From James Monroe
washington may 9. 1814
I have just had the pleasure to receive your favor of the 7th.
The convention of Genl. Winder has been submitted to the heads of dept., with whom there seems to be strong doubts respecting its confirmation. Whether it would be better, in case of the acceptance of it, to obtain the release of our 46. officers by the release of the twenty three British soldiers, was a point on which they have even yet made up no decided opinion. The result of our deliberations will be found in the enclosed papers 1. being a copy of instructions to Genl winder1—the other, of a private letter, going into some details, which occured after the conclusion of the official one, and which indeed were as well communicated in a private one.2 By these, you will find, that without deciding the question of ratification, an experiment will be made to improve it. My letter was written in haste & will I fear be unintelligible, in the last paragh. to you. Genl. winder however who heard the conversation alluded to, will by aid thereof easily comprehend my meaning.
The Secry at war was of opinion that his instructions had been so precise to genl. Macomb, to take no step in case of the exchge of genl winder, and with which he was made acquainted in due time, that the affr. of the armistice would remain suspended for Genl. winder’s return. The arrangment was made to that effect, before however the Genl. left this, the papers from Genl Macomb, which are also inclosed, were receivd.3 Notwithstanding this preliminary step of Macomb, Genl. armstrong thinks that an order which he had written after he knew of the exchge of Genl winder, would still arrest the proceeding,4 in consequence whereof, Genl W, has been orderd on to the lines, with powers applicable to both objects. He leaves Baltimore this morning. With a view to keep the business in some degree suspended, with the British commander, Genl. Winder, wrote a letter to Col: Baynes, in the spirit of the 3. or 4. introductory paraghs. of mine to him, which was inclosd by him to Sr G P., and forwarded to the commanding officer on the lines to be sent in by a flag of truce. If Macom⟨b’s⟩ project has been carried into effect, this will do no harm. If it has not, it will explain more fully the cause of the suspension, and break the other subject, in a manner that may conciliate, while it shows that it also is to be a subject of consideration.
This has been a most perplexing affair. I hope however that you will find that it is in a train from which some good may be derivd without any danger of injury. With affectionate regard,
RC and enclosures (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). For surviving enclosures, see nn. 1–2.
1. The enclosed copy of Monroe’s 7 May 1814 instructions to Brig. Gen. William H. Winder (6 pp.) expressed the administration’s disappointment that Winder had left Canada before receiving the letters empowering him to negotiate an armistice (see Monroe to JM, 10 Apr. 1814, and n. 2), and informing him that the United States had paroled several British officers (see JM to Monroe, 1 May 1814, and n. 1). Monroe enclosed with the instructions a copy of his 20 Apr. 1814 letter to Winder conveying news of the parole (3 pp.). He asked Winder to return to Canada “without delay,” to retrieve the instructions for negotiating an armistice sent to him there, and to proceed with that task accordingly. In addition, the administration requested that Winder attempt to modify the exchange convention, using the news of the British prisoners’ release to obtain the release on exchange or parole of the forty-six U.S. officers retained as hostages by Great Britain.
2. Monroe enclosed a copy of his private letter to Winder of 8 May 1814 (4 pp.), stating that if Sir George Prevost were to ask whether or not the U.S. government would ratify the exchange convention as signed, Winder should reply that a decision would be made on that point only if Prevost did not agree to changes. In the last paragraph Monroe noted that Winder should not agree to drop the reserved right to retaliate from the convention (which possibility had been discussed at a cabinet meeting in his presence) unless it was very clear that the United States would benefit by his doing so.
4. On 29 Apr. 1814 Armstrong informed Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb that the letters he had received relating to armistice negotiations were “not to be employed ’till further orders,” since Winder had been exchanged (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).