James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Edmond Kelly, 26 September 1820

From Edmond Kelly

Columbia Ten 26th Septr 1820


I hope you are perswaded that no wish to catch at popularity Induced me to write my former letters—that is the road usually traveled by obscure demagogues whose object it is to exalt themselves, and I wd. deserve contempt had I been actuated by any such motive—every days experience verifies the truth of Lord Mansfields observation that the applause of the mob is not always the meed of merit,1 and is so veering, so capriciously lost that the best patriots & those that approach nearest to human perfection seldom retain it long and in truth I would not wish to be suspected to be a Candidate for that sort of popularity or envied it by the meanest demagogue or dullest Editor in the union. My motive was a different one. I found that a Conspiracy Organised by british agents for Cromwells & Williams nobility (but in which the present ministers who are not of the Orange party had no share) to anihilate American Independence and enslave this country to England was Identified with their efforts to extinguish my right to my family property—which was usurped by some of that party before & after the revolution of 1688—thus circumstanced I own I felt interrested in opposing it. I did so & that party has done all that poisonous & sanguinary bloodhounds could do against me—and also all that avaricious mercenary Traitors alured by promises of shareing in their countries pillage could with safety attempt. I hope I have Contributed to expose and defeat their designs and I have the pleasure to find they are for the present foiled—but altho my efforts to resist british despotism & robbery & its fatal effects did not emanate soley from that pure motive of public good which actuates true & great patriots & in which personal Interest & self preservation has no share I yet hope that I am not undeserving that protection which the constitution I suppose extends to every honest & well behaived man in the Commy. that merits it. I mention this in reply to a charge of favoritism I perceive to have been artfully and insidiously made & I beg leave to observe that partiality to any one on whom fraud is practised or attempted to be practised is consistent with the purest exercise of Justice which protects & secures every man his rights & property, and that in this instance a resistance to british Intrigue was a civic duty & not an act of prejudice or partiality—and to certain Impostors sent to America to Claim Estates in Ireland that as America can neither legislate Judicate nor adjudicate for Ireland—Title duly certified to have been proved in a court of Justice in Ireland is necessary to be produced here to entitle any such claimant to any rents or mesne rates of Lands to which claim is made that may have been transmitted here from that country but that it would be contrary to Justice & to every duty of Republicanism to pay it away as a quantum meruit2 to the favorite gallants of a british princess for meretricious favors & services—even & altho such claimants or gallants should in the Opinion of their british patrons possess patriotic Virtues & perfections that would qualify each & every of them from Wil Snip to John Bull to be a grecian Archon & a roman Consul.3

My last letter4 (& I suppose many others) was written in such an inexcuseable hurry that it was after puting it in the post office I recollected some gramatical Errors & assertions that required explanation particularly respecting what I mentioned of Genl Jackson. I am yet of the same opinion that he is not a tactition & could not with any force the American Orangemen could procure him subvert the freedom of the Republic if Opposed by an experienced Officer & tactitian yet I am perswaded he is a daring and a dangerous Conspirator & that his patronage & influence has heretofore been exerted to encrease Orangemen in & out of the American Army & that his removal is necessary to preserve the public peace & damp or check the hopes of that extensive asso. of Conspirators to which he belongs—& I further think that $500 or one thousand dollars would induce some needy orangeman from time to time to Discloze such particulars as would enable the Legislative department to counteract their designs.

Genl Jacksons Interference in legislative proceedings here5 on the loan office bill for the purpose of arraying the poorer against the wealthier Classes (a matter specially recomd by british Instructions (& our Governors Message is in Conformity to such Instructions) Irritated this state legislature & tended to facilitate the passing of that unconstitutional law—let it be recollected that Moreau6 gained his greatest successes when he was a determined traitor—that his object was to become popular & to increase his fortune and to avail himself of the first favourable Oppy to Overthrow the french Republic—and should not that be a warning to the American Republic. Mr Monroe will not interfere—under his admn. a state of liberty is a state of Licenciousness—a liberty as Mr Locke says for every one to do as he list7—the Violations of the Constitution—by the robbery of the national branch bank at Ohio—& the robbery of it in Philadelphia appear to be matters of Indifference to him8—that Institution which well managed would consolidate the capital of the Republic and in the event of war prevent the necessity of sending money to foreign countries as Interest for loans he permitts a british party to pillage with Impunity because I suppose a national bank in aid of Industry and Domestic manufactures would prove fatal to the hopes of England—to rob an Individual is death but to rob the public or the nation is meritorious—such services must endear him to the british Ascendancy or Oligarchs & perhaps ensure his reelection. Surely such a man & Genl Jackson cannot disagree.

