James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 19 April 1811

To Thomas Jefferson

W. Apl. 19. 1811

Dear Sir

I have recd. your favor of  1 containing the requested extract from Armstrong’s letter relating to Warden. A. has entangled himself in such gross inconsistencies, that he may perhaps not execute this threat to vindicate his removal of W. agst. my reinstatement of him. This consideration alone will restrain his enmity agst. both of us. You will see the conflict in which he is engaged with Fulton.2 Pinkney is weekly expected by the return of the Essex. Previous to his taking leave of the Prince Regt. he ascertained by a correspondence with Wellesley, that his stay was wished for the mere purpose of delay and delusion. The mission of Foster,3 like that of Rose, plays the same game.4 The Convalescence of the King renders the Prince a Cypher; and his Cabinet is inflexible in its folly & depravity. The inclosed paper of Poulson, publishes from the “Courier” the Cabinet paper,5 the doctrine which is to be maintained & modified for the purposes of plunder.6 We have been long without official intelligence from France. The last was not unfavorable. Appearances & reports have of late engendered suspicions of foul play. The arrivals of two vessels from Bayonne, in the Delaware, with the notice of others to follow, indicate a renewal of trade. On the other hand extracts of letters seem to imply a continuance of the Iron policy in that quarter. The symptoms of approaching war between France & Russia seem to multiply.7 I am sorry to trouble you with a recurrence to your dormant files, but as I know the facility afforded by the method of them, I will ask the favor of you [to] look under the “Anonymous” head for a long letter or letters, written from London, in the beginning of 1809; in a disguised hand, & signed “A Man.” If recd. at all, it probably was forwarded by Lyman. Affectionately & respectfully

James Madison

RC (DLC). Docketed by Jefferson, “recd. Apr. 21.”

1JM left a blank space here; he referred to Jefferson’s letter of 7 Apr. 1811.

2JM may have detected the hand of Armstrong in a series of N.Y. Evening Post editorials opposing the appointment of Joel Barlow as minister to France. Those published on 21 and 22 Mar. 1811 attacked the minister-designate through his friendship with Robert Fulton and pointedly reminded readers that the two men had shared living accommodations in Paris as “the Nisus and Eurialus of modern times.” These editorials also criticized Barlow and Fulton for their efforts to persuade the American, British, and French governments to finance Fulton’s controversial experiments in torpedo warfare.

3Augustus John Foster (1780–1848), son of an Irish M.P. and the duchess of Devonshire, had been appointed minister plenipotentiary to the U.S. in April 1811, and he served in that capacity until his departure from Washington after the American declaration of war against Great Britain in June 1812. He had previously resided in Washington as secretary to the British legation, 1804–8. His later diplomatic career until his retirement in 1840 was uneventful. He committed suicide in 1848 (Mayo, Instructions to British Ministers description begins Bernard Mayo, ed., Instructions to the British Ministers to the United States, 1791–1812, Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1936, vol. 3 (Washington, 1941). description ends , p. 310).

4In a dispatch written to Robert Smith on 12 Feb. 1811 shortly before he took his leave from the Prince Regent, Pinkney declared that “nothing is to be expected from this Government in the way of negotiation; and … our Rights must either be abandoned altogether or vigorously asserted.” On 18 Feb. he further remarked that under such circumstances the recent selection of Augustus John Foster as minister to Washington “was nothing, or rather worse than nothing” (DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain; the dispatch of 12 Feb. bears a pencil notation by JM indicating that he had read the contents). Three days before JM wrote his 19 Apr. letter to Jefferson the National Intelligencer had published a lengthy editorial on “Our Relations with G. Britain,” which according to Joseph Gales, Jr., was based on a conversation he had with JM on 13 Apr. The editorial stipulated three conditions for a settlement with Great Britain—that Great Britain must abandon the practice of impressment, modify its system of blockades, and repeal the orders in council—but also predicted that the diplomatic mission of Foster would not accomplish these goals. The editorial concluded that if the negotiations were unsuccessful, “it will be for the people of the United States, speaking thro’ their delegates, to nerve the Executive arm, by rigorously enforcing the present non-importation, or substituting for it some measure more consonant to the feelings of the nation” (National Intelligencer, 16 Apr. 1811; “Recollections of the Civil History of the War of 1812,” Historical Magazine, 3d ser., 3 [1874–75]: 162–63).

5Here JM originally wrote “P’s Cabinet paper.”

6JM evidently enclosed a copy of the 17 Apr. issue of the Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser which had reprinted a 31 Jan. 1811 editorial from the London Courier to the effect that a settlement of Great Britain’s differences with the U.S. was neither to be expected nor even greatly to be desired. The editorial argued at length that the U.S. had sided with France in all matters relating to neutral rights and predicted that the Madison administration would demand for a settlement that Great Britain repeal not only the orders in council but also Fox’s blockade of 1806, and thus accept, in effect, French definitions of the doctrine of blockade. In particular, the editorial rejected the claim made by several American newspapers (including the National Intelligencer on 15 Oct. 1810 [see PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984—). description ends , 2:586 n. 1]), that the limited British blockade of Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1804 could be adduced as evidence that the British government had accepted the position that specific ports had to be “actually invested” in order to maintain a legal blockade. To oppose this pretension, the Courier suggested that Great Britain explicitly adopt the position that it could control all the seas and that no nation or fleet could sail upon them without British permission. Neither should Great Britain, the editorial concluded, cease the practices of searching American vessels and impressing American seamen, nor should the ministry apologize for the Chesapeake affair. Excerpts from this editorial were reprinted in the National Intelligencer on 23 Apr. 1811.

7JM had probably just read John Quincy Adams’s December 1810 dispatch from Russia. The American minister stated that it was the “first principle of the present Russian policy … to keep upon good terms with France. This disposition is certainly not on the part of France reciprocal.” Since Napoleon’s marriage in April 1810, France’s policy toward Russia had been increasingly hostile, to the point of demanding from the latter “measures ruinous to her own interests and derogatory to her independence.” Russia had rejected the demands, but Adams believed it was “not probable that France will be satisfied with this,” and he predicted that “relations between the two countries are approaching to a crisis on a point highly interesting to us.” From every assurance he had received, Adams was certain “that the determination to resist to the last has been deliberately taken here” (Adams to Robert Smith, 15/27 Dec. 1810, Ford, Writings of J. Q. Adams description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., The Writings of John Quincy Adams (7 vols.; New York, 1913–17). description ends , 3:553–55).

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