James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Sylvanus Bourne, 29 May 1801

From Sylvanus Bourne, 29 May 1801

Amsterdam May 29 1801


In conformity to my practice towards your predecessors in Office I here transmit the latest Leyden Gazettes & shall continue to do so regularly by every opportunity which presents.

This paper contains a late tho’ correct & generally impartial account of the most material events occurring in this scene & cannot be read but with Interest at a moment when the political page is filled with such as are very important & which must have a weighty influence on the future destinies of Europe.

It is difficult however, for the most attentive observer, to form a due estimate of the probable issue or to foresee what other shape the affairs of Europe may assume before we arrive at that desired period. The constant changes & rapid succession of events which occur in the military theatre, are unprecedented ⟨in⟩ former wars & seem to evade all calculatio⟨ns.⟩

Heretofor when the nations of Europe had ⟨become⟩ fatigued by several years of war & Cont⟨est it⟩ was not a difficult matter to arrange ⟨their⟩ disputes by a geometrical partition of terri⟨tory⟩ as they were then generally guided by the s⟨ame⟩ Genius & Spirit as to the principles of Govt. The late astonishing Revolution in Europe has produced a moral change in the views ⟨, sen⟩timents & principles of many nations & to destroy the elements of that equilibri⟨um⟩ termed the ballance of Europe & makes ⟨it⟩ more than ever a difficult task to ⟨find a⟩ common base for reconciling their disagree⟨ments⟩ consistent with mutual views & Interests.

A correspondence is said now to exist ⟨be⟩tween France & England on the subject of pe⟨ace⟩ but the yet uncertain fate of Egypt & ⟨that⟩ of the eventual turn of affairs in the [. . .] renders it almost impossible for either of those Powers ⟨to⟩ be prepared for finishing the great Work. Nor do I for my own part yet see a general peace but as the promised land from a mountain at a very great distance. ⟨But⟩ it must sooner or later arrive & that it may be predicated on principles promotive of the aggregate mass of human happiness is a hope the benevolent mind will fondly cherish.

Presuming that it will be the policy of ⟨our⟩ Govt. to circumscribe as far as possible any political relations with Europe, & extend our ⟨co⟩mmercial connections ⟨and⟩ every channell which promises advantages to our Country I would beg leave to suggest as a subject meriting the attention of Govt. the more particular cultiva⟨tio⟩n of our Commercial Relations with the north of Europe particularly with Russia from which Country we annually export many ⟨ar⟩ticles of importance to our Country & which ⟨w⟩e might be able to obtain on more favorable ⟨term⟩s if we could effect a compact with that Govt. which should open the way to us thro’ the Dar⟨danelles⟩ into the Black Sea & give us many other privi⟨leges⟩ which the interests of our commerce require ⟨from⟩ our intercourse with that Country, which are to⟨o⟩ lengthy to be here detailed. The late Events w⟨hich⟩ have occurred in the Course of the Disputes between Russia & GB. have tended to shew the mortifying dependence to which they are subject in he⟨r⟩ trade with GB. & I think she will be happy ⟨at⟩ the opportunity of forming such a connecti⟨on⟩ with other powers as may tend to destroy that dependance & create a competition in ⟨her⟩ favour. It is true we cannot expect to ⟨beat⟩ GB. in regard to her own manufactures whic⟨h⟩ she exports to Russia but in the carrying of many other articles of Consumption which come from the Indies & other Countries we m⟨ay⟩ be able to hold a competition favorable to ⟨them⟩ & advantagious to ourselves. From Silesia & ⟨other⟩ parts of Germany many articles are sent to ⟨our⟩ Country which with attention might be procu⟨red⟩ to much greater advantage to us, as is the ⟨case⟩ also with many such that we impor⟨t⟩ from Denmark & Sweden. You ma⟨y⟩ perhaps be induced to reply to these Observations that it is more specifically the business of individuals in the mercantile line than of Govt. to attend to the suggestions here recommended—which in a certain sense may be true but I think the Commercial interests would be much benefited by having an active intelligent well informed person appointed as a Commercial Agent for the Northern parts ⟨of Eu⟩rope whose duty it should be to travel thro’ the several Countries Composing it & probe every Source of information Commercial & other, that may be advantageous to the U. States & that having made himself thoroughly acquainted with the items on which that connection with those Countries could be formed with the greatest benifit to our Country that he be empowered to fix them on a permanent base by treaty or compact with the Govts. of those Countries.

Pardon me for the trouble I give on a subject of the merits of w⟨hich⟩ you are so able to form a due appret⟨iation⟩ & believe me to be with the highest respect yr Obt ⟨Servt.⟩

S. Bour⟨ne⟩

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