military career, and in the late exercise of your political functions. In this sentiment I am happy in being join’d by the Militia Officers of this County” (ALS, DLC:GW).

The accompanying letter from Campbell to Madison is dated 24 Jan. (Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 16:201–2).

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