Secretary of State James Madison played a central role in the various measures taken to ease Lafayette's financial plight. With Albert Gallatin and President Jefferson, Madison worked to obtain the Congressional land grant. And, after Congress authorized it, Madison arranged a loan of 150,000 livres for the marquis, with the land as collateral. But in the fall of 1804, Madison assumed another, and more formal role in putting his old friend's financial affairs in order. The loan, no matter how generous its terms, would have to be repaid, and that meant locating and selling the Orleans lands.
The marquis and Madison had been friends for more than twenty years, even sharing a jaunt to the New York frontier in 1784. Like any proper Virginian, Madison was an incurable land speculator, and the marquis saw him as an ideal agent for his Louisiana lands. Thus, in this document, Lafayette authorizes Madison "... to execute in my name & to my use all necessary Deeds for the better locating or letting out the said lands & to enter with any person or persons he will think proper into such Leases, Bargains, Agreements & other Instruments of writing which may be found necessary for the above purposes & generally to do & cause to be done in the Premises all & every thing I could myself do were I personally present & altho' the matter should require more special authority than is herein comprised; Promissing & obliging myself by these Presents to approve acknowledge & ratify the same; & visiting my said Attorney with power to substitute & appoint one or more attornies under him & to revoke them at his Pleasure."
The next day, Lafayette sent at least two copies of this power of attorney to Madison. (one at the N.Y. Public Library, another in the Hist. Society of Pa.) The practical necessities of transatlantic communication during the Napoleonic Wars dictated multiple copies. In his covering letter, Lafayette explained to Madison that he had deliberately phrased the power of attorney broadly, "... I even forbore commissioning an Agent to act under your control thinking I had better leave that point as well as every other to your investigation & choice..."
Even if Madison performed no onerous duties as a result of this power of attorney, the document remains a splendid reminder of the friendships forged in a Revolution in America that survived time and distance to aid a patriot who found himself impoverished by a second revolution on the other side of the Atlantic.
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