James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Pinkney, 7 September 1808


London Septr. 7, 1808.

Dear Sir,

As Mr. Bethune leaves Town in a few ⟨Ho⟩urs, I have only Time to write a short ⟨Le⟩tter, in addition to my public one of Yesterday.

Mr. Atwater delivered your private ⟨Le⟩tter of the 21. of July & a Duplicate of that of ⟨th⟩e 15th.; and I received by Mr. Nielson, on the 26th. ⟨of⟩ last Month, your private Letters of the 3d. & 15th. ⟨of⟩ July.

I cannot subdue my opinion that ⟨the⟩ overture on the Subject of the B. orders in Council ⟨wi⟩ll be either rejected or evaded. What ⟨In⟩fatuation, if it should be so! That the ⟨Em⟩bargo pinches here is certain. There is un⟨dou⟩btedly Room for alarm on the Score of Pro⟨vis⟩ions, and it is confessed that they feel ⟨sev⟩erely the Loss of our Trade. The Effect, however, ⟨is⟩ less than it ought to have been, on Account of ⟨the⟩ numerous Evasions of the Embargo, & ⟨the Be⟩lief (encouraged in America) that we had n⟨ot Vir⟩tue to persist in it. Should it be contin⟨ued, it⟩ must be rigorously executed, & our Vesse⟨ls in⟩ Europe recalled.

I send you Marriott’s Book, entitled ⟨"Hi⟩nts to both parties". Towards the End you ⟨wi⟩ll find a pretty open Avowal, that, even if ⟨Fra⟩nce shd. retract her Decrees, G. B. ought to hold on ⟨upo⟩n the Substance of her orders, making them only more palateable to us in some of their subordinate Provisions! This Gentleman is a W. India Mer⟨chant⟩ & Member of Parliament; & was consulted ⟨by⟩ Ministers when the orders of Novr. were in Cont⟨em⟩plation.

It is still believed here, that the lat⟨e⟩ Events in Spain & Portugal, connected with ⟨the⟩ British Explanations (already forwarded in my private Letter of the 17th. of August, and now ag⟨ain⟩ transmitted) relative to a direct Trade betw⟨een⟩ the U. S. & those Countries, will have an ⟨ir⟩resistible Effect upon our Embargo. They are so misled in this Country as to suppose that the Embargo has already produced very formidable Discontent in America; and I a⟨m⟩ mistaken if the Government has not felt inclined to calculate upon that Discontent, a⟨t⟩ least to give it a Trial. But, at any Rat⟨e⟩ the Spanish & Portuguese Trade will, it is im⟨agined,⟩ be too great a Temptation to be withstood. I know not what we may think of th⟨is Te⟩mptation; but it will be well to reflect ⟨that, if⟩ we trade under the B. orders, and go t⟨o W⟩ar with France (as this Speculation suppose⟨s)⟩ while the B. orders continue, we not only re⟨treat⟩ from the honorable Ground we have taken ⟨and⟩ admit the Right of G. B. to act at all Tim⟨es⟩ upon her new System to the utter Extinctio⟨n⟩ of our Commerce, but deliver ourselves u⟨p⟩ entirely to her Mercy in all Respects. Wh⟨at would be⟩ her Course in that Event I know not; but is ⟨there⟩ any Reason to believe it wd. be generous ⟨or e⟩ven just? We shd. I think be in Danger of falling ⟨into⟩ a Dependance upon this Country fatal ⟨to ou⟩r Character, to our Institutions, to our ⟨Nav⟩igation, to our Strength. And what ⟨cou⟩ld we hope to gain? I profess I am ⟨not⟩ able to imagine.

Since the Change in Spain & Portugal ⟨this⟩ Nation is not exactly what it was; and ⟨it⟩ may be presumed that the Govt. partakes of ⟨the⟩ universal Exaltation. Their Dreams ⟨of⟩ future Prosperity are bright & romantic. ⟨A⟩ Chateau en Espagne has become quite ⟨com⟩mon.

I have heard it suggested (as a ⟨Cour⟩se of Reasoning not unusual here, among ⟨Me⟩rchants and others): that South America, ⟨whe⟩ther dependent or independent, must be ⟨thr⟩own commercially into the arms of G. B.;⟨that⟩, encouraged to Exertion & rouzed to ⟨Acti⟩vity by a new order of Things, she will ⟨here⟩after rival us in all the great agricul⟨tura⟩l Productions of our Country; that, under ⟨a S⟩ystem friendly to the Developement of their ⟨Res⟩ources, our Southern Neighbours will ⟨even⟩ Surpass us as Cultivators; that G. B. ⟨will⟩ thus become wholly independent of the U. S. for articles, which she has heretofore been obliged to take from them, and even i⟨n⟩ a great Degree for the Consumption of her Manufactures; that in other View⟨s⟩ our Importance will be greatly diminishe⟨d,⟩ if not absolutely annihilated by this new Competition; that this Result, almost inevit⟨able⟩ in any View, is more especially to be count⟨ed⟩ upon if G. B., compelled by the Policy of ⟨our⟩ Government, or following the Impulse of ⟨the⟩ Jealousy which is imputed to her, sh⟨ould⟩ foster, by her Capital & her Trade, to ⟨the⟩ full Extent of her Capacity, the Prospe⟨rity⟩ of the South in Contradistinction to that of the North; that the Change in Spa⟨in⟩ is otherwise likely to enable G. B. to hold towa⟨rds⟩ the U. S. a higher Tone than formerly; that ⟨the⟩ Spanish Deputies here (I doubt this Fact) a⟨nd⟩ those who are in the new Spanish Inter⟨est⟩ (this is I believe true) begin to talk alr⟨eady⟩ of our Louisiana Purchase as unfit t⟨o be⟩ submitted to; that regenerated Spain w⟨ill⟩ certainly question the Validity of the Cessi⟨on⟩ that preceded our Purchase & reclaim ⟨the⟩ Territory alienated by it; that this & ⟨other⟩ Causes of Dissatisfaction (aided by th⟨e⟩ Sentiment of Gratitude & the Considerat⟨ions⟩ of Interest which bind the Spaniards to G. B.) ⟨m⟩ay be easily fomented into a Quarrel with ⟨the⟩ U. S. of which the Consequences (G. B. being ⟨a⟩ Party also) may be most destructive.

