James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Rufus King, 19 March 1803 (Abstract)

§ From Rufus King

19 March 1803, London. No. 86. “Orders were some Time past given to evacuate Egypt, and the English forces have at this Time probably left that Country. The independence of Malta, by the Treaty of Amiens, is placed under the Protection and guarantee of Great Britain, France, Spain, Austria, Russia and Prussia. Austria has acceded, Russia consents to accede, provided the Maltese langue be abolished,1 to which France agrees, and Prussia is ready to assume the guarantee when that alone is wanted to give effect to the Stipulations respecting Malta. This view is necessary to enable you to form a correct opinion of the demand which the french Ambassador has just made for the evacuation of Malta,2 and of Lord Hawkesbury’s Answer which was received by the French Ambassador on the 15th., and as soon as it could be translated, dispatched to Paris, where it is expected to have arrived last Evening or this morning.

“The Answer begins by laying down the maxim of the Law of Nations that ‘Conventio omnis intelligitur rebus sic stantibus,’3 and after declaring that the Consideration of the state of things as settled by the public Treaties of Europe, and the restitutions to be made pursuant to the Treaty of Amiens, was a principal and essential reason with his Britannic Majesty for entering into that Treaty,… it enumerates the changes that have since happened, without the privity and consent of Great Britain, and which have so materially altered the relative condition of the Powers that are Parties to the Treaty of Amiens. This recapitulation is followed by a reference to the publication of Sebastiani’s Report … as well as to the Exposition of the affairs of France sent by Bonoparte to the Legislative Body; both of which are stated to contain sentiments injurious to the Reputation and Honour of the British Nation: The Answer concludes by insinuating that Great Britain, in these circumstances, might justly refuse to proceed in the farther execution of the Treaty of Amiens; instead whereof his Britannic Majesty, desirous of the continuance of peace, and willing to offer to France still farther proofs of his moderation, is ready to enter into such mutual discussions and explanations with France, as … may be calculated to secure the just Rights of the two Nations, and to maintain the repose of Europe.

“… This answer renders the subject so intricate that even in a different Temper from that which now exists, the Parties would find great difficulty in adjusting their respective Pretensions. The French Ambassador expects to receive the Reply of his Government on the 22nd.: the Military preparations proceed here without the smallest relaxation, and every appearance indicates to my mind the Expectation of War.”

Index Entries