James Madison Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Madison, James" AND Recipient="Jefferson, Thomas" AND Period="Madison Presidency"
sorted by: editorial placement

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 1 April 1811

To Thomas Jefferson

Washington Apl. 1. 1811

Dear Sir

I intimated to you the offence taken by Armstrong at the re-enstatement of Warden. It is not improbable that it will be the ground of an open hostility. This will call into view his present denunciations of W. which are pointed agst. him as an Adventurer & Impostor from the commencement to the end of his career, in comparison with the patronage so long continued to him, and the sentiments heretofore expressed of him. Will you be so good as to send me the extract from A’s letter written in the summer or Fall of 1808, which notifies the appt. of W. as Consul, and gives the favorable side of his character, as well as the objections to a confirmation of the appt. That letter was the only communication made on the subject.

You will have inferred the change which is taking place in the Dept. of State. Col. Monroe agrees to succeed Mr. Smith, who declines however the mission to Russia, at first not unfavorably looked at. I was willing, notwithstanding many trying circumstances, to have smoothed the transaction as much as possible, but it will be pretty sure to end in secret hostility, if not open warfare. On account of my great esteem & regard for common friends such a result is truly painful to me. For the rest, I feel myself on firm ground, as well in the public opinion, as in my own consciousness.

Wilkinson I find has lately recd. a letter from you, wch. he has shewn to his friends, with much apparent gratification. I understand at the same time, that the letter is cautious, and limited to the charge of privity with Burr. Did he disown to you the anonymous letter printed in Clark’s Book,1 or say any thing relative to that subject?

The latest information from Europe will be found in the inclosed papers. The indications from France are rather favorable. Should the Old King displace the Regent in England, little is to be hoped from that quarter; unless forced on the Cabinet by national distress.2 In the last correspondence of Pinkney with Wellesley, the latter sufficiently shewed his teeth; and recd. the severest scourging that was ever diplomatically inflicted.3 Be assured always of my great esteem & affection

James Madison

RC (DLC). Docketed by Jefferson, “recd Apr. 3.”

1In his 1809 book attacking James Wilkinson for his involvement in the Burr conspiracy, Daniel Clark had included evidence to show that Wilkinson, in order to protect himself, had tried to implicate Clark in Burr’s plans. One such document—said by Clark to be in Wilkinson’s hand and which he described as being “highly characteristic of the man”—was an undated, unsigned letter, postmarked at New Orleans on 8 Jan. 1807 and addressed to D. W. Coxe, Clark’s business partner in Philadelphia, which, Clark maintained, was really intended for him. Wilkinson’s purpose in writing the letter, Clark believed, was “to create an obligation towards him for supporting my character, which he falsely insinuates was implicated, knowing the facts I possessed against him, fearful that I might discover that he had broken the engagement he had contracted at Loftus’s Heights of quitting his Spanish connexion, and that I might feel myself at liberty to expose his guilt; and he therefore, while he acknowledges my innocence, wishes to make believe that he had been at some pains to support it.” Clark then stated that he had communicated the letter to JM, “who appeared astonished at the duplicity and perfidy of the writer” (Proofs of the Corruption of Gen. James Wilkinson, and of His Connexion with Aaron Burr [Philadelphia, 1809; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols. to date; New York, 1958—). description ends 17221], pp. 110–11, 151).

2JM probably enclosed information that appeared in the National Intelligencer on 28 Mar. and 2 Apr. 1811. Reports published in New York newspapers on 28 Mar. stated that three American vessels arriving at Bordeaux after 1 Nov. 1810 had all been admitted and that France would no longer require such vessels to carry licenses since these had become unnecessary after the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. On this basis the National Intelligencer announced on 2 Apr. that “the French decrees were on the 3d February, as we have anticipated, formally abrogated, at least so far as concerns us.” The news from Great Britain was that George III was recovering his health and that even if a regency bill should pass Parliament, “there would be no material change in the administration.”

3JM very likely referred to Pinkney’s 10 Dec. 1810 letter to Lord Wellesley describing a meeting and a series of notes exchanged between 4 and 6 Dec. On those occasions, Wellesley had declined to give Pinkney any satisfactory information on either the appointment of a new British minister to the U.S. or the settlement of the Chesapeake affair. He had, furthermore, claimed that Pinkney had not given him any “authentic intelligence” of the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. In response, Pinkney refuted Wellesley’s arguments at length and closed his letter with an angry protest against “the pretension of the British Government to postpone the justice which it owes to my Government and country” (see 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, 3:376–79). JM had already sent the correspondence to the House of Representatives on 19 Feb. 1811.

Index Entries