I consider Mr Monroes delivering up the possession of East Florida to Spain & his subsequently declining to occupy it under the authority of congress as done to give the spanish Govt an Opportunity at some more convenient time to interest monarchs in his favor to form a coalition to preserve it for it is only by a Coalition & an Invasion of the U States the british party expects to become the American aristocracy. E Florida which would be an invaluable acquisition to the US as a marine & military position he appears resolved shall not belong to the Amn Republic. One objection is that it is an arid Sand-but that might be the best defence against an invadeing Enemy—it is supposed never to have defrayed the expences of its govt. & if Spain loozes her colonies as is not improbable will be useless to her but is of Vital Importance to America to protect the gulf trade & exclude foreign Enemies. He has risked the Transferr of it to England the enemy of Liberty and of mankind this to say no worse of it was an error which if the british ministers were of Cromwells Oligarchs would have before this time caused a war in which he is as much disappointed as in sending Mr Campbell9 to Rusia—instead of a pecuniary compensation for this arid sand he & Mr John Adams10 tho both Lawyars illegally agreed to barter away the most precious part of Mr Jeffersons Acquisition that part of Texas within Loisiana which wd supply America with Coffee sugar & such other west India Island produce as would enable the U States to receive cash for their exports to these Islands and thus contribute materially to the prosperity of the US—this invaluable Territory is agreed to be transferred in liew of a barren Sand. It is not presumeable that these Gentn being Lawyars did not know such transferr unconstitutional and Inju⟨ri⟩ous to America. Mr Trimble11 of Kentuckeys arguments are so clear & conclusive that it is not possible such a sacrifice will be permitted. In truth no man that has yet spoken on that subject shewed equal ability & were he appointed Negotiator de novo the treaty of Don Onis12 being Voided by the nonfulfillment of its Terms &ca. he would not sacrifice the Interests of the American Republic—my Zeal to defeat the hopes Intrigues & Designs of England to enslave America & perpetuate her present ruinous monopoly in British Manufactures and Colonial or west india Island produce will excuse my Zeal and Interference in this affair Whether my Ideas of its importance are correct or not Mr Madison and Mr Jeffn. are the best Judges of & if correct it is hoped the affair will Interest them to interfere & if possible prevent a sacrifice so injurious to the best interests of the Republic.

I perceive that Merchants concerned in that ruinous business the importation of british Manufactures who are in fact british factors & Collectors of what may be considered british Revenue have prepared petitions to Congress against domestic manufactures and protecting duties on imports of it13 and also that the Tobacco planters of Virginia apprehensive that in such Event England will retaliate by rejecting their Tobacco have also prepared a petition against D Manfs & protecting duties14 which is no more than what might be expected & Verifies the Poets assertion

that all men are true to their own private ends

tho false to their Country its laws & their friends15

&ca. &ca.

but supposing for argument sake that the Custom house entries & returns of England & America would not shew that American Imports from there exceed considerably her Exports (& I believe the Contrary to be the fact). If it is clearly Manifest & indisputably true that the Importation of british Manufactrs brings to England the cash that ought to Circulate in America for domestic Manufactures to be wrought here by resident Manufacturers surely a trade so Injurious to the Republic so degrading to american Intellect such a Veto of american Industry and all Industrious habits and such a source of wealth to those who subsidise all European Kings to crush every appearance of rational freedom to perpetuate their exclusive monopoly cannot be permitted—it cannot be possible that in Justice to the Republic at large the Interest of the Import Merchants & Tobacco planters Can preponderate against the Interest of the U. States Collectively—it is scarcely possible to suppose it. I admitt the Import Merchants will looze by restrictions &ca. but I deny that the Tobacco planters will. Tobacco will always have a sure sale in Europe but should it even be rejected there the Land that yeilds Tobacco will yeild grain and as there is no probability they will be Injured by this measure the sophisticated petition of Col Taylor will it is hoped be rejected.16

