James Madison Papers
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From James Madison to John G. Jackson, 7 March 1811

To John G. Jackson

Washington Mar. 7. 1811

My dear Sir

I should feel my own reproach, in acknowledging at this date yours of Decr. 4. if I did not feel at the same time an apology, which I am sure your friendly candor will admit, in the peculiar pressure of public duties, during the interval. I have not however been unmindful of the object of your letter, and should have even have [sic] taken steps towards it, but for my ignorance of the standard by which you measure the cheapness & dearness of Merinoes, and for the consideration of the distance of the season when a ram could be employed, whilst in the mean time the risk & expence would both be avoided by delay. A further consideration was, that the continued importations, promised a reduction of prices, as well as a larger field of choice. I believe I may now say, that Rams may be had at about $200, and Ewes at about $100. If you chuse to make an experiment at these prices, and I can be useful in procuring the means, you well know how freely you may make use of me. I ought to observe at the same time, that as the Merino—I will not say mania, but ardor—is lower Southward, than Northward, it is probable that if you can avail yourself of a friend any where on James River, you may be supplied on better terms than at places within my sphere.

You will see the ground on which our affairs with F. & G. B. are placed by Congs.:1 The ground taken by those powers will be made known, I presume, by communications from the former subsequent to Feby. 2. & from the latter subsequent to the change in the Executive Govt. which must have taken place in January.2 After the multiplied proofs of wickedness, folly & instability which we have experienced, it would be weakness to flatter ourselves much; but I think the chances before us are less adverse than they have heretofore been, with the exception of Erskine’s arrangement, which ought, on every reasonable calculation to have had a very different issue. For the news from our S. W. Quarter, I refer you to the inclosed Speech of Govr. Claiborne,3 to which may be added the information direct from Mobille, that altho’ the Spaniards hold the fort, they maintain a friendly intercourse with the Amn. troops near it; the adjacent country, & the use of the River, being in the mean time, undisturbed. Whilst actual hostilities are foreborne on our part, the remnant of the Spanish authorities, will not be disposed to begin them. And there is ground for believing that the higher Authorities, at the Havanna at least are as much gratified with the respect mingled with our interposition of force, as they are offended with the latter.

Among the difficulties which crowd on us from abroad, and from the implacable spirit, which continues to sway the opposition party, are added others which flow from much nearer sources.4 These I reserve for the disclosures of time, or of more leisure. Accept my affece. respects

James Madison

RC (InU: Jackson Collection). Enclosure not found.

1The bill to supplement the provisions of Macon’s Bill No. 2 by excluding British goods, vessels, and merchandise from American ports was reported back to the House on 6 Feb. 1811 (see John Wayles Eppes to JM, 31 Jan. 1811, and n. 1). It was amended repeatedly and debated at great length in the last week of February, during which time Federalist members continued to express doubts about whether France had actually repealed the Berlin and Milan decrees and whether JM’s 2 Nov. 1810 proclamation rested on a sound legal basis. The measure passed the House on 27 Feb. and the Senate on 2 Mar. The final version of the bill contained three sections. The first exempted from seizure or forfeiture goods owned by Americans and imported from British ports in American vessels before 2 Feb. 1811. The second stipulated that in the event Great Britain ceased to violate American neutral rights the president was to declare the fact by proclamation and that the proclamation was to be considered sufficient evidence of the fact in any legal proceedings arising under section 4 of Macon’s Bill No. 2. The third section imposed the penalties of nonintercourse against Great Britain and its dependent territories, with the exception of provisions for restoring any vessel or merchandise seized before it was known whether Great Britain had repealed its antineutral edicts before that date and for exempting American vessels that had sailed for the Cape of Good Hope before 10 Nov. 1810 (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 11th Cong., 3d sess., 355, 356, 357, 358, 359, 360, 361, 909–32, 938–57, 989–91, 993–94, 998–1008, 1010–30, 1033–62, 1062–96; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:651–52).

2On 20 Feb. the State Department had received dispatches and newspapers from William Pinkney in London to the effect that the health of George III was “not improving” and that arrangements would shortly be made in Parliament to establish a regency council. In that event, Pinkney concluded, “our affairs will doubtless be placed upon a new and a better Footing,” and he even speculated that the disgraced minister David Montague Erskine might be sent back to Washington with adequate powers to settle Anglo-American disputes. By mid-February several American newspapers were reporting that a regency had been established in Great Britain (Pinkney to Robert Smith, 19 Nov. 1810 [DNA: RG 59, DD, Great Britain]; National Intelligencer, 14 and 19 Feb. 1811).

3JM probably enclosed a copy of William C. C. Claiborne’s 29 Jan. 1811 address to the legislature of the Orleans Territory (see Rowland, Claiborne Letter Books description begins Dunbar Rowland, ed., Official Letter Books of W. C. C. Claiborne, 1801–1816 (6 vols.; Jackson, Miss., 1917). description ends , 5:121–26).

4JM was very likely alluding to his difficulties with Secretary of State Robert Smith and the prospect of Gallatin’s resignation.

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