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To James Madison from Richard Rush, [10 September 1823]

From Richard Rush

[10 September 1823]

particularly1 proposals for abolishing all private war upon the ocean. And 6th. the Russian ukase of September 1821, relative to the North West coast of America.2

It is not yet ascertained if this government will consent to embark in negociation on all these points; and still less dare I promise, that she is prepared to come into our liberal views respecting them.

It is with much hesitation that I presume to break in upon your time by any requests connected with my publick duties here, as I feel that it has earned, by the highest titles, a claim to be exempt from all such intrusions. But if the investigations of any part of your life may have supplied you with any notes that would bear upon the support of our right, under the law of nature and nations, to the coequal navigation of the St. Laurence from our own territories, to its outlet at the sea, I can only say that my being furnished with them would add to the obligations that I owe to you in all ways, and above all to the useful lessons of instruction which I have so often derived from you. The general principle would rather seem to be, that the nation in possession of both shores of a river at its mouth, controuls the navigation above. The late treaties at Vienna,3 happily for us, give examples of conventional Law the other way. I have been looking up all our arguments on the point, as growing out of the case of the Mississippi; but am far from sure that I have found them all, and as yet have found nothing else in our history.

Your outline of our home affairs,4 is as gratifying as just. Our institutions do but rise higher and higher in the contrast of all that is going on, and of all that is menaced, in the old world. To get back again to a country blessed with such institutions, is becoming a wish that I cherish more ardently, in proportion as the time for such a happiness to me, draws near.

My wife sends her most affectionate remebrances to Mrs Madison. Pray recall me to her recollection, and believe me to be, dear sir, yours with unalterable and devoted attachment.

Richard Rush

P. S. There has been, somewhat to my surprise, no answer to Godwin, by Malthus, that has come to my knowledge. The work of the former has attracted less notice in the world than might perhaps have been expected from the past fame of the author. Our census of 1820, seems to have put the seal to its fate.

Fragment of RC (PHi: Richard Rush Papers). Unaddressed; undated. Conjectural addressee and date assigned based on JM’s docket “Rush R. Sepr. 10. 1823” and his acknowledgment of this letter in JM to Rush, 13 Nov. 1823.

1Preceding this word, one or more pages of the letter are missing.

2A series of dispatches from Secretary of State John Quincy Adams to Richard Rush, that were received on 29 July 1823, outlined a number of topics to be negotiated with Great Britain: U.S. commercial relations with British colonies, the suppression of the international slave trade, the unsettled boundary line between the United States and Canada as outlined in the fifth article of the Treaty of Ghent, the admission of U.S. consuls in British colonial ports, the New England fisheries, points of maritime law, and the Russian ukase of September 1821 (Rush, Memoranda of a Residence at the Court of London, 396–97). The latter claimed for Russia “the whole of the north-west coast of America, beginning from Behring Straits to the 51° of northern latitude” (Irby C. Nichols Jr., “The Russian Ukase and the Monroe Doctrine: A Re-evaluation,” Pacific Historial Review 36 [1967]: 13).

3Articles 108 and 109 of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, 9 June 1815, provided that the states whose territories were separated or traversed by rivers would regulate them by common consent, and that the navigation of such rivers along their whole course from the point where each of them became navigable to its mouth would be entirely free to commercial use by anyone (Alexandre de Clercq, ed., Recueil des traités de la France [23 vols.; Paris, 1880–1917], 2:611).

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