James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 24 November 1817

From James Monroe

Washington Novr 24th. 1817

Dear Sir

I have been since my return here, so incessantly engaged in the most interesting business, that I have not had a moment to say any thing to you. I am now engaged in preparing the message for Congress, whose meeting is so near at hand, that I shall I fear be badly prepard. The question respecting canals & roads is full of difficulty, growing out of what has passd on it. After all the consideration I have given it, I am fixed in the opinion, that the right is not in Congress, and that it would be improper for me, after your negative, to allow them to discuss the subject & bring a bill for me to sign, in the expectation that I would do it. I have therefore decided to communicate my opinion in the message, & to recommend the procuring an amendment from the States, so as to vest the right in Congress, in a manner to comprize in it, a power also to institute seminaries of learning. The period is perhaps favorable to such a course.

The establishments at Amelia Island & Galvestown, have done us great injury, in smuggling of every kind, & particularly in introducing africans as slaves into the UStates. The southern States have complaind also, of their being made a receptacle for runaway slaves, particularly, the former. We have resolvd to break them up, for which, measures, are taken. Mr Rodney,1 Mr Graham, & Judge Bland,2 are to go, in the Congress along the coast to Buenos Ayres, for the purpose known to you.3 I have appointed Calhoun Secry of war,4 & Mr Wirt, Attorney General.5 The reciets into the Treasury have been, very great, perhaps 20. Millions, instead of 12., & Mr Crawford is of opinion, that I ought to recommend the repeal of the internal revenues, which I shall probably do. We are in pretty good health, & all my family desire their best regards to you and Mrs Madison. Very respectfully & sincerely your friend

James Monroe


1Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772–1824), son of Thomas Rodney and nephew of Caesar Rodney, entered Delaware politics in 1796 and was elected to Congress as a Democratic Republican, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1803–5 and 1821–22, and the U.S. Senate, 1822–23. He was U.S. attorney general, 1807–11, and in 1817 was appointed to the investigative commission to South America (see n. 3 below). In 1823 he was appointed U.S. minister to the United Provinces of La Plata (now Argentina) at Buenos Aires but died soon after his arrival there.

2Theodorick Bland (d. 1846) was an Annapolis lawyer and state politician who served as chancellor of Maryland (Daily National Intelligencer, 18 Nov. 1846).

3In the wake of fighting between Spain and its South American colonies and the declaration of independence by Buenos Aires in 1816, the Monroe administration decided to send three commissioners, Caesar A. Rodney, John Graham, and Theodorick Bland, in the frigate Congress “to examine the state of those colonies, the progress of the revolution, and the probability of its success, and to make a report accordingly” (Cunningham, Presidency of James Monroe, 43).

4John Caldwell Calhoun (1782–1850) was a South Carolina congressman, 1811–17, who strongly supported JM’s administration during the War of 1812. His terms of service included secretary of war, 1817–25, vice president, 1825–32, the U.S. Senate, 1832–43, secretary of state, 1844–45, and again in the U.S. Senate, 1845 until his death. He was the originator and great proponent of the theory of nullification.

5William Wirt (1772–1834) was a prominent Virginia lawyer known for his prosecution of Aaron Burr in 1807 and as the author of The Letters of the British Spy (1803) and Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (1817). He was appointed U.S. attorney general in 1817 and served in that post until 1829.

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