James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to Congress, 13 October 1814

To Congress

Washington October 13th 1814

I now transmit to Congress copies of the Instructions to the Plenipotentiaries of the United States charged with negociating a peace with Great Britain as referred to in my message of the 10th instant.1

James Madison

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A–E1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages, 13A–E2). Each RC in Edward Coles’s hand, signed by JM. For enclosures (printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:695–705), see n. 1.

1The enclosed copies and extracts of instructions (79 pp.) revealed that on 15 Apr. 1813, James Monroe had informed John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, and Albert Gallatin that JM had accepted the Russian offer of mediation. Monroe gave alternatives for dealing with the issue of impressment in the treaty, provided lengthy and detailed arguments against the principle and practice of impressment, emphasized that resolution of this issue was the most important part of the commissioners’ task, and mentioned the establishment of a definition of blockades as well as other minor matters that might also be adjusted by the treaty. Five confidential paragraphs were omitted from this copy of the letter. Monroe’s 23 June 1813 letter to Adams, Bayard, and Gallatin stated that, although not indispensable, obtaining a formal statement on blockades was to be desired, as was provision for the settlement of territorial controversies along the U.S.-Canadian border from the St. Lawrence River to the Lake of the Woods. He wrote Adams and Bayard on 1 and 8 Jan. 1814, informing them in the first letter that he had received no dispatches from them, enclosing a copy of JM’s 7 Dec. 1813 message to Congress, and forwarding information found in Maj. Gen. Henry Procter’s captured papers revealing British instigation of Indian hostilities against the United States; and notifying them in the second letter that direct peace negotiations would be held with Great Britain at Gothenburg and that JM would nominate both of them for the new peace commission. Monroe wrote Adams, Bayard, Henry Clay, Gallatin, and Jonathan Russell on 28 and 30 Jan. and 10 Feb. 1814, stating in the first letter, of which three confidential paragraphs were omitted, that the commissioners were to be guided by his instructions of 15 Apr. 1813, with the addition that indemnification should be sought for British destruction of unarmed U.S. towns and private property, as well as for “negroes taken from the southern states,” and observing that Great Britain had probably offered direct negotiation in lieu of Russian mediation with the hope of obtaining better terms by isolating the U.S. commissioners from European powers. The second letter instructed the commissioners to seek restitution for U.S. vessels and cargoes captured and condemned in British ports after the declaration of war, and the third stated that if Great Britain refused to grant adequate protection for neutral rights in the treaty, the commissioners should insist that the United States receive the benefit of any better arrangement on that subject made by Great Britain with other neutral powers. Monroe wrote Adams and Bayard on 14 Feb. 1814, observing that the British government’s evident omission to inform either the commissioners or Alexander I of its intent to offer direct negotiations supported the conclusion that it wished to prevent collaboration between the United States and other European nations in making the treaty, and instructing the commissioners to try to obtain Great Britain’s agreement to abandon impressment for a specific time period rather than through the end of the European war, which it now appeared might terminate soon. His 21 Mar. 1814 instructions to Adams, Bayard, Clay, Gallatin, and Russell, of which one confidential paragraph was omitted, forwarded duplicates of their commission and urged them to report on the negotiations as soon as possible; on 25 June 1814, in light of altered circumstances in Europe, he authorized them to conclude a treaty deferring discussions of impressment and of commercial relations to a later date but added that if rumors that the British would require the United States to relinquish fishing and trading rights and give Louisiana to Spain proved true, they were to close the negotiations. Finally, on 27 June and 11 Aug. 1814, Monroe gave the commissioners permission to move the negotiations to a location other than Gothenburg and to leave the subject of impressment out of the treaty altogether, if necessary, as long as they made it clear that this was not to be interpreted as an acknowledgement of British rights in the matter; and, in the second letter, approved the transfer of the negotiations to Ghent and emphasized that the administration would make no concessions on impressment greater than that authorized in his letter of 27 June.

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