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To James Madison from James Monroe, 30 August 1786

From James Monroe

New York Augt. 30. 1786.

Dear Sir

Since my last we have been from day to day upon the business wh. engag’d us when you were here. They carried the repeal by 7. States in the Committee of the Whole & afterwards in the house.1 We mov’d to postpone to take into consideration the plan in conformity with the Idea I suggested to you, in which we enter’d into long reasoning upon the Secrys. project, proving if we were well founded, its futility, & disadvantages in many instances, proposing to take the negotiation out of his hands, as to the Missisippi & the boundaries, commit them to our Chargé at Madrid, to agree on principles there, the treaty to be concluded here. That 2. Comrs. be added to him to enter into the treaty & the three authoriz’d to form also a commercl. treaty—to be incorporated together—for wh. five States voted.2 Their repeal was afterwards carried by 7. States only. Today—additional instructions being added to their proposition for repeal respecting the boundaries, form’d with view of taking in Georgia, were also only carried by 7. States. The President reported today the Chair upon the propositions altogether that the question was lost.3 So that it now remains will Mr. Jay proceed? & I apprehend he will not.4 I have avail’d myself of a few moments to drop you this & to assure you of my friendship & esteme

Jas. Monroe

RC (DLC).

1The ultimatum in Jay’s instructions was repealed in the Committee of the Whole, 23 Aug. 1786, and by Congress on 29 Aug. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 554, 565–66, 595–96).

2On 12 Aug. 1786, after the Massachusetts delegation led by King had moved in the Committee of the Whole to repeal the ultimatum in Jay’s instructions, Monroe wrote to Patrick Henry that “we have and shall throw every possible obstacle in the way of the measure, protest against the right of 7 either to instruct or ratify, give information of this to Mr. Jay and the Spn. resident so that neither may be deceived in the business” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 423–24). On 16 Aug. the Virginia delegates questioned whether seven states were competent to repeal the instructions in part, thus essentially forming new instructions, when nine states were necessary to instruct a minister in negotiations of treaties (ibid., VIII, 431–32). Two days later the delegation proposed alternate principles for formation of a treaty as suggested by Monroe to JM in his letter of 14 Aug. Further motions on 21 and 29 Aug. would have transferred control of the negotiations to Madrid and placed a check on Jay by adding two commissioners to the negotiations here. The Virginia proposals were defeated 29 Aug. (ibid., VIII, 440–42, 449; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 591–93, 594).

A group of southern delegates, probably under the leadership of Monroe, went to Otto, the French chargé d’affaires, around 22 Aug. to make an appeal through him to Vergennes. Their goal was French intervention in the negotiations on behalf of the U.S. Otto sent their propositions to Vergennes in a letter of 23 Aug., which fully reveals the lengths to which the southern delegates went in their endeavors to break off the Jay-Gardoqui negotiations (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, 1921–36). description ends , VIII, 442–43 n.; Boyd, Papers of Jefferson description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (19 vols. to date; Princeton, N. J., 1950——). description ends , X, 277–79 n.).

3After the repeal of the ultimatum, the northern delegates tried to form new instructions, which included an assertion of the U.S. territorial boundaries as fixed in the peace treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain. The attempt lacked the support of nine states—Georgia was divided and the other four southern states voted no (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XXXI, 597, 601, 604–7).

4Julian Boyd surmised that “the complicated issue remained, but Jay had been given such a blow by the vigor and resourcefulness of Monroe’s attacks that, for the moment, the danger of disunion subsided, and attention became focussed upon the more hopeful discussions of the Annapolis Convention” (Papers of Jefferson, X, 279 n.). Although Jay continued his negotiations with Gardoqui, the controversy in Congress died down and was not revived until the spring of 1787, stimulated by agitation in the West (Burnett, The Continental Congress, pp. 659, 679).

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