James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Pinkney, 10 May 1808


London. May. 10th. 1808

⟨Dr.⟩ Sir

I received yesterday, after I had finished ⟨my⟩ public Dispatch, a Letter from Mr. Otto, who went ⟨late⟩ly to Holland, & promised while there to give me ⟨such⟩ Intelligence of passing Events as might be in his ⟨Powe⟩r. I enclose a Copy of that Letter. ⟨It⟩ leaves little Room to doubt that an obnoxious ⟨Decr⟩ee has been recently issued at Bayonne by the ⟨Fren⟩ch Government, reinforcing its former anti-com⟨mer⟩cial Edicts; and superadding a Provision of ⟨incr⟩eased Rigour. The Decree itself (of which ⟨we⟩ had an ambiguous & discredited Rumour some ⟨Days⟩ ago) has not yet found its Way to England.

⟨I⟩ have hardly any thing else worth saying to you. ⟨A De⟩sire to be Friends with us seems now to be ⟨alm⟩ost universal here; and it may I think ⟨be s⟩afely assumed that it pervades the Cabinet. ⟨I be⟩lieve that the King is so disposed. ⟨Wha⟩t will be the practical Result of that Disposition, ⟨with⟩ Reference to particular Measures & Pretensions, ⟨whic⟩h touch most nearly our Honor & Prosperity, ⟨is⟩ far more doubtful. The hostile Spirit against ⟨Fran⟩ce is at its Height. Animosity is exasperated ⟨by w⟩ell founded Alarm; and whatever promises ⟨Ann⟩oyance on the one Hand, or Security on the ⟨other⟩, may not easily be yielded to the Wishes, ⟨howe⟩ver strong, to conciliate us. The Nation is ⟨with⟩ the Government in that Respect; at least such ⟨is the⟩ Appearance. There has been sufficient ⟨Time⟩ for sober Reflection, to enable the most intemperate advocate of War with America to discover the Rashness of his early opinions. The firm attitude taken with such provident Foresight by the Government of the United States, the combined Operation of the Embargo, of the other Measures of our Legislatu⟨re⟩ & Executive, of their own Orders in Council, and of French Decrees, the Discussions (through the Liverp⟨ool⟩ Petitioners and others) by which the vital Importan⟨ce⟩ of American Connection & Intercourse (and even ⟨of⟩ that American Trade, which their late Orders would injudiciously crush) has been demonstrated to all, the still progressive March ⟨of⟩ the Power of France, and the new Difficulties ⟨&⟩ Perils, which, with a persevering Fertility, it p⟨ro⟩duces or threatens, would have created, if it ⟨did⟩ not exist before, an anxiety to avoid a Ruptur⟨e⟩ with us. But if we continue at Peace with France (which, if it be possible without Dishonour, I trust we shall) they will recede here on certain Points with infinite Difficul⟨ty⟩ & Reluctance, if they recede at all. They will not go to War; but it is to be doubted whether they are prepared to do what may be indispensable to the Re-establishment of interrupted Friendship. They will be content to leave Things as they are, and ⟨to⟩ trust to the Influence of Events. A Hope will perhaps be indulged, that we cannot persevere in the Embargo; that, weary of ⟨our⟩ System of Self-Denial, pressed by French Aggr⟨ession,⟩ and alarmed by the wide-spread Domination ⟨& res⟩tless Ambition of France, we shall at length be ⟨in⟩duced to acquiesce in the Principles & Practices ⟨of⟩ Great Britain (which must necessarily produce ⟨a⟩ Contest with her Enemy) or at once to make ⟨co⟩mmon Cause with her against that Enemy.

What is to be the System of France with Regard ⟨to⟩ us I know not; but it is sufficiently obvious ⟨tha⟩t, in the angry Struggles of those Rival Powers, ⟨our⟩ Rights are forgotten by both; and that it ⟨req⟩uires all the tried Wisdom and Firmness of ⟨ou⟩r Government, and all the Virtue of our ⟨Peo⟩ple, to conduct us in Safety, and with ⟨Ho⟩nor, through the Tempests that agitate and ⟨aff⟩lict the World.

My Health has suffered a little since ⟨my⟩ Return to England, and I am disposed to ⟨asc⟩ribe it to a continued Confinement to London, ⟨fro⟩m which I have not been absent a single ⟨da⟩y for almost two Years. I have some ⟨tho⟩ughts, therefore (but am by no Means determined ⟨upo⟩n it) of going to Cheltenham, for a short ⟨Tim⟩e, after the Birthday. I shall in that ⟨cas⟩e leave a Person in my House to attend ⟨to⟩ all ordinary Business, to forward my Letters &c; ⟨an⟩d shall come to Town myself as occasion ⟨may⟩ require. My Son, who has hitherto acted ⟨as⟩ my Secretary, I send Home in the Osage to ⟨tak⟩e his Station in a Counting House.

You must allow me to refer you ⟨to⟩ the Newspapers herewith sent for the current news, and particularly for parliamentary Intellig⟨ence.⟩ I have the Honor to be with sincere attachment and Respect Dear Sir, your most Obedien⟨t⟩ humble Servant

Wm: Pinkney

DNA: RG 59--DD-Diplomatic Despatches, Great Britain.

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