It will have another good Effect. The Hartford Conventn supposes that a seperation of the New England states either as an Independt Republic or as a british Colony would invest them with its revenues and that in the event of such a Change they would be the permanent Ministers or the permanent Executive of that Country—their supporters are the Mercantile Interest which expects to have the Import trade in british Manufactures perpetuated & secured to them. These two leading Interests are agreed & doubtless under Implied Contracts to each other to plunder & pillage the Country & divide the booty between them so much so that not a Vagrant Pedlar from that quarter comes here to vend goods that is not an Orangeman & a politician & in their own phraise not blind—do an act of Justice to the Republic & youl prevent this Intended seperation & prese[r]ve its Integrity. Establish domestic Manufactures & let resident Manufactures circulate as they must do for support & necessaries their proportions of the cash receivable for domestic Manufactures & store Keepers must do the same thing and you will at once destroy the hopes of that detestable band of Conspirators against their countrie’s prosperity—destroy their Iniquitous Monopoly & domestic Industry will prosper in the same ratio—it will abolish the stimulus to disaffection treason & seperation & as Mr Emmett of New York in his pamphlet of the Philosopher sayed (but in which he unfortunately for human nature had refferrence to the Guillotine) cut off their Monopoly and you will cut of[f] the cause from which both the evil & the exaction flows & which is the cause of the present general scarcity of money in America & of her Embarrassment.17

But it may be sayed this pecuniary Embarrassment is not confined to America—it extends to Europe & is equally felt there. I admitt it. England has heretofore monopolised the productive trade of southern Europe—her Merchandise & Manufactures brought her the circulating & dispozeable cash of Portugal & Spain & their Colonies & of America &ca &ca. For her the spaniard & the Creole worked the mines of Mexico & Peru to whom Gol[d] & Silver was as dross Compared with british fine Scarlet cloth & other fineries—that source of british wealth felt considerable Interruption. England alarmed at the danger that threatened her Monopoly drew the bullion from the british banks & sent it to the north of Europe in subsidies—it is plenty there but these causes have made it scarce in the british dominions and in America—that is the cause of the Embt felt in England but the Excessive Importations of british Merchandise & Manufactures is the cause of the scarcity of money in America—it is in Vain for Messrs. Floyd & Williams18 to sound an alarm in congress to the friends of England & the Orangemen on this subject. British monopoly is ruinous to America—its further Continuance will cause national Bankruptcy or Insolvency. These Infatuated Individuals themselves must suffer by it. Temporising expedients may check its progress but cannot ultimately avert that fatal event.

You have read with surprise England subsidising all European Monarchs to restore Charles the 4th and the french army no sooner expelled than she proposed a Briton for their King. Such acts of perfidy & duplicity are peculiar to England—she subsidised & fought to preserve her Monopoly & could do it better by having a briton on the throne of Spain than a Bourboon (Spanish Merino wool & Spanish Iron being the most necessary of all her Imported Materials). The answer of the Marquess De Ossunna19 was worthy of a noble Spaniard that Spain would not be governed by any Usurper given on the part of the Nation & Nobility prevented any further attempt at Negotiation the Kings would not permitt it unless agreeable to the spanish people & there it droped—with the same Views & motives Lord Cochrane20 is privately permitted to Join the south American patriots & supplies of men & arms are suffered to be furnished With a View of securing the friendship of the patriots & a sale for british Merchandise—thus you may perceive England has acted the deceitfull double dealer when the mistaken world considers her Magnanimous—such is britain—a modern Carthage—in Joseph Bonapartes Reign England sent such an abundance of her Manufactures to south America as alarmed that people—the patriots laid such a high duty on them that the supercargoes & agents were Obliged to sacrifice their goods at auction and the produce only defrayed their Expences & paid the duties—thus it is evident England professes herself the friend of both parties—of the Spanish King & of the patriots but will take part on that side where her Interest preponderates—& untill events decide on which side it is she will prudently remain in utrumque paratus.21 On the whole I think England has seen her best days—should Congress sanction Mr Jeffersons great plan or design of opening a Communication with asia by the Columbia River & the pacific Ocean & indeed the absence of that great man from the public councils is a real national loss—& should America Manufacture for herself and I think the Cortes will soon have their wool & Iron manufactured at home the ship of british Monopoly will looze her Main anchor—will drift down the Current of adversity & be wrecked on the shore of mediocrity & probably find as Goldsmith sayed of Venice, that her former greatness was Phletoric [sic] Ill.22 I am with the utmost respect &ca.

