Thomas Jefferson Papers
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James Monroe to Thomas Jefferson, 23 September 1815

From James Monroe

Albemarle sepr 23. 1815

Dear Sir

Judge Roane committed to my charge his opinion on the question whether the congress had power to regulate an appeal from the superior courts of the States individually, and of course from any of their courts, in cases relating to treaties & laws of the U states, with a view that I might submit it to you. He remarked that his opinion had not been deliver’d, the cause tho’ argued, being still undecided. Aware of the importance of the subject, he is desirous of knowing your sentiments on it, from the respect he entertains for them. He would not ask them, if he supposed you had any objection to making them known, the contrary of which he infers from the freedom with which you have always expressd your opinions on great national questions. I expected to have handed you this in person, but find that I must depart without having the pleasure of seeing1 & conferring with you on this & other interesting topics. In case you think proper to communicate your sentiments on the question invok’d in Judge Roane’s paper, it will I presume be best that you should address them to him, with the paper itself, tho’ it will give me pleasure to be the organ, if you should prefer that mode.

I return you your own remarks on the subject2 of finance, tho’ I should have been much gratified to have taken them with me to washington, as that subject must be disposed of at the next session of Congress, and the plan which is so ably advocated by them, presents the only alternative to that of a national bank [for the State banks offer none] for providing a circulating medium, that I know of. I will gladly receive this paper there, to be used under such injunctions as you may prescribe.

It appears that France is subdued, and likely to be dismemberd, all her armies having surrender’d, & the whole country being in possession of the allies. Bonaparte has terminated his career ingloriously, by any criterion by which his conduct can be examind. To say nothing of his having overthrown, or at least participated in the overthrow of the liberties of his country, we had a right to expect in a military chief looking to power & renown, consistent proofs or examples, of gallantry & even heroism, with a defiance of his adversaries, & a scorn of life, in his last acts. we are told by his enemies that he fought the battle well, but now this is denied by marshall Ney, and with great force, if we may believe his statment of facts. From the moment of his defeat, he appears to have lost all command of himself. His retreat from the army, thereby depriving it of a head when it most wanted a great leader; his abdication, whereby all efficient govt was dissolved, when the enemy were approaching Paris, and no other person could be relied on, to rally the army, in consequence of which it was dispersed, with many other acts as reported, indicate a feebleness which was not expected of him. He seems to have had in view the preservation of his own life only, after he lost the power, for which he had contended, in one battle, & to have sunk under the defeat. The Bourbons are reduc’d to the most wretched condition. no means present themselves whereby they may support the independance of their country, or their own honor. The creatures of the allies, they must be their instruments. Even if they should place the govt in the hands of the revolutionary party, the case would Still, for a while, and perhaps a long one, be desperate. I do not think, that they can be, leaders, of that party, and of course I do not see how they can, contribute to the independance of France.

Our gentlemen have formd a treaty with England under powers given them when they left home, and when it was hoped that every thing would be settled at the same time. altho’ it leaves much for future arrangmt, yet it may be useful, at the present time, and satisfactory to the country. The complete overthrow of France, has excited much apprehension for the safety of our political institutions, & system. A treaty with the power most hostile to us, at a moment when that danger was to be most3 dreaded, may dissipate that fear, even with the most timid, which may be of considerable utility. It is important that its operation is limited to 4. years.

very respectfully your friend & servant

Jas Monroe

RC (DLC); brackets in original; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Oct. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

Spencer roane’s paper, not found, was a draft version of his opinion in the case of Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, which was nearing final decision after more than two decades of litigation in Virginia state courts and the United States Supreme Court. Roane delivered his opinion when the case came before the Virginia Court of Appeals in the spring of 1814. At its most basic level, the case pitted the state appeals court and the nation’s Supreme Court against each other, with the latter maintaining its constitutional authority to overturn the decision of a state tribunal. Roane argued that the federal authority was not that of a “sole and consolidated government. The governments of the several states, in all their parts, remain in full force, except as they are impaired, by grants of power, to the general government.” He ultimately concluded that the Constitution had not in fact granted the Supreme Court the power to “meddle with the judgments of this court, in the case before us; that this case does not come within the actual provisions, of the twenty-fifth section of the judicial act; and that this court is both at liberty, and is bound, to follow its own convictions on the subject, any thing in the decisions, or supposed decisions, of any other court, to the contrary notwithstanding.” Roane’s opinion, which was printed in full in the 1 Feb. 1816 issue of the Richmond Enquirer, was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in March 1816. This ruling was the first example of the highest federal court asserting its authority over state courts in matters of federal law (Va. Reports description begins Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, 1798–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with Va. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 18 [4 Munford]: 25–54, esp. 30, 54; U.S. Reports description begins Cases Argued and Decided in the Supreme Court of the United States, 1790–  (title varies; originally issued in distinct editions of separately numbered volumes with U.S. Reports volume numbers retroactively assigned; original volume numbers here given parenthetically) description ends , 14 [1 Wheaton]: 304–82; Marshall, Papers description begins Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall, 1974–2006, 12 vols. description ends , 8:108–21).

The enclosed remarks on the subject of finance by TJ have not been identified. For earlier correspondence he had shared on this subject, see note to Monroe to TJ, 10 Oct. 1814, and TJ to Monroe, 16 Oct. 1814. John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Albert Gallatin (our gentlemen) signed a convention of commerce with Great Britain on 3 July 1815. The agreement, which the United States Senate ratified on 19 Dec. 1815, regulated the imposition of trade duties for 4. years. President James Madison signed enabling legislation on 1 Mar. 1816 (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of America, 1931–48, 8 vols. description ends , 2:595–600; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 3:6; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:255).

1Manuscript: “seing.”

2Manuscript: “subjet.”

3Word interlined.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John Quincy; negotiates convention with Great Britain search
  • banks; currency issued by search
  • Clay, Henry; negotiates convention with Great Britain search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and court jurisdiction search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • Gallatin, Albert; negotiates convention with Great Britain search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • law; TJ provides legal advice search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); signs legislation search
  • Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee search
  • Monroe, James; and TJ’s letters on finance search
  • Monroe, James; as secretary of state search
  • Monroe, James; letters from search
  • Monroe, James; sends manuscripts to TJ search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; abdicates search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; criticized search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; J. Monroe on search
  • Ney, Michel; trial of search
  • Roane, Spencer; opinion inMartin v. Hunter’s Lessee search
  • Supreme Court, U.S.; and jurisdiction of federal and state courts search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • United States; and jurisdiction of federal courts search
  • Virginia; Court of Appeals search