James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 23 September] 1800

To Thomas Jefferson

[ca. 23 September 1800]

Dear Sir

I recd. by Bishop M. the 44D. 53C. committed to his care.1 The silence which prevails as to the negociations of our Envoys, is not less surprizing to my view than to yours. We may be assured however that nothing of a sort to be turned to the party objects on the anvil, has been recd. unless indeed the publication shd. be delayed for a moment deemed more critically advantageous. As we are left to mere conjectures, the following, have occurred to me. The long continuance of the Envoys at Paris, of itself indicates that difficulties of some sort or other have sprung up or been created. As the French Govt. seems to have provided for the future security of our commerce by repealing the decrees under which it had been violated, and as the ultimatum of the Ex. explained by former instructions permitted a waver at least, of claims for past spoliations, it would seem that no insuperable obstacles would be likely to arise on these articles. In looking for other solutions, my attentions have fallen on the articles contained in the Treaty of 1778. relating 1. to free ships freeing their cargoes. 2 to the permissions granted to prizes. 3. to convoys. That a difficulty may have happened on the first, is rendered not improbable by the late transaction with Prussia2 the 2d. is suggested by the circumstances under which the stipulation was sought & obtained by G. B.3 & the 3d. by the late occurrences & combinations in Europe.4 Should any one or more of these conjectures be just, the explanation will also coincide with the reports from different quarters, which speak of the Treaty of 78 as at the bottom of the impediments, and if so it seems more likely that they would be found in such parts of it as have been alluded to, than in the guaranty which cannot be needful to France, and which her pride would be more ready to reject than to claim. I cannot but flatter myself, that your letter from Mr. B.5 is to be otherwise explained than by admitting the accuracy of his information. Mr. Dawson now with me has a letter from Macon of Aug: 15. which with apparent confidence promises 9 Repub: votes in N. C. and in general seems to be pleased with the present temper of it. As to S. C. I learn in various ways that there is thought to be no danger there, and that the adverse party openly relinquish expectation. From the North your intelligence will be later as well as better than mine. Yrs. always & affecly.

Js. Madison Jr.

RC (DLC). Dated “Sept.   1800” at a later time, possibly by John C. Payne. Docketed by Jefferson, “1800. / recd. Sep. 25.”

1The Right Reverend James Madison delivered Jefferson’s 17 Sept. letter to JM, along with the sum of $44.53.

2Article 25 of the 1778 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and the U.S. stipulated “that free Ships shall also give a freedom to Goods, and that every thing shall be deemed to be free and exempt, which shall be found on board the Ships belonging to the Subjects of either of the Confederates,… contraband Goods being always excepted” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:21). A treaty concluded between the U.S. and Prussia on 11 July 1799, however, failed to recognize the principle that free ships made free goods, leaving the matter to be negotiated after a general European peace (Henry M. Adams, Prussian-American Relations, 1775–1871 [Cleveland, 1960], p. 28).

3Article 19 of the 1778 treaty with France and article 25 of the Jay treaty with Great Britain were nearly identical in their insistence that warships or privateers with their lawful prizes be allowed free movement into and out of the ports of the signatory nations. JM’s point was, as explained in a later letter to Jefferson: “the privilege given to British prizes was not purchased like that to French prizes, by any peculiar services to us; and never had any other pretext, than the alledged policy of putting the two great rival nations of Europe as nearly as possible on an equal footing” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:16–17, 262; JM to Jefferson, 10 Jan. 1801).

4Article 6 of the 1778 treaty with France stipulated that French warships or convoys “take under their Protection all Vessels belonging to the Subjects, People or Inhabitants of the said United States … holding the same Course or going the same Way,” defending those ships “against all Attacks, Force and Violence” (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 2:7–8).

5Pierce Butler.

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