James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 1 May 1809

To Thomas Jefferson

Washington May 1. 1809

Dear Sir

I am just favored with yours of the 27th. Young Gelston1 is here preparing to take his passage for France as bearer and expositor of dispatches, in the Syren sloop of war which is waiting for him at Baltimore. He leaves this tomorrow morning. Mr. Gallatin has had a conversation with Turreau at his residence near Baltimore. He professes to be confident that his Govt. will consider England as broken down by the example she has given in repealing her orders, and that the F. Decrees will be repealed as a matter of course. His communications by the Syren will, if he be sincere, press the policy of an immediate repeal. No official accts. have been recd. from the French letter of Marque arrived at Boston. The difficulty most likely to threaten our relations with France, lies in the effort she may make to render us in some way subservient to the reduction of Span: America; particularly by witholding our commerce. This apprehension is corroborated by the language of Turreau. He alluded to his conversations with you relating to Cuba on which he builds jealousies which he did not conceal.2 Cuba will without doubt be a cardinal object with Napoleon.

The Spirit which England will bring into the ulterior negociations must differ much from that which influenced former Treaties, if it can be moulded to our just views; and we must be prepared to meet it with a prudent adherence to our essential interests. It is possible however that the school of adversity may have taught her the policy of substituting for her arrogant pretensions, somewhat of a conciliating moderation towards the US. Judging from the tone lately used, a change of that sort would be the less wonderful. If she can be brought to a fair estimate of her real interest, it seems very practicable to surmount the obstacles which have hitherto kept us at variance, and untill surmounted must continue to do so. The case of impressments, hitherto the greatest obstacle, seems to admit most easily of adjustment, on grounds mutually advantageous. Yrs. with affectionate respects

James Madison

It is understood that the Election in the State of N. York has issued very favorably.

RC (DLC). Docketed by Jefferson, “recd May 5.”

1Maltby Gelston was a son of David Gelston, the New York collector of customs (JM to Lafayette, 1 May 1809).

2Shortly before his departure for Monticello in 1809, Jefferson reportedly mentioned to Gen. Louis-Marie Turreau, the French minister in Washington, 1804–11, his conviction that in time the U.S. “must have the Floridas and Cuba” (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , 5:57, 58). Turreau wrote Robert Smith on 15 Apr. 1809 saying he had heard rumors of American intrigue concerning Mexico, the Floridas, and Cuba. In Cuba’s case, Turreau added, an effort was said to be afoot to bring about “a new affiliation with another Power” (DNA: RG 59, Notes from the French Legation [clerk’s translation]).

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