James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 20 September 1794

From James Monroe

Paris Sepr. 20. 1794.

Dear Sir

Mr. Swan1 of Boston who has resided for some years past in this city in the character of a Merchant & in which line he has been extensively engaged will present you this. He leaves this for the purpose of purchasing & shipping to this country the productions of ours & relies much on the advances to be made by our govt. for the means. He will I understand be sole agent in that line of this republick in America. He well knows yr. disposition on this head & will confer with you in regard to it. I beg you to be attentive to him as he has been very obliging to us here. I have written you very fully by the way of Bordeaux, and as Mr. S. proposes landing at Chs.town, shall have more early opportunities of apprizing you of those events of the present day which may escape him. We are well. Very sincerely I am yr. friend & servt

Jas. Monroe


1James Swan emigrated from Scotland to Boston in 1765 and served in the Revolution. He went to France in 1787 and with the aid of Lafayette became a contractor in naval stores. In 1795 he bought a controlling share of the U.S. government securities constituting the outstanding debt owed to France since the Revolution. As an agent of the French government and a broker, he profitably exchanged foreign for domestic securities. In a letter of 30 June 1795, Monroe confided to JM that “Swan who is a corrupt unprincipled rascal had by virtue of being the Agent of France and as we had no minister & he being (tho’ of the latter description) the only or most creditable resident American here, had a monopoly of the trade of both countries. Indeed it is believed that he was connected with the agents on one side and the Minister on the other.… But good may come from it, and especially if the allurement here will draw them off from the other side of the channel” (Hamilton, Writings of Monroe, 2:313–14). His later speculative ventures failed, and Swan died in debtors’ prison in Paris.

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