James Madison Papers
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To James Madison from Richard Rush, 16 April 1815

From Richard Rush

Washington April 16. 1815.

Dear sir

I do myself the pleasure to enclose you two letters from Mr Adams, which I venture to persuade myself you will look over with interest, as well from the writer as the subject.1 Having adopted the opinion that we had lost none of our former rights or liberties in the fisheries, I felt some desire to know his, and he has been kind enough to gratify me. The venerable patriot writes with an enthusiasm that must be engaging to all; and, in the present instance, I confess I cannot help thinking his argument as sound, as his patriotism is vivid.

We heard with concern of Mrs Madison’s indisposition, but with great pleasure from Mrs Cutts yesterday of her being well again. I must beg leave to offer Mrs Rush’s, with my own, compliments to her; and to yourself, sir, the assurances of my great respect, and friendship.

Richard Rush.

RC (PHi: Richard Rush Papers). Docketed by JM.

1Rush enclosed John Adams’s letters to him of 5 and 10 Apr. 1815 (Letters and Papers of Richard Rush [microfilm ed.], reel 3). In the first (4 pp.; printed in Adams, Works of John Adams, 10:159–61), Adams defended U.S. fishing in the Canadian Maritimes as a natural right to the use of the ocean, compared it to the United States’ right to independence, and argued that no subsequent treaty could impinge upon those rights as acknowledged in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. He asserted further that Americans were entitled to fish the waters in question based on their former right to do so as British subjects, which they had not abandoned; their discovery and exploration of the fisheries; and their contribution to dispossessing the French of the Maritime territories. In like manner, he contended, the British could claim a right to the navigation of the Mississippi River. This assertion was amplified in his second letter (3 pp.), where he argued that excluding the British from the Mississippi in order to prevent smuggling would be pointless, since no one could totally control the flow of goods in the vast North American territories, and since British smuggling via the Mississippi would be countered by U.S. smuggling into Canada. Nevertheless, he wrote, “if this Collision between Missisippi and Labradore Fisheries is not cautiously and prudently managed it will divide the States.”

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