Edmond Kelly

My next letter will be written next week will contain the state of british parties the cause of the Continentall Changes in Spain & Insurrection in France &ca. I expect Mr. Madison will find it Interresting.

RC (NN). Addressed by Kelly to JM “late Presidt US at his Country residence Washington City State of Virginia.” Postmarked “Columbia T 30th. Sepr.” Damaged by removal of seal.

1Kelly may have been referring here to Lord Mansfield’s speech in Parliament of 9 May 1770 on a bill relating to the privilege of Parliament: “It has been said by a noble lord on my left hand, that I likewise am running the race of popularity. If the noble lord means by popularity, that applause bestowed by after ages on good and virtuous actions, I have long been struggling in that race, to what purpose all-trying time can alone determine; but if that noble lord means that mushroom popularity that is raised without merit, and lost without a crime, he is much mistaken in his opinion” (William Cobbett, The Parliamentary History of England from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. … [36 vols.; London, 1806–20], 16:977).

2Quantum meruit: “as much as he has deserved” (Black’s Law Dictionary [9th ed.], 1361).

3William Snip was a Philadelphia merchant tailor in “Slender’s Journey,” a poem by Philip Freneau (Fred Lewis Pattee, ed., The Poems of Philip Freneau, Poet of the American Revolution [3 vols.; Princeton, N.J., 1902–7], 2:340).

4Kelly to JM, ca. 29 Jan. 1820, PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (2 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:591–95.

5For Andrew Jackson’s opposition to the creation of a state loan office in Tennessee designed to mitigate the effects of the financial crisis of 1819, see Smith et al., Papers of Andrew Jackson, 4:375–76.

6Jean-Victor Moreau (1763–1813) was a French revolutionary general whose battlefield success, at Hohenlinden (1800) and elsewhere, for a time rivaled that of Napoleon. Jealous and suspicious of Moreau’s popularity with the army and the French public, Napoleon had Moreau arrested and tried for conspiracy. Condemned to a two-year prison term in 1804, Moreau was subsequently banished to the United States, and arrived there in 1805. He and his wife settled in New Jersey, near the falls of the Delaware River, and wintered in New York City. Moreau returned to Europe in 1813 and joined the allied armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria in a campaign against Napoleon; he was mortally wounded at the battle of Dresden (Biographie universelle [1843–65 ed.], 29:256–62).

7Here Kelly refers to John Locke’s rebuttal of Robert Filmer’s definition of freedom. It is not “a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws”; liberty is “to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man” (Locke, Two Treatises on Civil Government, 202).

8On 17 Sept. 1819 the state of Ohio executed a law imposing a $50,000 tax on the branch Bank of the United States at Chillicothe, Ohio, an action in defiance of the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of McCullough v. Maryland (Niles’ Weekly Register 17 [2 Oct. 1819]: 65).

9George Washington Campbell (1769–1848) was a Scottish-born, Princeton graduate who moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, and began practicing law in 1798. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Jeffersonian Republican in 1803 and served until 1809. After a brief turn as a judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals, Campbell was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1811, where he served until JM appointed him secretary of the Treasury in 1814. He resigned after eight months in office and returned to the Senate in October 1815, leaving when President Monroe appointed him U.S. minister to Russia in 1818, a post he held until 1820. He returned to Tennessee where he involved himself in banking and land speculation, and his last public office was a seat on the French Spoliation Claims Commission, 1832–35 (J. Jefferson Looney and Ruth L. Woodward, Princetonians, 1791–1794: A Biographical Dictionary [Princeton, N.J., 1991], 341–50).

