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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
JAMES MADISON died, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, at his residence, Montpelier, in Orange county, Virginia, on the 28th of June, 1836.
On the 30th of the same month, the President of the United States transmitted, by Mr. Donelson his Secretary, the following message to the Senate and House of Representatives :
“WASHINGTON, June 30, 1836. “To the Senate and House of Representatives : “It becomes my painful duty to announce to you
the melancholy intelligence of the death of JAMES MADISON, Ex-President of the United States. He departed this life, at half past six o'clock on the morning of the twenty-eighth instant, full of years and full of honours.
“I hasten this communication, in order that Congress may adopt such measures as may be proper, to testify their sense of the respect which is due to the memory of one whose life has contributed so essentially to the happiness and glory of his country, and to the good of mankind.
In the Senate, after the message from the President had been read, Mr. Rives of Virginia made the following remarks:
“Mr. PRESIDENT: I feel that it would be an act of sacrilegious temerity, were I to attempt to add to the intrinsic pathos of the melancholy intelligence just announced to us by the President of the United States, by any thing in the way of eulogy of the character of the great man whose decease he has communicated to us. The eulogy of Mr. Madison is written in every page of the history of his country, to whose service his whole life was devoted ; and with every great event in whose annals, his name stands conspicuously and enduringly identified. Filled, however, as his life was, from its dawn to its close, with labours of patriotism and superior wisdom, there is one great work of his which must ever recur prominently to the grateful memory of his country. He was, in an especial manner, the founder and author of that glorious Constitution which is the bond of our union and the charter of our liberties; and it was graciously vouchsafed to him, in the order of Providence, to witness for a longer period than any of his illustrious colleagues, the rich blessings which have resulted from its establishment. He was the last surviving signer of that sacred instrument. Amid the general grief which pervades the nation, may we not indulge one consolation at least, in the hope that his death, whilst adding the last seal to his own fame and glory, will in some sort canonize the work of his hands, and surround, with a new veneration, that precious relic of the wisdom of our departed patriots and sages.
“But, sir, I will not speak of the public life of Mr. Madison ; it is known to us all; it is appreciated by us all. It was my privilege to see and know him in the scenes of that classic retirement in which he passed the evening of his days. It was there that the mild lustre of his private virtues, which formed the crowning grace of his character, and is the indispensable complement of a true public glory, was seen and felt. But
who can paint him there? Who can adequately describe that fascinating suavity of temper and manners; that spirit and grace of conversation, so happily blended with the oracles of phi losophy and experience; that amiable and cultivated benevolence, ever watchful of the feelings and comfort of others, even in the minutest trifles, which together formed around the hearth of Montpelier, a group of social virtues and attractions which, however incompetent the powers of language to portray, those who have felt their influence can never forget ? In speaking of these things, Mr. President, I am but too forcibly reminded of my own personal loss, in the general and national calamity which we all bewail. I was the neighbour of Mr. Madison, sir, and enjoyed his kindness and friendship; and if in speaking of a great national bereavement, my mind recurs too fondly to the chasm his death has left in the immediate circle of his friends, something I trust will be pardoned to the feelings of the heart.
“It is my melancholy satisfaction to have received, in all probability, the last letter ever signed by his hand. It bears date only six days before his death, and furnishes, in its contents, a striking illustration of that amiable benevolence and sensibility to the kindness of others, which formed so prominent a trait in his character. In that letter, which is now before me, he spoke of his enfeebled health ; and his trembling and unsteady signature, so much in contrast with the usual firmness and regularity of his writing, bore a graphic and mel. ancholy intimation of his approaching end. Still I trusted that his light might hold out till the fourth of July, that he might be restored, on that glorious anniversary, to an immortalcompanionship with those great men and patriots with whom he had been intimately connected in life, and whose coincident deaths, on the birthday of the nation's freedom, had imparted to that day,
if possible, an additional and mysterious illustration. But it has been ordered otherwise. His career has been closed at an epoch which, forty-nine years ago, witnessed his most efficient labours in the illustrious assembly which laid the foundations of our present system of government, and will thus, by the remembrance of his death, as well as by the services of his life, more closely associate him with that great work which is at once the source and guarantee of his country's happiness and glory.
“What honours, Mr. President, are there, by which we can do justice to a character which history will hold up to future ages as a model of public and private virtues, not surpassed by the brightest examples in ancient or modern times? Sir, there
Still it is proper that, as representatives of the American people, we should show by some suitable manifestations, how sincerely and deeply we participate in the universal feeling of grief on this mournful occasion; and I move you therefore the following resolution :
“Resolved, That a committee be appointed on the part of the Senate, to join such committee as may be appointed on the part of the House, to consider and report, by what token of respect and affection, it may be proper for the Congress of the United States to express the deep sensibility of the nation to the event of the decease of Mr. Madison, just announced by the President of the United States."
The resolution was unanimously adopted by the Senate, and a committee was appointed by the Chair consisting of the following Senators: Messrs. Rives of Virginia, BUCHANAN of Pennsylvania,
Clay of Kentucky, Leigh of Virginia,