Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from James Monroe, 17 March 1801

From James Monroe

Richmond 17. March 1801

Dear Sir

Mr. Fenwick has requested me to state to you what I know of his conduct while acting under my ministry with the French republick. Altho’ it wod. be more agreeable that no appeal shod. be made to me on subjects of the kind yet it is impossible to withhold my evidence where it is called for by the party interested, especially under circumstances like the present.

When I went to France Mr. Fenwick had more weight with the French govt. than any other American there. He was believed to be attached to the interest of his country & had weight in its concerns. His service in the case of the Bordeaux embargo is will known in both countries. Indeed his attendance at Paris, and attention to that object was generally spoken of abt. that time as forming a kind of epoch in our political history there.

He was afterwards denounc’d to our govt. for protecting in some form a shipment of money to this country the property of France, and I was empowered to enquire into the charge & suspend him if I thought fit. He made his explanation to me which I transmitted to the Executive for its decision, continuing him in office, unless the contrary shod. be directed. I never heard from the admn. afterwards on the subject, in consequence whereof he remained in office when I left France.

I heard disrespectful things said of Mr. Fenwick such as that he was engaged in privateering. But no denunciation was ever made agnst him to that effect to me or I shod. have communicated it to our govt. Nor was it ever said on such authority as to justify any attention or credit being paid to it by me.

On my own part I add with pleasure that I always found him, an active, able, and faithful publick officer. with great respect & esteem I am

yr. most obt. servant

Jas. Monroe

RC (MHi); endorsed by TJ. Recorded in SJL as received 23 Mch. Enclosed in Joseph Fenwick to TJ, 22 Mch. 1801.

 

In 1795 Joseph Fenwick, who was then the U.S. consul at Bordeaux, was accused of having improperly used his seal on a shipment to the United States. Fenwick defended himself in a letter to Monroe on 28 Oct. 1795, which Monroe forwarded to Timothy Pickering, the acting secretary of state, on 6 Dec. of that year. Calling Fenwick a “valuable” officer and saying that “the error imputed to him might be the effect of judgment only,” Monroe stated his readiness to support Fenwick’s removal if necessary but referred the question back to the administration. Monroe later consulted TJ about whether to include some of the correspondence on the subject in his View of the Conduct of the Executive. TJ—who from 1790 to 1795 had used Fenwick as his source for Bordeaux wine—replied that the charges of misconduct reflected “malversation in Fenwick if true.” Fenwick was dismissed from his position as consul, the Senate approving his replacement in December 1797 (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. Bear, Family Letters Edwin M. Betts and James A. Bear, Jr., eds., Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Mo., 1966 description ends , Foreign Relations,1:727–8; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States… to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:253; Preston, Catalogue,1:52; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:831, 907; Vol. 17:493–4; Vol. 28:448–9; Vol. 29:563, 565).

Bordeaux embargo: the French detained more than 100 American merchant ships at Bordeaux from August 1793 to March 1794 (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. Bear, Family Letters Edwin M. Betts and James A. Bear, Jr., eds., Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, Columbia, Mo., 1966 description ends , Foreign Relations,1:748, 757–8; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends ,16:55n; Ulane Bonnel, La France, les États-Unis, et la Guerre de Course [Paris, 1961], 39–40; Vol. 27:192).

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