These Rhapsodies (which may, however, ⟨in⟩ part be entitled to some Attention) shew ⟨ho⟩w Enthusiasm & Prejudice can calculate! Spain, assailed by the whole Power of France, ⟨ha⟩s already Leisure for an American Quarrel, ⟨a⟩nd can even spare Troops to recover a ⟨su⟩perfluous Territory on the Mississippi! ⟨Th⟩e inveterate Habits & Pursuits of a whole People ⟨in⟩ another Hemisphere are, against the Repulsion ⟨of⟩ still existing Causes, to pass to opposite Extremes, ⟨in⟩ Consequence of a Revolution in Europe yet ⟨in⟩ its earliest Infancy & of which the transatlantic ⟨E⟩ffect (even if in Europe the Revolution were ⟨es⟩tablished) would be a Problem!

Great Britain, with a vast Encrease of Debt, ⟨is⟩ to find her account in casting from her our ⟨M⟩arket for her Manufactures, in rejecting our ⟨Com⟩modities essential to her Colonies & convenient ⟨to⟩ herself, for the Purpose of Patronizing a ⟨Cou⟩ntry, on the Permanency of whose Connection ⟨she⟩ cannot rely, many of whose Productions ⟨com⟩e in Competition with those of her own ⟨Colo⟩nies, and in which the Passage from the actual State of Things to that which is contem⟨plated⟩ must be reluctant and slow, and liable to endless Interruptions & Relapses!

It is forgotten, too, that this interesting Sec⟨tion⟩ of the Globe, during all this tedious & doub⟨tful⟩ Process, may & must contribute to nouri⟨sh⟩ our Growth, while it can scarcely rival us ⟨in⟩ any Thing. It is forgotten that, if it con⟨tinues⟩ to lean upon the Parent State, it is not lik⟨ely,⟩ under the Pressure of Colonial Restriction⟨s,⟩ to flourish to our Prejudice or even to fl⟨ourish⟩ at all, but may serve to strengthen & en⟨rich⟩ us; and that, if it becomes independe⟨nt,⟩ after our Example, it will be far ⟨more⟩ natural that we shd. benefit & reflec⟨t⟩ Lustre & Power upon each other th⟨an⟩ that G. B. shd. find in the South the M⟨eans⟩ of humbling and destroying the elde⟨st⟩ Sister of the Family of the West.

From the Newspapers it wd. se⟨em⟩ that France & Austria are on the Eve of War. Yet I have been told that it ⟨is not⟩ so. It is, I believe, certain, that Fra⟨nce⟩ has changed her Tone (from Haughtiness ⟨&⟩ Menace to Conciliation) towards Aust⟨ria,⟩ since the Discomfitures in Spain. ⟨This is⟩ not conclusive Proof, however.

The Report that Lucien Bonaparte has requested ⟨of⟩ a British Minister a Passport to go to America is, I understand, from a very ⟨r⟩espectable Quarter, true.

Yrujo is still here, not respected by the members of this Government, more perhaps because he is suspected of disliking the Cause of the Patriots than for any other Reason.

I send the Ed: Review by this oppy. ⟨&⟩ a Parcel of Newspapers, including the Morning Chroncile of today.

The Box of Books for the Department ⟨of⟩ State did not arrive at Falmouth ⟨in⟩ Time to go by the St. Michael; but ⟨M⟩r. Fox sent it by the Flora, Anderson, ⟨w⟩hich sailed from Falmouth on the ⟨2⟩3d. of Augt. for N.York.

I enclose a Triplicate of my ⟨p⟩ublic Letter of the 4th. of August, ⟨in⟩ which (having undertaken to ⟨co⟩py it myself) I have not been ⟨a⟩ble to refrain from making a few slight Alterations, which, if you see no Objection, I wish to be adop⟨ted.⟩ They are in Language merely. The Li⟨nes⟩ in which they are made will be fo⟨und⟩ indicated by a Pencil Mark (a Cros⟨s)⟩ in the Margin.

The Result of our Elections w⟨ill⟩ now soon be known. I trust they will be favourable to the Measur⟨es⟩ of our Government. I need not s⟨ay⟩ how sincerely & anxiously I wis⟨h⟩ that, with Reference to yourself personally, they may give you a⟨ll⟩ the Honour which the Suffrages ⟨of⟩ our People can bestow. I have the Honour to be with the highest Considera⟨tion⟩ & the truest Esteem Dear Sir, Your most Obedi⟨ent⟩ humble Ser⟨vant⟩

Wm: Pinkn⟨ey⟩

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

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