Writings of James Madison, Volume 3

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Author: James Madison

To Charles Caldwell.

MONTPELLIER, July 22d, 1825.

DEAR SIR,—Your letter from Charlottesville came duly to hand, and an earlier answer would have been given to it, but for hope, which has not been fulfilled, that a little delay might enlarge the compliance with its request.

The instances of longevity which you wish me to repeat on paper as within the limits of my farm, on which there are about 70 persons of every age and description, and among my neighbors, are: 1. Of my mother, now in her 94th year, and enjoying comfortable health. 2. A negro woman of the same age, and with the same advantage. 3. Another negro woman of the age of ninety, with a probability of reaching a greater age than either. 4. Two other negroes, a man and woman, whose ages are not precisely known, but certainly of not less than eighty, and with constitutions having no appearance of early failure. 5. Within the last four or five years have died on the farm: 1. One negro man whose age could be ascertained to be within a few years of a hundred. 2. Another at the age of ninety. 3. A negro man and woman, each aged eighty at least; and the life of the former evidently shortened by the excessive use of ardent spirits. Among my present neighbors, one of the two nearest is in his ninetieth year, and the other beyond his eightieth; both enjoying good health. Within a few years past died an adjoining neighbor at the age of eighty-four; and another very near, though not adjoining, whose death at eighty-two was promoted by an increased use of ardent spirits. And within the present year died, in his ninetieth year, the father of the present Secretary of War, who, till very lately, was one of my near neighbours. All the individuals I have referred to were natives of Virginia.

Among the instances of superior height with well-proportioned frames, I could name three in neighbouring families of at least six feet four inches. Examples of six feet are not so rare as to have been particularly noticed.

The case of the survivors of the Revolutionary army, most of them doubtless natives, is very striking. Perhaps one not less so would be the average height and weight of the members of our legislative bodies, general and local. The height would be the better criterion of the popular average of size; the weight being more influenced by habits of living, distinguishing the former from the labouring classes.

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Chicago: James Madison Jr., "To Charles Caldwell.," Writings of James Madison, Volume 3 in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.493-494 Original Sources, accessed August 15, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WRJEJ68N5AAVJ1.

MLA: Madison, James, Jr. "To Charles Caldwell." Writings of James Madison, Volume 3, in James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.493-494, Original Sources. 15 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WRJEJ68N5AAVJ1.

Harvard: Madison, J, 'To Charles Caldwell.' in Writings of James Madison, Volume 3. cited in , James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, 4 Vols. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co.), Pp.493-494. Original Sources, retrieved 15 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WRJEJ68N5AAVJ1.