10John Quincy Adams.

11David Trimble (1782–1842), born in Virginia and educated at the College of William and Mary, was a War of 1812 veteran and a Kentucky Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1817–27 (Biographical Encyclopaedia of Kentucky [1980 reprint], 293). Trimble’s speech in the House opposing the Adams-Onís Treaty was delivered on 4 Apr. 1820 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 16th Cong., 1st sess., 1756–68).

12For the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, see PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (2 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 1:410 n. 2.

13For the memorial of the “merchants and inhabitants of Salem,” Massachusetts, 31 Jan. 1820, see Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 16th Cong., 1st sess., 2335–48.

14For the “remonstrance of the Virginia Agricultural Society of Fredericksburg against the attempts … to increase the duties upon foreign goods,” 3 Jan. 1820, and the “memorial of the United Agricultural Society of Virginia,” 17 Jan. 1820, see ibid., 2296–99, 2323–27.

15“Most Men will be true to their own private ends, / Though false to their country, religion, and friends;” were lines taken from Fable 4, “Of the Town in Danger of a Siege,” in Daniel Fenning, The Universal Spelling-Book: or, A New and Easy Guide to the English Language (London, 1767), 41–42.

16A memorial to Congress, “presented and read by Col. John Taylor, of Caroline,” was “unanimously adopted” by a “united meeting of Farmers and Merchants” in Fredericksburg on 12 Aug. 1820. The memorial, under a 29 Aug. dateline, was published in the Daily National Intelligencer, 2 Sept. 1820.

17Kelly may have been referring here to A Demonstration of the Necessity of a Legislative Union of Great Britain and Ireland, Involving a Refutation of Every Argument Which Has Been or Can Be Urged against That Measure. By a Philosopher (Dublin, 1799), 38. “The philosopher would tell such a people [the Irish] that the true mode of redress is not by coldly declaring that it is only obliged to pay a certain tribute, and the exaction is an innovation: but by boldly dissolving altogether that connexion between the ruling and the subject state, from which both the tribute, and the exaction flow.” The author of this pamphlet was said to be Thomas Addis Emmett’s good friend, William James MacNeven (British Critic, for January … June 1799 13 [1799]: 200).

18Lewis Williams (1786–1842), a graduate of the University of North Carolina, served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1815–42 (Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6:211). For the speeches of John Floyd and Lewis Williams, 29 Apr. 1820, against the tariff, see Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 16th Cong., 1st sess., 2140–45.

19The Osuna family of Osuna, Andalusia, was one of the richest and oldest noble families in Spain. Don Francisco de Borja Téllez-Girón y Pimentel (1785–1820), was the tenth duke of Osuna (Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Bonapartism, 1800–1815 [Chicago, 1990], 253; Antonio Marichalar, The Perils and Fortune of the Duke of Osuna [Philadelphia, 1932], 82, 84–85).

20Thomas Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860), was a British naval officer and member of Parliament whose political outspokenness and alleged involvement in a stock exchange fraud, despite a distinguished service record in the wars against France, earned his dismissal from the Royal Navy in 1814. Cochrane became admiral and commander-in-chief of the Chilean navy in 1818 and assisted in the liberation of Chile and Peru from Spanish rule. He left the Chilean service in 1822 to enter that of Brazil in which he served until 1825. In that year he accepted the command of the embryonic Greek navy but was unable to muster a respectable force before the end of the Greek war in 1827. For the next several years Cochrane attempted to be reinstated in the Royal Navy and was finally successful in 1832, being gazetted rear admiral. He was appointed Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom in 1854 (Donald Thomas, Cochrane: Britannia’s Last Sea-King [London, 1978], 16, 74, 97, 119, 177, 217, 227, 243–44, 274, 277, 279, 291, 294–95, 313, 318, 322, 339, 341).

21Utrumque paratus: prepared for either.

22“And late the nation found with fruitless skill / Its former strength was but plethoric ill” (George Birkbeck Hill, ed., Goldsmith, The Traveller [Oxford, 1888], 8).

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