Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 3 August 1809

From James Madison

Montpellier Aug 3. 1809

Dear Sir

Herewith you will receive a packet, which being wrapt up in a large one for me, from the Dept of State, was taken out of the mail of yesterday, and not observed before the rider had set out.

I find myself under the mortifying necessity of setting out tomorrow morning for Washington. The intricate state of our affairs with England produced by the mixture of fraud & folly in her late conduct, and the important questions to be decided as to the legal effect of the failure of the arrangement of Apl on our commercial relations with her, are thought by the Heads of Dept to require that I should join them. The main question is whether the non-intercourse act as continued at the last Session comes into force agst England, thereby putting her on the same footing with France.

You will see by the instructions to Erskine as published by Canning, that the latter was as much determined that there should be no adjustment, as the former was that there should be one. There must however have been other instructions comprehending the case of the Chesapeak, and other communications from Canning accompanying the B. Orders of Apl 26. as referred to in Erskines Quieting declaration last made to Mr Smith. I believe also that Erskine’s letter to Canning not disclosed by the latter, will not warrant his ascribing to Erskine, the statement of conversations with Mr G. Mr S. & myself. Pinkney will also disavow what Canning has put into his mouth.

I presume, from letters which reached me yesterday, that Mr Smith has communications from Paris as late as the 10 or 12 of June; whether by the return of Mr Coles or another conveyance is uncertain. The disavowal in England reached Paris the day after the arrival of the arrangemt 1 transmitted by Mr Gelston. Our affairs with France had taken no decided turn; owing as alledged, to the absence & occupation of the Emperor. The return of Gelston will probably put us in possession of a final estimate.

Accept my sincerest respect & Attacht

James Madison

The publication in American newspapers of George Canning’s instructions to David Erskine revealed that in exchange for withdrawing the Orders in Council, the British foreign minister had expected the United States to agree to withdraw the embargo against Great Britain but leave it in force against France, renounce all trade with colonies of Great Britain’s enemies, and agree to the capture of American vessels attempting to trade with France. Along with a copy of the king’s 24 May 1809 order in council reversing the new and somewhat less stringent orders of 26 Apr. 1809, British envoy Erskine also sent the secretary of state a quieting declaration intended to appease the United States government and express his regret that their provisional agreement had not been confirmed by the king. Erskine’s violation of his instructions led to his recall and replacement by Francis James Jackson (Washington National Intelligencer, 24, 26 July 1809; Erskine to Robert Smith, 31 July 1809, ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:301–2; Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison, 1941–61, 6 vols. description ends , 5:66–7; TJ to Madison, 27 Apr. 1809).

1Madison here canceled “here.”

Index Entries

  • Canning, George; instructions to Erskine search
  • Chesapeake, USS (frigate); incident (1807) search
  • Erskine, David M.; agreement with U.S. search
  • Erskine, David M.; instructions to search
  • Erskine, David M.; negotiates with R. Smith search
  • Gallatin, Albert; as secretary of the treasury search
  • Gelston, Maltby search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on D. M. Erskine agreement search
  • Non-Intercourse Act; J. Madison on search
  • Pinkney, William; as U.S. minister to Great Britain search
  • Smith, Robert; and D. M. Erskine search
  • State Department, U.S.; receives packet for TJ search