James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Rufus King, 25 November 1805

From Rufus King


New York Novr. 25. 1805


I had the honour to write to you on the 15. of last month, since when I have received by General Miranda who has arrived here, a letter from Mr. N. Vansittart⟨,⟩; a member of the British parliament, and who was likewise a member of the late Administration of Mr. Addington. Mr. Vansittart being a man of distinguished Probity, and in a situation to understand fully the subject on which he writes, I send you his letter for the President’s perusal,1 requesting that it may afterwards be returned to me. With great Respect I have the Honour to be Sir Your obt: & faithful Servt.

Rufus King

RC (DNA: RG 59, ML); FC and enclosure (NHi: Rufus King Papers). RC docketed by Wagner. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1The enclosure (11 pp.; docketed by King as received from Francisco de Miranda on 10 Nov. 1805 and returned from JM on 5 Dec.) is a copy of Nicholas Vansittart to King, 14 Aug. 1805, stating that Miranda had embarked on the execution of his long-planned invasion of South America, and reminding King of his familiarity with the offers of support tendered Miranda by the British government “as well as on some occasions by certain continental powers.” Vansittart said that soon after the war with France was renewed he had received permission to collect arms, clothing, and stores for Miranda’s project to be used should a rupture take place between Britain and Spain, but the British government, hoping that Spanish neutrality might be preserved, had diverted the supplies to other service. He added that Miranda had hoped for some time after war broke out between Great Britain and Spain “for active & cordial assistance,” but since the British government continued to expend its efforts elsewhere, Miranda had determined “to try what can be effected by such resources as America can furnish,” be it government or private funding. Vansittart told King, “your influence will be of the utmost importance to him.” He said the British merchant community was “anxious for an extension of trade” and “a removal of the restraints which … exclude them from the rich market of South America” and that “a great body of our most reasonable & judicious men consider a well combined system of Independence” the best way to prevent Spain’s colonies “from falling, like the mother country under the dominion of France and furnishing resources” that would enable Napoleon “to complete the subjugation of Europe.” Other men, “of great weight & authority,” had such an abhorrence of anything resembling revolution that they believed all such ideas should be dismissed or directly resisted. Vansittart stated that it was futile to try to convince the latter that the separation of rapidly growing colonies “from a feeble, decrepit & degraded government” was inevitable, and that Britain should try to influence the direction of such a change in order “to secure the gratitude & attachment of the new” governments because they would argue that the outcome would be so uncertain that Britain should not “incur the guilt & risque the consequences of cooperating to produce it.” Vansittart said he believed the present administration was inclined to the first position, and had formed “a serious intention” of supplying Miranda, but had given up the plan from an unwillingness to divert supplies from objects which they felt were more important. He added that he was less acquainted with the opinion of the opposition party but believed that Charles James Fox and his friends were favorable to the emancipation of South America. He stated that the great national advantage that would accrue to Great Britain in the event of Miranda’s achieving a successful commencement assured that, barring the conclusion of peace, “the general disposition of the Country” would “compel almost any government” to support Miranda. Vansittart added that the British “blockading squadrons in Europe & … fleets in the West Indies will be nearly as vigilant & useful in intercepting any succour which the Spaniards or French may attempt to send to the Colonies as if they were stationed for that express purpose.” He said that he had addressed King so openly from a conviction that “the views & interests of this Country & the United States must be indissolubly united” on this matter.

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