James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 18 May 1818

From James Monroe

Washington May 18th. 1818

Dear Sir

I send you within two papers which will give you the most full & correct information of the views of the allies respecting So. America, that we possess; I mean more particularly that which bears date at Moscow.1 Its authenticity may be relied on, as we are assur’d, by Mr Erving, by a later letter, than that which accompanied it. You will keep both till we meet, but when that will be, I cannot now state, as it will depend on the arrangments of my family, to be made, after the arrival of Mr Hay,2 who is expected, in a few days. Of this I will write you, after seeing him. I shall descend the bay, in a week or ten days. With great respect & sincere regard I am dear sir yours

James Monroe

The letter of Mr Sumter,3 I find, has not been returnd by Mr Crawford to whom, I had given it, but it shall be soon sent.


1For this document, and Erving’s letter in which it was enclosed, see Monroe to JM, 28 Apr. 1818, and n. 1.

2George Hay (1765–1830) was a Virginia lawyer and James Monroe’s son-in-law and advisor. Jefferson appointed Hay U.S. attorney for the district of Virginia in 1803. He represented Henrico County in the Virginia House of Delegates, 1816–17, and served in the state senate for the next four years. In 1825 he was appointed judge of the U.S. district court for eastern Virginia (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 7:75 n. 12).

3U.S. minister Thomas Sumter Jr. in a 10 Feb. 1818 letter from Rio de Janiero to James Monroe (DLC; 6 pp.) advised the president not to be rushed into a hasty recognition of the independence of the revolutionary states of South America by Henry Clay and his supporters in Congress. Recognition, he wrote, “without concert with some of its [Europe’s] principal powers,” would be “nothing more nor less than the first step to an alliance with some of those colonies, without insuring us the support of all of them; and as the forerunner of a war, at least with Spain & all the marritime and colonizing states of Europe.” He went on to say that though he wished “the independence of all colonies,” he was “not inclined for the Cæsarean operation in national births, when we are to be the principal operator, and our reputation & wealth must be mortgaged to insure the success of the delivery.”

On the subject of his own future, Sumter wrote that he had no political ambitions and wanted only to return home to private life. “Mr. Madison has spoiled a tolerable cotton planter & only made a clumsy courtier of me.” And to justify his request to be relieved of his post, he recalled that “I requested Mr. Madison to promise me, & he did promise me when I visited him at Orange, that I should not be required to stay from home, or to stay here more than three years—the war unavoidably extended my stay to six.”

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