James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Vans Murray, 20 May 1801

From William Vans Murray

No. 134.

The Hague 20 May 1801.


To day I had the honour to receive your letter of the eighteenth of March, by which I am informed that it is the President’s pleasure that I set off for Paris to exchange the Ratifications of the Convention between the United States and France, and to settle the ulterior points connected with that subject.

I shall obey the commands with which The President has honoured me; and shall set out for Paris as soon as possible—I hope the day after to-morrow. Mr. Dawson, will as he informs me, deliver there the necessary official papers.

I regret that the departure of Mr. Elsworth1 from England for America—of which my London letters of the 3d inst. speak, deprives our country of the benefit of that superior judgment and knowledge which would have given greater confidence to my zeal.

If the article to be added be that of Limitation for 8 or 10 years, there may be some objection & delay.2 Permit me Sir to suggest to you the eventual utility there may be in giving me precise orders by which I may govern myself should that article produce some contingency like the following—that they would agree to strike out the article excepted to by the Senate, provided we would not press the Limitation; or that they agree to admit the Limitation, if the 2d article be retained,3 on the ground that during the term they still have us under a Treaty engagement to renew the negociation on points interesting to their Pride—alternatives like these may be the pretexts for delay.

Against the admission of the new article they will perhaps object, that the policy secured by the 6th. article of the Convention is defeated. That the equality under it was obtained in consideration of some other points of a temporary sort, & which will be accomplished in our favour before the expiration of the term to which we would limit the Convention: that part of the stipulation in our favour under the 4th. article has already been gratify’d—and that though they would not pay for spoliations yet that they consider the perpetuity of the 6th. article as something in lieu of the exclusive perpetual priviledges under the old Treaty of Commerce—this objection to which I attach little solidity if made and persisted in may leave me in a difficult position.

You will pardon the solicitude which I feel in the wish that I may find as little as possible left to my discretion. The case may & probably is provided for in my instructions, which I have not seen.

Circumstances may be as they have hitherto proved rather favourable to us—particularly if it be true that they are to have the Floridas & Louisiana, as in that case there will exist a new temporary interest to be well with the U. S.—& they may make a small sacrifice of pride to a solid & extensive plan, of which that cession, if made, will be the basis! I am with great respect Sir Yr. Mo. ob. servant &c &c &c

W. V. Murray.

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