Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Bowdoin, 22 August 1806

Paris Augt. 22d. 1806.


I had the honour to write to you under dates of the 1st. of Mar. 20th. May & 23 of July; and to Mr. Madison of the 20th. May, 23d July & of this day, to which you will permit me to most respectfully refer you.

You will observe Sir, by my letters to Mr. Madison, that the Spanish govermt. had appointed M. Isquierdo an agent or minister to confer with genl. Armstrong & me on the subsisting differences between the two governmts. thro’ the intervention of this governmt.: From some cause there seems to be a misunderstanding between the french & spanish ministers; either that the one had not been sufficiently explicit, or the other had misconceived the motives of the french governmt., my last letter to Mr. Madison will give the facts on which this suggestion is grouned.

Whatever may be the views of the french or spanish ministers of the contemplated negociation I have been confident, that some scheme or other would be devised to bring the subject anew before you Sir, in order to procure a modification of Mr. Madison’s instructions of the 13th. of March, or under one pretence or another, that some plan of adjustment more favourable to individual speculation might be presented: that Mr. Madison’s propositions would not be acceded to in their present shape; that the difficulty is not so much in the Sum, as in the mode; knowing the fountain, I cannot doubt of the stream: it may have many windings & meandrings, but without some violent shock or convulsion, it will neither change its course nor alter its properties.

By the Prince of Beneventum’s letter to Gen. Armstrong refered to in the general’s note to me of the 7th. of July, which by the way from the continuance of the same inscrutable conduct towards me I have not seen, it would appear that the Emperor was quite disposed to procure the adjustment of the subsisting differences; but what is surprising is, that at the very moment when sentiments of so friendly & conciliatory a nature were suggested, Mr. Parker, an Emissary from the Prince’s office told Mr. Skipwith, that the propositions of our Governmt. were disliked, & would not prove successful, & that in a letter he wrote about the same time upon private business to Mr. Erving at Madrid, he avowed the same sentiment. I shd. not condescend to notice to you the opinions of this man, had he not have been by his own declaration to me, the very vehicle through which you received the project, whatever it may have been, on which I apprehend Mr. Madison’s instructions of the 13th. of march were principally grounded.

Whilst I present to you Sir, these facts on wch. the proposed negociation stands related, I think it is my duty to acquaint you, that about six weeks since overtures for a general Peace were made by the french to the british governmt. that they have been listened to, & that 890.1453.451.804.501. has been engaged in a preliminary negociation upon the terms of a general Peace: that in the conversations at Paris upon this interesting subject, it was generally said, that Peace wd. unquestionably result from the conferences & among other things it was reported that france & England wd. settle their differences by the restoration of the US. to a state of dependance upon the british Govt., or at least, that the US. wd. be required to change their republican institutions, become a kingdom, & that one of the Son’s of Geo. the third wd. be placed at the head of it: It was very singular, that this report was general in Paris, was spread with avidity, & that it was the subject of conversation at Bordeaux, Nantes & Antwerp at nearly the same time.

Feeling much anxiety upon the subject, and desirous to procure the fullest information concerning it, I sent Mr. Sullivan my private Secry. to 890.1453.451.804.501. & requested an interview, wch. was readily acceded to, I called on 184.890.1096. at a proposed hour & found him engaged: after the lapse of two days 184.890.1096. called upon me, when after the usual compliments the following conversation took place.

I suggested to 184.890.1096. that as the object of the present negociation between france & England was to bring about a general peace upon a permanent and secure basis, I conceived from the extensive commercial intercourse between G. B. & the U. S., that whatever would have a tendency to injure our commerce, would have a correspondent influence upon that of Great Britain: that grounded upon this view of the relative situation of the two countries, it was to be apprehended, that our disputes with Spain, if not amicably adjusted by interrupting our Peace, might involve that of france & G. B.—184.890.1096. perfected agreed in the truth of this position, & expressed in the strongest terms the necessity of providing against such an event. 184.890.1096. proceeded to observe, that there was little prospect to calculate upon a general peace; that there were many difficulties to be overcome; that shd. the present negociation take a favourable turn, he shd. not fail at its close, to suggest the necessity of our affairs being arranged with Spain. He appeared to be liberal & open, & said that the british administration was disposed to adopt every conciliatory measure towards the U. S.; that Mr. Erskine had gone out with that view &ca. he offered me the use of his curriers to take my letters or dispatches to Mr. Monroe or Mr. Pinkney;—he spoke highly of the importance of our commerce, & of the policy of a close & intimate connection with the U. S.

I then took occasion to notice to him the Reports which had circulated in Paris, which extended to intentions in the negociating powers to interfere with the governmt. of the U. S. if not to implicate their independance. Upon wch. 184.890.1096. gave me the fullest assurances, that there had been nothing of the kind committed to Paper; that he had seen the several projects which had been forwarded by 890.654.713.157.1382. and that these made no mention of it. I requested him to confer with 184.890.1096., to know if there had been any grounds for such a report; & he told me he would, but he believed the Reports to be without foundation. The foregoing is a detailed view of the conversation I had with 890.1453.451.804.501. But as I have been fearful, that it might excite some suspicion in this Govt., I have declined further interviews with 184.890.1096. He since offered me the use of his currier, but I tho’t it most prudent to write to Mr. Monroe thro’ the usual channels, which I did on the 16 instant, acquainted him with the material facts above stated & requested him to make a suitable use of them in case an opportunity shd. present.

As 184.890.1096. promised to let me know from time to time in case the negociation should undergo any material change: I have sent Mr. Sullivan twice to call upon him, since I saw 184.890.1096. viz on the 14th. when he observed that the prospect of Peace was so much obscured that he expected to quit Paris in 48 hours: since wch. it having been reported that some important obstacles had been removed & that the prospect of Peace brightened, I sent Mr. S. with a verbal message (and in no other way have I as yet communicated with him) to 184.890.1096. to acquaint him that I was writing to my Govt., & wished to receive the most certain intelligence respecting the pacification: his reply was, that he had very “little or no hopes that this negociation wd. ripen into peace”. he sent me word that Ld. Aukland & Ld. Holland were appointed Commrs. to meet with Mr. Monroe & Mr. Pinkney and that he expected, that the treaty was nearly completed. He told Mr. S. that he wd. not quit Paris without letting me know it; & he wd. give me intelligence of the negociation whenever I wished it. He told him to assure me, that in the case of a Peace, that it wd. be a Peace with all the world.—

I shall take care to keep duly informed of every occurrence which I shall think interesting to your administration.

With the highest consideration and attachment I have the honour to subscribe myself, most respectfully Sir, Your faithful & most obedient Servt.

James Bowdoin

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

Index Entries