James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Pinkney, 17 December 1810

From William Pinkney

London. December 17th. 1810

Dear Sir

The proclamation of the 2d. of November is doing good here, and may perhaps bring this Ministry to Reason. I enclose Cobbets last Number, which touches upon our Relations with this Country, & Bell’s weekly Messenger of yesterday, which treats of the same Subject. My Letter to Ld. W. of the 10th. Instant1 wd. have gone into it more fully (though I was straightened for Time) but that I was afraid of the Sin of prolixity & expected moreover to be called upon to resume the Discussion in another Letter. There is Reason to think that, though the Freedom of its Style may have given umbrage to some of the Cabinet, it will assist your Proclamation. I have never met with a State-paper to be compared with Ld. W’s Note to me of the 4h. Instant.2 To tell me gravely and dryly, after my Letters of the 25h. of August & 3d. of November,3 that he had not been able to obtain any “authentic Intelligence” of the Repeal of the French Edicts &c!! You may perhaps suppose that in my Letter to him of the 10th. I have examined too much at large the British Construction of the French Declaration. I should not have done so but for a Conversation a few Days before with Sir Wm Scott,4 who appeared to have a prodigious Hankering after the Nonsense about prèalable Conditions. It is known besides to have been the favorite Doctrine of the Court & its adherents, & of all that antineutral Class to which Stephen & Marryatt5 belong, and indeed of the people in general. We shall probably hear no more of it, however; and I understood, indeed, last Night that there is a perceptible Change in the Tone of Ministers & their Friends on the whole Subject. Whether they will act wisely in the End I cannot yet say. The presumption is always against them.

I have observed in my Letter that the Convenience of relaxing the orders in Council by Licenses “seems to be no longer enjoyed.” The Object of all that part of my Letter was merely to give a slight Sketch (which I should have been glad to be at Liberty to make much stronger) of that monopolizing and smuggling Scheme which has so long insulted the World & tried our Patience. The Fact is that they have not granted any Licenses for several Weeks. It is not however (as I am assured) that they are ashamed of this mean Practice, but because they hope, by abstaining from it for a Time, to get better Terms of Intercourse in this Way from their Enemy. If their orders &c should not be immediately revoked, so as to prevent the Revival of this Trick of Trade, a vigorous Tone should be used with them—and I shall be happy to be authorised to use it at Discretion. Be assured they will not stand against a shew of determined Resistance to their Injustice. But if they should, they must be resisted to the uttermost nevertheless.

There will, I incline to think, be a Regency6—but it is believed that the Prince will be greatly restricted at first. The Restrictions will not last; yet if he should be obliged to continue the present Ministers for any Time however short (which it is imagined will be a part of the Terms with which he will be shackled) the Mischiefs of their crooked & little policy towards the U. S., supposing that they mean to brave the Consequences of persevering in it, may become permanent & irretrievable.

There has been, I believe, some juggling in the Affair of a Minister plenepotentiary. You will see in my Letter to Mr Smith of the 14th. an Account of Ld. W’s late Explanations to me on that Head.7 I have omitted, however, to state in that Letter that he inadvertently remarked in the Course of the Conference that great pains had been taken by some people to persuade him “that the British Interest in America (I quote his words) would be completely destroyed by sending thither at this Time a Minister pleny.” He soon perceived by my Comments on this Suggestion that he had committed an Indiscretion in talking of it, and he wished me I thought to consider what he had said as confidential. May we not infer that these persuasions have had an Effect, when we look to the Quality of his ostensible Reasons for not redeeming his pledge of July last? Who the persuaders were he did not say—but Mr. Jackson (who by the bye cannot be very well satisfied with his Reception here) may be supposed to be among the Number, if he is not the only one. Whether this Gentleman (if he has used such Instances) quotes any American Authorities in Support of them, can only be guessed. It would be no Breach of Charity to conjecture that he does. At any Rate there must be some secret Cause for the Delay of the promised Mission. Even the Indolence of ———, added to the Reason assigned in Conference, will not explain it satisfactorily. There is Cunning at the bottom; and I can imagine nothing so likely to throw a Light upon it as the unguarded Communication of Ld W. above mentioned. Believe me to be—with sincere & affectionate Attachment—Dear Sir—your faithful & Obedient Servant

W. P.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1For Pinkney’s 10 Dec. 1810 letter to Lord Wellesley, see ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:376–79.

2For Wellesley to Pinkney, 4 Dec. 1810, see ibid., 3:376.

3For the texts of these letters, see ibid., 3:365, 373.

4William Scott (1745–1836) had lengthy careers in both politics and law. He first entered Parliament in 1790 where he held the seat for Oxford University until 1821. His true interests, however, were in admiralty and ecclesiastical law. In 1798 he was appointed to the Privy Council and to the judiciary of the High Court of Admiralty. In the latter capacity he delivered during the Napoleonic Wars many significant rulings which were harmful to American shipping interests (R. G. Thorne, ed., The History of Parliament: The Commons, 1790–1820 [5 vols.; London, 1986], 5:113–15; Bradford Perkins, “Sir William Scott and the Essex,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 13 [1956]: 169–83).

5Joseph Marryat (1757–1824) was the member of Parliament for Horsham. He was also a West India merchant, a Lloyd’s underwriter, and the colonial agent for Grenada. A strong supporter of the Perceval ministry, he published several pamphlets in support of its antineutral policies, most notably Concessions to America the Bane of Britain; or, The Cause of the Present Distressed Situation … (London, 1807) and, anonymously, Hints to Both Parties (London, 1808) (see Thorne, History of Parliament: The Commons, 4:549–53).

6The death of George III’s youngest daughter, Princess Amelia, in November 1810 provoked what proved to be the king’s final and permanent bout of insanity. On 20 Dec. 1810 Prime Minister Perceval introduced in the House of Commons a regency bill, based on a similar measure designed by William Pitt in 1788, and it passed into law on 5 Feb. 1811. In the event of the king’s making a quick recovery, the powers of the regent were limited in certain respects for a period of twelve months (see J. Steven Watson, The Reign of George III, 1760–1815 [Oxford, 1960], pp. 489–91).

7In explaining the delay in replacing Francis James Jackson in Washington, Lord Wellesley informed Pinkney that there had been “some obstacles of a personal Nature to obtaining the Services of the person whom he particularly wished to send to America; that he hoped these obstacles would soon be removed; that he had another person in View if it should be otherwise; that he had not supposed that Delay would be considered as of any moment by [the U.S.] Government after the assurance contained in his Note [to Pinkney] in July last; that these temporary Inequalities were common and when not meant to be offensive were never held to be so &c &c &c” (Pinkney to Robert Smith, 14 Dec. 1810 [DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain]).

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