James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 16 August 1805

From James Monroe


London August 16. 1805.


I enclose you a copy of my letters to Lord Mulgrave relative to the late seizure of our vessels by his Majesty’s cruizers, in the Channel and North Sea, and of his replies.2 I had yesterday an interview with him on the subject, in which he gave me a report from each of the King’s law-officers in the admiralty respecting the late decisions, and promised me another interview on that and the other topicks depending between our governments, as soon as I Should desire it after having perused the reports. By my note to him of this date you will find that I consider these documents unsatisfactory on the great question and have asked another interview. It appears however by them that no recent order has been issued by the government; hence it is probable that the late decisions on the point of Continuity of Voyage which have carried the restraints on that commerce to a greater extent than heretofore may have furnished to the parties interested a motive for these Seizures. It is equally probable that the decision of the Court of appeals in the case of the “Essex,” as several of its members are also members of the Cabinet, may have been dictated by policy to promote the navigation of this country at the expence of that of the United States. In the late interview with Lord Mulgrave, much general conversation took place on the Subject, in which he assured me in the most explicit terms that nothing was more remote from the views of his government than to take an unfriendly attitude towards the U. States: he assured me also that no new orders had been issued, and that his government was disposed to do every thing in its power to arrange this and the other points to our Satisfaction, by which however I did not understand that the principle in this case would be abandoned; tho’ I think it probable that in other respects much accommodation may be obtained in that commerce.

Affairs here seem to be approaching a crisis. It is Said that the combined fleets, having been previously joined by the Rochfort Squadron, have entered Ferrol, and that the force now there is 37 sail of the line. Sir Robert Calder has joined Adm. Cornwallis before Brest. The French fleet there consists of about 26. Sail of the line. This force so nearly united, is a very imposing one. The menace of invasion is Kept up and encreased; every thing Seems to indicate that an attempt will Soon be made. I have the honor to be with great respect & regard Sir, Your very obedient Servant.

Jas. Monroe

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 46, President’s Messages, 10B–B1); RC and Tr of enclosures (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 10A–D1); letterbook copy (DLC: Monroe Papers). First RC in a clerk’s hand, signed by Monroe; docketed by Wagner. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. For enclosures, see n. 2.

1Left blank in both RCs. Letterbook copy and Tr marked “No. 32.”

2The enclosures (6 pp.; docketed by Wagner as received in Monroe’s 6 Aug. dispatch); printed in ASP, Foreign Relations, 3:103–5) are copies of Monroe to Mulgrave, 31 July and 8 Aug. 1805, and Mulgrave to Monroe, 5 and 9 Aug. 1805 (see Monroe to JM, 6 Aug. 1805, n. 9), as well as copies of Monroe to Mulgrave, 12 Aug. 1805, stating that in recent weeks about twenty U.S. ships had been seized by the British in the Channel and the North Sea and carried into British ports, and that these acts seemed to be based on the Essex decision, which the United States considered to be a violation of neutral rights, since by it Great Britain asserted a right to control the sovereignty and the commerce of neutral nations; Mulgrave to Monroe, 12 Aug. 1805, appointing the following Thursday for their meeting; Monroe to Mulgrave, 12 Aug. 1805, accepting the time; and Monroe to Mulgrave, 16 Aug. 1805, returning documents he had received at the 15 Aug. 1805 meeting, expressing his disappointment that they gave no satisfactory explanation for U.S. complaints, and asking for another meeting.

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