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To James Madison from James Monroe, 17 February 1821

From James Monroe

Washington Feby 17. 1821

Dear Sir

I regret to have to inform you of the death of Mr Wm. Burwell1 which took place on yesterday, after a long illness. He was a virtuous man & good member.

The treaty with spain has been ratified unconditionally by her govt., & the grants annulld in the instrument of ratification.2 It is now before the Senate on the question whether it shall be accepted, the time stipulated for the ratification having previously expird. No serious opposition is anticipated.

There is some hope that Missouri will be admitted, on a mov’ment on the part of Pennsyla., by her Senators in concert with some members in the H. of R. Mr Biddle3 who is here, has renderd some service in this important occurrence.

There is also some hope that our commercial difference with France will be adjusted. Your friend

James Monroe

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1William Armistead Burwell (1780–1821), a Franklin County, Virginia, planter, served as President Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary, 1804–6, and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1806–21 (Kneebone et al., Dictionary of Virginia Biography, 2:439–40).

2Article 8 of the Transcontinental Treaty between the United States and Spain confirmed all Spanish land grants in the Floridas made before 24 Jan. 1818 (Miller, Treaties description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (8 vols.; Washington, 1930–48). description ends , 3:9). That date was meant to annul three immense land grants that had been recently made by the king of Spain, but since there was some question about the timing of the grants, royal orders, and other decrees, there was great anxiety on the part of American officials to clarify this point. For a discussion of the annulled grants, see ibid., 42–49.

3Nicholas Biddle (1786–1844), a graduate of the College of New Jersey, was secretary to John Armstrong, U.S. minister to France, 1804–7, and for a short time secretary to James Monroe when the latter was U.S. minister to Great Britain. On his return to Philadelphia, Biddle read and then practiced law, and contributed to, and then became editor of, the Philadelphia literary magazine the Port Folio. In 1819 President Monroe appointed Biddle a director of the Second Bank of the United States, and in 1822 he became its president. Biddle led the unsuccessful fight to recharter the bank in 1832; on the charter’s expiration in 1836, he carried on as president of the newly named United States Bank of Pennsylvania until his retirement in 1839 (Thomas Payne Govan, Nicholas Biddle: Nationalist and Public Banker, 1786–1844 [Chicago, 1959], 1, 8–9, 11, 13, 19, 20–21, 22, 39, 50, 59, 77 and n. 24, 172, 201, 283, 350, 411). During the Missouri crisis, Biddle reported political developments in Pennsylvania to Monroe and in the final stages of the debate helped persuade several Pennsylvania representatives to support measures designed to end the restriction on Missouri’s admission as a state (Forbes, The Missouri Compromise and Its Aftermath, 71, 118).

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