James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert R. Livingston, 17 January 1809

Cler-Mont 17th. Jany. 1809

Dear Sir

I thank you for your favor of the 11th. which I have just now recd. I feel more indifferent to the measures of the belligerents with respect to us, than many of my fellow citizens do, not because I am more regardless of the general welfare, but because I sincerly believe that "all things are working together for good." In our infancy we had the powerful protection we wanted. When we attained to manhood our protector becoming our oppressor forced us to assert our rights & taught us to know our strength. Our struggle left us poor & without capital. The wars of Europe gave us great wealth, & so much of it was turned to territorial improvments, as to facilitate our interior commerce & change the general face of the country. The injustice of Spain added a new world to our dominions, and placed us in a situation to live to, & maintain an active commerce between, our selves. This continued prosperity was attended with its usual consequences. A mercenary spirit was introducing itself into every part of the country, banks were rising in every village, & speculation found a home in every farm house. Had our trade met with no interruption, the love of country would soon have been lost in the love of money. It has been checked, & it has been checkd in the most favourable moment. We have stoped full handed. We have a capital which can not long remain unimployed. It must then find that occupation in manufactures, which it can no longer find in commerce, & when once invested in them it can not be easily withdrawn even on the return of peace. All this has happened at the moment in which we were ripe for manufactures. I hear with contempt the exagerated accounts of the distress of the country. I have just travelled thro’ that in which it was said chiefly to exist. I have been to Boston by the way of Harford; I returned by another rout. I have also been to almost the northeastern town of Ver Mont, travelling thro’ Masachusetts & New Hampshire. Never have I, at any time, witnessed more ease, & comfort, more building & active improvement, than I have seen in ⟨the⟩ whole of this extensive journey. Let Congress regiment our seamen. They will make excellent artilerests, giving them permission to be discharged in a short notice when the ports shall be open. Let them lay the keels of some ships of war in our sea ports to employ our shipwrights & blacksmiths &c. They will then employ the only people that are realy distressed by the stopage of trade

The expence of eight or ten extra millions is no object when raised & expended among ourselves. They can borrow as much as they please, & of what moment is it, whether the debt is s⟨unclear⟩ a few years sooner or later?

I thank you for your friendly intentions relative to my sheep. Perhaps some other opportunity may present, and indeed I think if war is to be apprehended either with France or England, it is a duty the government owes its citizens to send for those who are now in France, & who must suffer if they stay & yet have no means to get out. Ships may be hired at a low rate if they may take out french & bring back american passengers. In such case, Bordeaux is the proper port to receive them, as it is the general seat of their business. Should a Ship go to Nantes, which is above one hundred Miles nearer to Paris than L’Orient, & yet not three hours farther from the point of Belle Ile which they make in either case I could get some Sheep down the Loire from a very celebrated flock of Mr. ⟨Ghuphat⟩ tho those at Bordeaux being already purchased would be more convenient to me. Will you be so obliging as to inform Genl. Armstrong that it is your wish to have my sheep sent out as opportunity may offer, & to have a permit lodged for their exportation with the consuls of Bordeaux & Nantes, so that should you find it expedient at any time to send a vessel to either of these ports, I might find no difficulty. This is of the more consequence in spreading the breed, as those of Coll. Humphries are so small that the common farmers are prejudiced against them. Those I have here, & in France are large, & well made with fleeces of a finer staple than any native spanish merinoes. Mine which I sent over in 1802 were indeed chosen with great care, but I think the fleeces of those I have bred here are finer, & more abundant I send you two samples one from a grown ram, & another from a lamb ram of last spring, who would now weigh 15 # a quarter, & as it is a piculiarity of these sheep to have their second coats finer than the first, I may expect from this lamb a fleece of the most distinguished beauty, as well as grea⟨t⟩ burden. You see I am riding my hobby at such a rate, that if I do not at once check his carrier I shall be run away with. Mrs. E: Livingston takes the liberty to request you to accept a coat of her manufactury, tho you should be supplied by a more skilfu⟨l⟩ Artist. This she hopes will deserve your notice, when she informs you that it was carded, spun, & wove in her house, by persons who never before worked any but the coarse wool of the country, & dressed by one who had never before dressed a fine cloth. If no other opportunity offers within a few days I will take the liberty to send it thro’ the post office. I have the honor to be Dear Sir With the highest esteem & respect Your Most Obt. & hum: Servt.

Robt. R Livingston

P S. I have thought it possible that I might get some sheep (tho at great expence) by this ship. If you will be so obliging as to give an order to the capt. to receive them, & mention your wis⟨h⟩ to Mr. Armstrong to aid in geting them out you will find by the enclosed that I have spared no expence to obtain them. If Mr. Vails letter goes under your cover it may delivered on the Capt. arrival without inspection or the delay it will otherwise meet with.

DLC: Papers of James Madison.

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