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I. Notes on Diplomatic Etiquette in England, 22 December 1803

I. Notes on Diplomatic Etiquette in England

[after 22 Dec. 1803]

Mr. King to mr Madison. N.Y. Dec. 22. 1803.
1. all foreign ministers pay the 1st. visit to the ministers of Engld. by going in their carriage & leaving a card without asking1 for them. this visit is rarely if ever returned.
2. foreign ministers nor their wives never invited to Queen’s balls, concerts, parties. the king gives none.
at king’s levee forn. & domest. ministers, dignifd clergy, Ld. Chancr. Judges assemble in a room adjact to K’s bedroom. others in outer room. when his door opens, for. min. go in first, & are spoke to first. the residue enter pell-mell.
for. min. have little intercourse with other ministers except of forn. affrs.
Min. for. affrs. gives 2. diplom. dinners a year, viz. on K’s and Q’s birthdays. corps diplomat. without thr wives, & the secrets.2 of hs deptmt invitd. no other persons invited. dinner servd. at 6. P.M. ends between 8. & 9. by the Min. for. affrs. retirg to his cabinet.
for. min. and domest. min. having family society, their intercourse on same footing as among people of fashn. of the country
in the house of a forn. min. precedce. given to the Eng. Min. & vice versâ in house of Eng. min. subject however in the houses of the English to a preference given to hereditary titles, national or foreign.
3. Wives of for. Min. have no precedence of the women of the country at the Queen’s drawing room.
but they are placed with their husbands in the K’s chapel on a marriage of one of the Royal family
they recieve the first visit from the wives of the Eng. min. as from all others, & as all other strangers forn. or domest. do.
in society persons of title, English or forn. take precedce. of wives of for. min. who are without title
e.g. at the dinners of the Ld. Chamberlain, at dinners of Min. of forn affrs. but where no lady of title is present the wife of a forn. min. wd from the courtesy shewn to strangers, recieve precedce.
on the continent, the gentlemen conduct the ladies from the drawg room to the Ding. room.
not so in higher English circles. there the ladies all go first, the highest taking lead. gentlemen follow
the English value etiquette little, only as a guard to keep off impertinence, conciet, & rudeness.
they live very little with the corps diplomatique, few foreigners travel, & none reside there.

MS (DLC: TJ Papers, 136:23651); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by TJ.

On 18 Dec., Madison wrote to Rufus king with three questions on “usage abroad, particularly in England.” Mortified that he had to trouble King on a subject “unworthy the attention of either of us,” Madison made three queries: “1. On the arrival of a foreign Minister, is the first visit paid by him or the Ministers of the Country? 2. To which is the precedence given in scenes of a more public ceremony, and of ordinary hospitalities? 3. Is the order of attention precisely the same in the case of ladies, as of their husbands?” Madison concluded that “our wish would be to unfetter social intercourse as well as public business, as much as possible from ceremonious clogs, by substituting the pell mell.” He believed it “proper” that the United States not lag behind other nations in civility or self-respect and that it be aware of “the manner in which other nations respect both us & themselves.” King lost no time in writing on 22 Dec., which Madison passed along to the president. King enumerated responses to each of Madison’s questions. He added a postscript: “The wives of foreign Ministers receive the first visit from the wives of the Eng. ministers: differing in this from the Course observed by their husbands.” The document printed above is TJ’s abstract of King’s answers. TJ did not transcribe the postscript, but incorporated it into his notes on the third question (King to Madison, 22 Dec., in DLC; Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 37 vols.: Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 10 vols.; Pres. Ser., 1984- , 8 vols.; Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 6:186-7, 197-9).

1Word interlined in place of “calling.”

2That is, “secretaries.”

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